I hope all is well and you are cocooning your citizens in their personal sweaty saunas.

Rangoli

Design & Image by Deepika Sreedhar

I don’t know what the deal with you is, Chennai. There is no easy way to say this, but I miss you. I miss your heavy humid salty air, laden with smells of tea shops and jasmine flowers. I miss your ‘cool’ evenings and flat roads filled with manholes for me to walk on. And how they make me feel, Chennai; happy and complacent about having lived my entire life in this city. I miss running into people my family and I know at any given part of the city, despite how large you really are.

I miss your limited nightlife, that seemingly exists solely for me to run into old friends, new friends, my cousins, possibly my uncles, my parents’ friends, and to spend the rest of the night hiding from said uncles and parents’ friends. I miss knowing that there is an 80% chance I will meet a celebrity at said nightlife, and I miss spending all night pretending that I am too cool to be excited about said celebrity.

I miss your restaurants, Chennai, with their fantastically vegetarian-friendly menus. I miss your terrible waiters, the generally rude ‘hospitality’ industry, and chemically unsafe water. I miss being so privileged, and I wish I had shared it more often. I miss your autos and auto-men, I miss haggling and arguing and speaking on the phone for safety and being comfortably mobile without a car, dependent completely on Auto Annas.

I miss your beaches, Chennai. Your Elliot’s beach and it’s beach-side restaurants and shops. I miss watching weird bikers doing wheelies at midnight, and drinking spiked shakes from the Fruit Shop on Greams Road as I silently judge them, and them me. Your Marina beach and it’s balloon shooting ranges with aromatic fried fish all around. Your broken catamarans and boats with fauna and flora. Your little private beaches all along Thiruvanmiyur, filled with water hyacinth for me to wade through as I jump over waves and sabotage rival sand castles.

I miss your buses, Chennai. I miss 29C and getting to Beasant Nagar on it. I miss 21G and getting to Chamier’s road on it. I miss 12B and Foreshore estate and P.Orr and sons and Luz corner. I miss walking around in the agrahaaram and buying things at Saptaswara musicals, and getting them blessed at the Aanjaneya temple. I miss that little corner in Mylapore that has stores called ‘Lakhs and Lakhs’ ,’Millions and Millions’ etc. I miss Mount road and Gemini flyover and that ‘Jesus Saves’ sign in Adyar that tells me I am making the right left turn.

I miss Chennai

I miss arguing with people and telling them that I was very young when they decided to change Chennai’s name to Chennai and so I will call it that, so please stop correcting me, I know it is called Madras, this is my home town, please leave me alone, go eat some sundal or something.  I miss your Golus; your music season, theater, dance, masaala vadai and chutney and how ALL middle-aged and elderly people regardless of gender, employment and personal acquaintance magically know my business, and can try to change me at any moment.

I miss how you make me feel, the contemptuous safety, the lack of adventure that clearly makes me less fulfilled but somehow content, and the amazing glory of being filled with delicious food at any given time. You are far away and feel like some sort of old book that I used to love to read but can’t any more, and I am filled with angst about you.  Take care of yourself.

Until next time!

Update: Talking Cranes published this article and a response to it:

 http://www.talkingcranes.com/lifestyle/getaway/dear-chennai

http://www.talkingcranes.com/lifestyle/getaway/a-letter-from-chennai–oops-madras