Thursday, March 19, 2009

Return to motherland

Besant Avenue, Madras
(Thanks Traces)

In the last ten years of living outside India, I've returned to motherland only once. The 3-week India visit in 2003 involved helter-skelter trips to Trichy and other places, purchasing random things for random people, handing over trivial things to relatives so distant that they had to be reminded how I am supposedly related to them (yes! this person actually asked me to explain it again) and the remaining minuscule time I had was spent recovering from fever and catching up with few of my school mates. The trip, to put it very mildly, was a waste.

We have decided our next India trip is going to be in Jan '10. I am excited about this. I am resolute in making this trip memorable. While going to work today, daydreaming went into overdrive as I thought of things I want to do in Singara Chennai next January.

This list comprises of variety of things which reflects and relives my time in Madras. They are mostly chinna chinna aasaigal. I want to do all of them, time permitting. Most of the things in the list are obvious, some of them err, yeah - you decide.

a. The Hindu & Filter Coffee - The Hindu was the first thing that arrives at our house everyday. The moment I hear the 'dupp' - the sound of the newspaper hitting our door step (the paper guy chucks the newspaper you see), coffee is prepared and the morning paper-reading ritual starts. My Dad, being an early riser, has the honour of reading it first. The Hindu played an inseparable part in my life while growing up. My dad has a strong allegiance to this venerable newspaper. Sitting on vaasa padi (door steps), sipping hot coffee and reading Hindu so satisfying compared to reading online Hindu over a bowl of cold corn flakes. Plan: Read Hindu and drink lots of filter coffee.

b. Madras music season - Dec to Jan is the Margazhi maasam music season. I learnt Carnatic music (vocal) briefly when I was a kid. I was stupid, foolish and naive to discontinue the music classes. Learning Carnatic music did not appeal to me then. I sang for a while till people appreciated me, persisted with attending the classes for almost a year due to constant goading from my mum and finally due to the pressure of CBSE syllabus combined with the eagerness to play street cricket after school - I stopped attending music lessons. Had I been a bit more assiduous and listened to my mum (underline), I would've been able to pick out raagas and would be able to contribute when conversation veer into realm of Carnatic music. Hmm...its never too late to begin any thing in life.

Over the last few years, I've developed a renewed penchant for Carnatic music. I hope to catch a Sudha Ragunathan/Unnikrishnan/Sanjay Subramanian/Nithyashree concert at the Music Academy. I've been to the concerts of the above mentioned artistes when I was a kid. But neither I had the interest nor did I have the true appreciation for Carnatic music then. This time I am ready to immerse myself fully in Carnatic music bliss. I really want to see Kadri Gopalnath perform. A much better deal would be a jugalbandhi with Mandolin Srinivas, Sivamani and other percussionists. Ideal Plan: Attend kacheri at Music Academy with mum, have lunch at New Woodlands and back for kacheri again.

c. Talk to the old kids - Time is flying. Years seem to race past us quicker than ever before. Old people are getting... older. Last year was quite bad for our family. The head count of septuagenarians and octogenarians took a hit. 2009 barely started, two seniors of our family received the ultimate ticket. Being away from India, I never got the chance to have talk at length to most of the elder group. I intend to engage in good conversation with elder group in the family (basically mum's parents, my parent's mamas/mamis/chithapas/peripas etc). I enjoy talking to old people. They are insightful, witty, have an awesome sense of humour and are surprisingly very enthusiastic. I had a great time talking to my mum's uncle and his wife in 2003.

IMHO, from my observation in few families, I believe the current generation don't really listen to older people. They perceive them to be always out of touch or sometimes even immature in their views and opinion. I believe old people, if you actually listen to them closely, say lot of sensible things which are timeless in their application. At least it'll help you not to repeat the time-old mistakes which have committed repeatedly by every generation. I plan to write more about this sometime. Plan: Talk to the perusus. I am considering a interview sort-a thing with a mixture of fun and probing questions (e.g. marriage, love, profession, attitude, ethics, society, first crush etc). Perhaps even video tape it. That'll be fun. What would be your questions? Give me three will be credited for it.

d. Street cricket. Look here.

e. Theosophical society - Take a early morning walk in the Theosophical society. Ts is the haven for early morning walkers/joggers. The serene surrounding of Ts gives you solitude feeling. Lush green surroundings, away from the hustle and bustle of city - its a perfect start to the day. I think we can go to the old Adyar broken bridge from Ts (this is location of the first fight scene between Madhavan and Surya in Aaiydha Ezhuthu).

f. Gangotree and Karpagambal Mess - Have breakfast at Karpagambal Mess (Idli-Sambhar, badham Halwa and degree Coffee) and evening tiffin at Gangotree (near Chola Shereton). Full stop.

g. Bike with/in Splendor.

h. Celebrate Pongal - How to do it my way? I've covered it here.


It was my first time ever
And I'll never forget
I'd do it again
Without a single regret.
The sky was dark
The moon was high
We were all alone
Just She and I
Her hair was soft
Her eyes was blue
I knew just what
She wanted to do
Her skin was so soft
Her eyes was blue
I just knew what
She wanted to do
Her skin was so soft
Her legs was so fine
I ran my fingers
Down her spine
I didnt know how
But I tried my best
I started by placing
My hands on her breast
I remember my fear
My fast beating heart
But slowly she spread
Her legs apart
And when I did it
I felt no shame
All at once
The white stuff came
At last it finished
It's all over now
My first time ever
At milking a cow...

Author: unknown

Karandhufy - Children and young adults hear lots of advice from elders. The most popular advice is to study well. It'll go along lines of "padikalena appram maadu dhaan meikanum. So mariyadhaiya utkaarndhu padi". I can say I've fared reasonably well in studies. However, whenever I heard the previous quote, I've always wondered how maadu meikardhu feels like. Parents threaten us but they never give us the opportunity to have a shot at this. Before you thuppify and say unnaku vera edhuvumey thonaliyaa, no I dont want to maadu mechufy. But I always wanted karandhufy a maadu (milk a cow). Back in the days, my great-grandparents had a cow; my grand parents - both in dad & mom's side - had a cow before they migrated to city. So this is not a new thing in the family. It, LOL, runs in the blood. I want to have a go at it.

Also, karundhufying is not an easy task. It is a knack it seems. Some people call it an art - I am not sure about that. Well, one of our distant relatives (whom we may visit) has a maadu, I guess the paalkaran in me will be unleashed there. We live in interesting times.

To be continued...


  1. hindu and filter coffee, carnatic music, Karpagambal mess?

    WHAT THE FUCK sriram

  2. Of the many larger and significant things I experienced, these are the chinna chinna things that makes an extra bit of difference on how I feel about life in Madras. Remember Sriram the-14-year-old wrote this based on his memories of Mds as it was '99.

    Some things never change.

  3. Hi Sriram,

    Happy "home coming"!

    So much has changed in Chennai, in the last couple of years, that you may experience a new city altogether:-).

    Coffee, Hindu (i hv converted to ToI, though!!), and Music season are still the same!!

    Look forward to hear your views on the City:-).


  4. Hi Viji, thx. my cousin said the same too. I cant wait to come home! :D

    Just curious, why did you change to ToI? Any pressing reason(s)?

  5. ~ suda suda filter kaapi
    ~ maargazhi maasam kutcheri (or any kutcheri for that matter)
    ~ beach + sundal
    are some of the things I look fwd to when I visit chennai :)

  6. I went to my first ever Margazhi Maasam (Yes I put in extra effort to pronounce the zha sound perfectly), last December. It's definitely such a festive place and though I don't always enjoy carnatic Music I definitely enjoyed it there. I saw Bombay Jayshree, Sanjay Subramanian and Raji Gopalakrishnan. I wasn't there for long and I didn't have much time as I was visiting distant relatives that I don't remember.

    I have to say I've never heard that studying quote before. Nor have I ever milked a cow.

  7. And you missed good ol' Chennai food! Saravana Bhavan in Canada is just not the same.

  8. there is a picture of your dad reading newspaper

  9. Gangothree has lost some tradition, so to speak.
    Even the Karkambaal mess is being renovated down here.

    You don't listen to Aruna Sairam? And Ranjani,Gayathri duo? I am like...addicted to them fulltime. And there are some lesser known singers who are like too good. Chennai is the place to be-December or No december.I have this huge plan set up for my december. Apart from not missing out on Smt.Aruna and the RG duo, there are going to be some happening bharathanatyam performances. Being a classical dancer myself, I am can tell you
    how vasty the scene is here..the confluence and the plethora of artists who conglomerate here just for the out-of-the-world experience.
    Oh, I can keep talking about Chennai.

    Coffee is all still the same..but Dude, the bucks. Saravana Bhavans chasrge like some twelve ruppes for a mukka tumbler kaapi in a very kutti tumbler. Avalavum kollai. But there is this place in Mylapore, the ucchi pillayar koil street for authntic TN saapaadu. Try, if you do come down.

    Long comment I presume. Will stop before I start rambling too much of Chennai and this end of the world:D

  10. Aruna Sairam/RG duo - At home, we've got heaps of AS and RG cds. my listening has been limited to Sudha, Nithyasri, B-sisters, Sanjay, Mandolin Srinivas, Kadri..etc. I should download/rip some of their songs. I am in Mds only from Pongal. I hope to attend some concerts. lets see. hope it isn't too late. or is it?

    K-Mess, Gangothree - hmm. i aint returning without having a awesomaana chaat. :D

    SB - hehe. pagal kollai. after all this, the coffee has either too much sugar or just not strong enough. aathu coffee dhaan beshttu!

    im really looking fwd to the trip! :)

  11. So Sriram, are you working in Australia? Why only one visit in ten years? :-)

    Anyway, nice evocative post!

  12. Hi Praveen

    Thanks for the comment :)

    yeah, i am working in Brisbane.

    why only 1 visit in 10 yrs? parents visit often and I work during summer breaks.


  13. You got a nice blog here. I am making a website and wanted to invite fellow Chennai bloggers.

    Zeole is all about location. You can share your ideas in the right context/location.

    Try where you can reach Chennai readers

    Chennai or Mumbai or Libya, wherever you think your ideas are located. Check it out.