How we see Chennai is very different from how the expatriates see it! See what they have to say.

Whether a true Chennai-ite or an expat, living in the bustling town makes us one. The culture and habits are so immersed in its own people that it is hard for expats to stay away. As we Chennai-ites look outward, into the world, the so-called newbie's try figuring out what part of this conservative culture they could take to.

True flavours

At any instance, seeing a foreigner amongst us, it has only become just to wonder if they are comfortable with the spices, the overflowing buses and streets filled with dusts of hard work, garbage and all those other things that make Chennai, Chennai. Unfortunately, all of our efforts are wasted; as these are the same things that make these expats want to be amongst us. Dylan Sullivan, an American born seventeen-year old, simply stated that, “ taking the MTC buses around town makes me appreciate this city more than I ever would within the door of a car.” The love to be around warm people who don't mind interfering in your business, not just to satisfy their want to know a “white” person but also to make you feel at home, is what brought him to the streets. “ That is where you meet the real Tamilian,” he said.

Anytime one of us are caught in a fix and can't hitch a ride home, we become frantic, but Graham Greving, on the other hand, takes the overhead train services. Completetly different from our uuuhhh's and aahhh's about it, Graham literally finds it, “sooo cool.”

It isn't just our transport and people that are of interest, but our delicious food as well. Sitting at Ascendas, it was fascinating to see that every Indian at the table had a Mac Donalds burger dripping down their fingers while Graham sat aside with his Puri-Masala from Saravana Bhavan. He soon finished his meal with a hot filter coffee. “When you are in this city, why not enjoy what its known for?” he questions. To him, burgers and fries are of the least interest as they are too often, food back home.

Warm feel

When expats look at our conservatively cultured people, the one thing that really gets their attention is the denotation that Chennai-ites bring to the word family. Wherever it is that they lived, the idea of family comes along with independence and freedom that often keeps them away from home. Divya Prabakar, a seventeen year old Indian born and brought up in America, appreciates the warmth and importance of people living together, in a conservative yet caring manner. Although words like love and partying don't take a stand in their lives, living by the ideals of your family is something that she sees Chennai-ites being proud of.

Although our carnatic music and bharatanatyam are rather far from western forms of art, there are those French like Juliette Vandame who are willing to give it a try.

Whether it is the simplicity or the soul that Chennai-ites add to everything in this city, we definitely have something to be proud of. Far from local opinion, we are appreciated for who we are. From our food to our clothes, Chennai never forgets to add its style and make it an experience worthwhile for all those from around the world. Except for our clothes, that they say are too uncomfortable to wear, they don't mind admiring anything that is a part of our culture.

Niranthara is a student of American International School.

Yearning for old Chennai

It has been barely few years since I moved out of Chennai. I pay a visit to this enchanted place, once in six months or even once in a year. The changes taking place in this city in a short span of time is so rapid that it makes one wonder or sometimes even think back to the city that was five years ago. The roads of Velecherry are now filled with shops, restaurants, boutiques, software companies and other organizations that it has become hard for me to believe that people used to once upon a time call this part of the city as “underdeveloped, far away”, etc. It is as if Chennai is becoming bigger, stretching its spider legs of new streets, roads and areas and at the same time, the transportation facilities have improved, that no place can ever be branded as “far away”. Places within as well as outside the city are becoming over-populated that Chennai is no longer a “quiet metropolitan city”, it was a few years back. The other day when we went via Saidapet, it took us two hours or even more to reach the heart of the city because of unbearable traffic jams and sound pollution from vehicle horns.

Outside Oxford Bookstore in Haddows road, I saw trees being cut and in many places, there is rapid removal of green cover for constructing new buildings. It is not that I'm unhappy with this changing, developing, busy city. But somewhere, deep inside, the corner of my soul still yearns for that quiet, green, less populated Singara Chennai that was five years ago.

Nithya Raghavan completed her second year BBA, Heriot-Watt University, Dubai.

Incontestably, Chennai and then India is pined for most by those settled abroad. Yet we people living in foreign countries try to find solace whenever we meet an Indian and more specifically someone from Chennai, or being in a group full of Chennai-ites, or going to a place where everything spells ‘Chennai'. But whatever it is, nothing comes even daringly close to the feeling of coming back to your home town and in my case, Chennai.People and friends have told me tons of aspects about the place where I live, Dubai which can edge out Chennai in a full-fledged comparison. All buses are air-conditioned; matter of fact, everything there is air-conditioned, I don't pay any tax there, petrol and travel is cheaper, roads are a thousand times better, it's got the worlds' tallest building and a bucket-list full of other eye-candy structures which are sought after to be seen by millions from the orb. But, I really don't buy these. No true Chennai-ite would. Yes, Chennai may not be a Dubai now, but doesn't mean it'll never be!

Chennai is substantially missed when it's our last few days in that country, viz a viz, there're only a few days left for us to catch the flight to come to Anna International Airport. I've seen bachelors and hostel-ites book their tickets to Chennai a couple of months before their flight, such is the magnetism and relentless pull of Chennai.

Here's voicing out what we NRI's miss most about Chennai: the numero uno attraction, beaches, regardless of whether it's Marina or Besent Nagar or Santhome, the rush and bustle of Ranganathan street or at Pothys, the train travel (I don't mind coming down to Chennai just for a ride from Tambaram to Park back and forth!), the temples, the two-wheeled travel, especially in a battered and threadbare road, looking at torn up posters of latest flop Tamil movies, the spectrum of birds and clouds (there aren't any clouds in Dubai) and most of all, talking freely in the most beautiful language, Tamil. The times we outsiders spend in Chennai are the most that we relish at any point in our lives. So, here's kudos to the best and most illustrious city I've ever known!

Nandakumar Ganesh 2nd Year, Bits - Pilani, Dubai


Off the beaten trackAugust 18, 2010