In love with Chennai

Chennai has reinvented itself with ease over the years, without relinquishing its traditional charm. Photo: S.Thanthoni.   | Photo Credit: S_THANTHONI

I answer our favourite icebreaker question “Where are you from?” firmly with “Chennai”. Some people, however, respond with the name of an obscure town or village in Tamil Nadu(from which their ancestors apparently hail from) when asked the same question, despite the fact that they've lived in Chennai for years. They just don't stomach the fact that someone could be a true-blue Chennaiite. After all, I am a fourth-generation immigrant, given that my great-grandfather migrated to the city in search of greener pastures.

Enjoying city life

I am proud of Chennai and all that it encompasses. It has reinvented itself with ease over the years, without relinquishing its traditional charm. Its residents who welcome gleaming new malls and global cuisine with open arms are imbued with a keen sense of adaptability (though I confess that I miss the good old Woodlands Drive-in!).

Fast-paced metropolitan life is an inseparable part of my identity as a Chennaiite and I enjoy every moment of it. I realised this when a few days of the eerie silence in Udhagamandalam made me long for the incessant honking of horns in the dense traffic on Mount Road!

Once, I met a cranky auto-driver who took me home in a circuitous route through the city's tiny lanes(to avoid heavy-traffic on the main road according to him), singing along the way in classic rustic fashion. He launched into a tirade against Chennai and lavished praise on the quiet, modest village that he hailed from. Bewildered at first, I soon found it amusing.

How could a resident of Chennai loathe the city? As Chennaiites, we've plenty to be proud of besides our rich heritage. We're among the fastest growing cities in Asia as emerging production and knowledge hubs, soon to assist Mumbai as a financial centre too. We're a source of pop culture for the rest of India with a distinct flavour of our own— in fact, several Bollywood films are remakes of Tamil ones. In other words, we've arrived.

Agreed, a fast pace of development has come with its attendant share of problems but I'm sure we will find a way around them, as we always have since our meek beginnings as a fishing hamlet. A true resident accepts them for what they are and learns to look beyond them.

Though I've moved away, I'm still as proud of Chennai as before (especially when cheering for the CSK!). My Chennai upbringing has strongly defined my personality- tenacious, ambitious and ebullient; as it has for many of us who grew up here.

So, the next time you hear someone complain about the noise, the heat or even the pathetic quality of the Tamil we speak, do pause and give a thought to the amazing city that you've called home all these years. And don't be shy to tell them to go back home if they don't like it here.

Abhinav S, Engineering graduate from National University of Singapore.

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 3:07:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/nxg/in-love-with-chennai/article2223804.ece

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