“Chennai is too laid back and conservative for my taste. I can’t imagine being in such a dull city,” said a friend who’d come down from Mumbai. In fact, he said it every single time he made a visit here. And, I’m quite sure if I look up on the internet, I’ll find at least five blogs written about why, on the contrary, Chennai is an awesome place to be in or about how North Indians or people brought up in the North have a stereotyped and often, narrow-minded view of the city.
But, keeping aside all that, if you ask me, I’d say, what makes a city beautiful is the memories we hold from the years we’ve lived there. That’s why, Chennai to me is a place I call home. It’s a city that nurtured my childhood, watched me fail and get up again, and in all glory, shaped me into what I am today.
Chennai to me is the memory of my early childhood, when I ran back home to Nanganallur to the unconditional love from my grandparents, when every single day, without fail, I would find a bowl of fresh pomegranate stocked in the fridge, new things to discover in my grandfather’s desk draw, new games to play with a colony full of friends, and a new bedtime story from an epic.
Chennai to me is the memory of my high school days, when I spent the evenings sitting on the sidewalk at Besant Nagar beach with my best friend and watched the world go by, when I saved up a whole week’s pocket money and eagerly bought a creamy cake from the Royal Bakery, when birthdays meant pooling in a handful of money and buying a greeting card and pencil pouch from Words & Worths, and when the best way to boost our egos was to get our friends to fill fancy slam books.
Chennai to me is during my college days, when I first experienced the feeling of spending three years in an all girls campus, when I sat up till 3.30 in the morning on a conference call with friends, fine tuning my class project, when 10 Downing Street was the most talked about, -had-to-be-there-and-do-that pub, when 29C (an empty one in that) was a life saviour, and when a snack at Mary Brown or Subway was the coolest hangout destination.
Chennai to me is the memory of my first job, when I travelled to Egmore every single day, waiting to make my mark in the company, when I gathered with my friends outside the sandwich shop, waiting to sink my teeth into the hot, spicy, egg sandwiches, when going out meant a dinner at Dhaba Express or Little Italy, when weekend meant party at Dublin or Zaras, and when festivals meant going to the Mylapore Kapaleeshwarar temple.
It’s been close to 14 years since I moved into this city. From not knowing the language at all to taking shelter in the warmth of the city that holds memories of a decade of my life, Chennai, to me, will always be a place I call home.