I have returned. I have returned to your burning bosom, and I am once again engulfed, nay, ensconced– in your warm, scorching embrace. You may remember when I wrote you this letter, full of nostalgia and sentiment. In a happy miracle, it was immensely popular among us Chennaiites, much like the Jigarthanda outside Murugan Idly Kadai.
I don’t know what the deal with you is, Chennai. There is no easy way to say this, but you have changed. You have changed with your huge malls (real malls, not like Abhirami mall, or worse– Spencer Plaza), fancy ₹3000 mid-level restaurant meals for two, and expensive filter coffee.
Not that I am not picking up where I left off. Everything is different but everyone is the same. The other day, I was walking out of a Subway (the sandwich shop, not an NYC-hangover term for a Chennai suburban train station) and passed a man sitting and eating his sandwich in his car, while casually watching my chest with interest. Is Game of Thrones playing on my chest, Chennai? Which season? I haven’t caught up in a while. I met a female acquaintance’s husband at a social event, who responded to me asking him what he does, by asking me what my husband does.
Remember how I mocked your nightlife, Chennai? I called it ‘limited’. How very oafish of me. Your nightlife, in my weary late twenties, is booming, Chennai. And your strict lockdown on drunken driving is commendable (but that is the case in most Indian cities, I hear). But have you hired Dementors to monitor the auto drivers? They are always shaking in their boots, making me promise I will tell cops they turned the meter on, making me promise I will give them ten rupees above the meter but not tell the cops, making sure I don’t take pictures of the meter before and after and give them marked notes to track their greed and then tell the cops.
Remember how I missed your roads, Chennai? ‘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 wrote. What a soapy windbag. I waited for 15 minutes at Gemini flyover to just keep going straight onto Cathedral road today, Chennai. And just don’t even ask me about Mount road. Adyar is your small saving grace.
But all this traffic is because there are so many places to go, Chennai. I don’t blame you for patiently accommodating all of these new structures; stores and bars and parks, even the shiny Radisson Blu, built right on the banks of the Cooum river. But why are you still harbouring so many misogynistic people, Chennai? They are like burnt dosais in your bountiful spread of tiffins, with their entitled ogling at female chests like stale chutney and salty sambar. What are we going to do about these people?
“What a foreign-return letter!”, you say disapprovingly. “You were perfectly content, even happy, here once!”. “Snobbish ingrate”, you add under your breath, but still loud enough for me to hear.
But what to do, Chennai. I am like this only now. I complain more about this than I do about the heat and traffic. I crib because I am back to live at home, Chennai. The city that gave me so much of my identity, with its people who brave the heat, with its wonderful food and compound culture. I protest because I no longer miss you; you are again my home, and I love you.