Tuesday, February 13, 2007
It’s called “walking down memory lane”. For me it was almost literally true. Chennai does not have too many wide roads, now that I compare them to Delhi roads. Hence, would call most of them as lanes. (No offence to any Chennaite. I love Chennai myself and would love to settle there if situation demands).
Getting back to Chennai after a gap of almost two years had an amazing feel to it. Although, I landed almost at mid night, courtesy on of the low-cost, no-freebie airlines, the city hugged me instantly. The biggest surprise was, the moment I got into the cab, I was talking to the cab driver in the same broken but understandable Tamil I used when I left Chennai, early April 2005. What an irony, I married a Tamilian but still I had not spoken Tamil since I left Chennai. But once inside the cab, it was as if I was out for a day or two on an official trip and getting back to the Bachelor’s Den (where I stayed with friends in Chennai before I moved to Delhi and finally got married). The other astonishing fact was I remembered each and every turn to take to get to my destination even in the dark night. I was pleasantly surprised but the driver was upset. He must have thought he will take a littler longer and confusing route and then ask for extra money for roaming unnecessarily for such a stupid address in the night! My instincts didn’t let that happen. He was visually miffed while in I was getting down. I was so happy by now that I tipped him some extra bucks on my own even though it was a pre-paid cab. He gave that special smile which the cab driver gave who I tipped when I was leaving Chennai the last time. I knew there was some connection.
Our real intention of visiting Chennai was attending two morning weddings of my B-school batch mates and their evening receptions falling on the same day. Also, since for a couple of months, my wife and I have to stay in two different cities, meeting each other was at a premium. This was an occasion which was satisfying all needs. The weddings and reception events were attended and enjoyed by one and all. Meeting old friends gave instant gratification and brought back campus time delights as discussion topics. A funny photo session followed. Since, there was a gap of about 6 hours between the weddings and the evening reception; someone suggested all of us go for a movie. Lots of movie names came up which ranged from English to Hindi. I suggested we go for a Tamil movie which was lapped up by all. Tamilians would love that and non-Tamilians (read as North Indians) would no get another opportunity to watch one any sooner. And what a movie it was 3-hours of 100%, non-stop and fantastic fun for non-Tamilians. I was told during the interval and finally when we were walking out of the hall that the movie is trash! Who cared, as long as we all enjoyed together. We clapped, whistled, danced and shouted till our voices were hoarse right through the movie. I was one of the people who was over excited. I knew there was some connection.
We attended the reception in the evening. Now, down south, receptions start at about 1830-1900 hours and dinner is over by 2130. Which meant we finished dinner and were left with nothing much to do by 2200 hours. We had the whole night to us even after attending two weddings, two receptions, a thrilling movie show and atleast 3 hours of driving through the Chennai traffic on full working day! Isn’t that an amazing feat? So, we decided to celebrate the same the best way possible, boozing till dawn! This connection was well known to all.
The next day, once we were back to our senses, all the people in the house decided to take a trip to Mahabalipuram, a small beach town about 55 kms from Chennai. Actually, the discussion started with visiting Pondicherry but then it made no sense for all the sensible people discussing this to go and again loose our senses so far away if we had an equally better option closer to Chennai. We started after lunch and were there in about an hour and half. Since, we did not get an accommodation booking before we left for Mahabalipuram; we looked around for a decent hotel and in between visited a top-of-cliff cave and a temple too. Finally, we went to the beach and spent a good hour sitting and taking in the fresh and salty sea air before checking into a hotel for the night. We were physically tired, but mentally ready to start a rave party. So, after a while of talking some non-sense, we decided to become non-sense! We commenced another sitting with the “gin(ie) in the bottle”.
Just as most people visiting a beach town would discuss, we started our evening deciding to see the sun rise on the beach the next morning. We fixed on a time to wake up, put alarms and as a ritual kept the “final decision” aside. Our topics for the evening ranged from being friends discussing our married and single lives, to B-school batch mates comparing our salaries and perks, to brand ambassadors of our respective organizations glorifying the current initiatives. In all these conversations, one thing was common. All seemed to speak sense most of the time. I realized, we had surely matured with age. Needless to say, the sun rose at the right time. We switched off our alarms at the right time too. But we did not, or to correct myself, we could not wake up to watch the sun rise from behind the waves. The sun would rise everyday. We would not get a chance to catch up on each others’ lives soon enough. We had slept barely a couple of hours before sun rise. Hence, all gave sunrise a miss without much guilt. We visited the beach after breakfast though. We spent a good amount of time. We did want to loiter on the beach a little more before rain killed plans. We ran back to the hotel, got ourselves a fresh start to the day and checked out. On our way from Chennai to Mahabalipuram we had crossed a lake where wanted to do boating. On our way back to Chennai we satisfied ourselves. It was fun.
Once we were back to the city, watching the people with serious faces and worrying looks running around on the streets brought the feeling of getting back to work the next day. Till that moment, we had forgotten Office, colleagues, work. There was no mention of tension. This connection too was well known to all.
During all these chaotic ceremonies, events and travelling, I stole some special moments with my lovely wife. We had an amazing time “together alone” and together in a group. Infact, some of the best times we had before and after our marriage.
But one thing was certain. There was something mysteriously familiar yet unknown which kept me thinking if and whenever I was alone. There was definitely a connection between the city and me. Only when I was back that the facts unfolded. Chennai was where I started my first job, initiated my second love story, received my third promotion in one year and learnt my fourth and most important language, Tamil. It was following a sequence. This city was an indispensable part of my life.
The Chennai connection now had a clear network. All signal bars were up and personal.