Though I was born in this beautiful city called Madras [yes that is what it was called back in the days], I grew up in Coimbatore, Madurai and Tirunelveli before coming back to the city. Dad was with a bank and so we moved around a lot. As mentioned I was born here, so the 1st few months were spent here [though all I know are from what people around me have said] and then I was whisked off to Coimbatore. I was the 1st and only granddaughter on both mom and dad’s side and so was quite the spoilt child.
They would come visit us in Coimbatore, or we would go around to Shankagiri or come to Madras. I dont remember much from the early years of my life. What I do remember are the holidays spent in Madras. While we were in madurai, for every school break we would land up in Madras the very next morning. If school shut today, then the evening or night train would see us leave the town and I would return the morning of school reopening. That is how I remember spending most of the school holidays. This continued even after we moved to Tirunelveli.
These are the most cherished memories, the days that I miss, the days when I fell in love with the city, the days when I first learnt about the city.
We would land in Madras the morning, my uncle would be waiting for us at the station, the train used to pull into Egmore Station and cars could come right inside the platform. I would be super excited to see him, and once home I was pampered and spoilt till the day we left. I distinctly remember the front room in my grandparents house [which was my room till a few months ago]. There used to be a bed and a TV there [and a few cupboards, but who cares about them]. My uncle who used to frequent Trichy would bring back a few Coke cans [the imported kind] and they were Rs18 [yes I remember this very clearly]. There would be movies, Tv shows all on VCR tapes waiting for me to attack. I grew up watching A-Team and Different Strokes. I have no idea where my uncles chanced upon these shows but I love them to bits for having done what they did.
Another memory I have of Madras is a not so pleasant one. When my parents moved to Thazhaiyuthu in Tirunelveli, there was time for school and I guess mom was just setting up the house. I was about 5 or 6yrs old. Three months to school I was packed off to Madras to be with my maternal grandparents. I dint enjoy the stay and just wanted to go back to my parents. I guess it was the whole “have you abandoned me” insecurity in a child that had me feeling so.
Apart from home, I would spend a lot of time at a cousin’s place. He was a year younger than me, but technically by relation my uncle [mom’s cousin bro]. Mom, Me, Aunt and E would go to the beach, go out for ice cream and wander about during my holiday stay. I have spent quite a few nights at E’s place, and those were such amazing days.
Once when we had gone to the Marina beach, we kids must have been around 6 or 7yrs old, our moms’ warned us not to jump in the water as they had not brought change of clothes. But did we care? we jumped right into the ocean and the return journey home was spent wrapped up in some bedsheets that were in the car. Back then, we used to do plenty of dinner picnics on the Marina beach. Cook food at home, pack them up and the entire family would then drive out, spend time in the beach and have dinner under the stars.
As we grew up E & I have done crazy things quite a few times. Infact our families still tease us for all that we did. Once, we were out with a driver [yes, we have them in our family], and we ended up at this place called Sweet Memories on Mowbray’s road. We decided to have pizza, and we had only Rs100. I have no idea how or why, but the bill came up to Rs112. There were no cell phones back then, and so we sent the driver home to bring the balance cash. 🙂
It was my uncle’s who introduced me to English music [ABBA, Beatles, AC/DC, Billy joel, and just about everyone else] and who got me into the habit of reading. I did not have any stuffed toys or dolls, I only had books for company and I loved em. During a visit, my uncle from USA had come [i hadnt met him too many times and so he was nearly a stranger] and he took me book shopping and they got me hooked on Enid Blyton and The Mystery of 5 find-outers.
Another time, we were just returning from Tirupati, and decided to have dinner outside. Snowfield was a favorite with the family. E & I would get an “Inspiration” or “Fascination”- the ice cream that came in tall tumblers filled with ice creams, jelly, nuts and what not. It would take us forever but we would devour the desserts. An uncle used to order ice cream soda- ice cream floating in a glass of Gold Spot or Campa cola. 🙂 We were not familiar with aerated drinks or junk food then, it would be breakfast lunch and dinner- one of the meals outside, and it was only with family. Unlike today, where family eat-outs are far and few.
When the day came for us to return to Madurai/Tirunelveli, once again uncle would come to send us off. I remember pressing my face against the train window waving my hands “bye”.
We moved back here for good in 1990, and since then I have learnt so much about this city that everyday it amazes me. There is so much happening- so much to see and do that time is never enough~!! [So much so that I began a series on my blog called Celebrating Chennai.. should resume]
I do love my city
I hate it when people bitch/crib about it
I will defend it
I do agree the heat can get to you, but heck look beyond the heat~!!
Happy birthday Madras [ Yes, I prefer calling you Madras over Chennai]