When I came to Chennai to join a newspaper as the chief sub-editor, I did not know this city. I had no friends here. I could not speak the language. There was just one thing I was absolutely clear about — this city was too hot, too crowded ( I was coming from Mangalore, a tiny town ) and too dirty (no storm water drains) and I would not stay here for long. Two years on the outside limit, was what I told myself. Today, it is exactly TEN years folks.
Just a whole bunch of thanks are due.
Thanks to those who accepted me into their homes and hearts. Thanks to those who painstakingly taught me the alphabet (I still don’t know where to use the soft ‘na’) so that I could read the destination board on the buses. Thanks to those who taught me the difference between chutney podi and parappu podi. Those who taught me how to make Vathal Kozhambu and vadaams.
Those who introduced me to the pleasure of travelling right across town in 20 minutes flat via the local trains. Those who taught me how to bargain with the auto drivers. And those who tolerated my absolutely ridiculous Tamil and continue to do so. Thank you. All those times, I whined about how much I missed Bangalore, you had the grace and kindness to look away. All those times when I made fun of ‘dry Chennai’, you were indulgent. All those times, when I swore that I was getting back to Bangalore, you just smiled. Maybe, you knew that I was already infected with the Chennai bug and there was no recovering from that.
Thank you for the molaga bajji on the beach. Thank you for the walks through Pondy Bazaar. Thank you for the drives to Mahabalipuram just like that. It was in your city that I learnt to walk the talk. For the fights that became my own. For the causes that embraced me. For the people who allowed me to stand on their side – thank you. Those strangers who became friends. And those friends who became family – thank you. Those who left, but left behind a whole bunch of wonderful memories- thank you. It is in your city that I found some of the things that I treasure the most. Thank you, Chennai. You have been kind.
PS: I have seen T-shirts which say ‘Chennai is a city, Madras is an emotion.’ I don’t know Madras. For me, Chennai is the emotion.
Asma has done her Masters in Journalism and worked with several newspapers in Bangalore and Chennai. She is at present, a full-time mother, a part-time editor of her own newspaper –Positiv+ and a sometime media consultant with several organizations.