What CHENNAI means to me
Amid the tangle of potholed roads, swirling flyovers, grids of concrete structures and billboards with models looking down with glazed imperviousness, the mind races to the past. It's time to rewind history. To Chennai that was Madras. And Madras that was Madraspatnam. That's what Chenni-zens are doing this week to celebrate Madras Founding Day. Recalling the city's over 365-year-old chronicle in their own special way.
T. KRITHIKA REDDY and CHITRA SWAMINATHAN used the occasion to ask people from varied walks of life about what the city means to them. Call it conservative, dirty or tolerant to a fault, there's nothing quite like Chennai. That was the chorus.
Chennai has evolved from kaapi to cappuccino and precisely chopped porials to painstakingly prepared pastas. Gone are the days when the word `model' meant nothing but the new Fiat on the road. Staid shoppers have transformed into social shoppers who take to mall-crawling as a form of unwind therapy. Taste is no longer a trivial preoccupation. If the spirit was sluggish, it's now animated. From leather accessories to software... the city has made a mark. And there's more rigour and richness to its charm than has been previously acknowledged. So come on, let's celebrate the magic brew called Chennai. And don't remind us now about water woes, crammed roads and bulging buses.
I've spent 65 years in this city. And that's reason enough to develop a special bond with it. Sabhas, cutcheries, rasikas, music schools... my life revolves around them. So naturally, how can I even imagine myself in some other place? Chennai always signified peace and warmth. So wherever I travelled, I longed to get back. One important thing that cannot be missed is the fact that the city is suited to all kinds of lifestyles - modern or traditional.
D. K. PATTAMMAL
Modern, Yet Madrasi
Looking back, my memories are full of Chennai - not even my native Paramakudi. Oh! What a beautiful city. When I made my first film, "Raja Parvai," I did not even think of an alternative location. It was an out-and-out Chennai film though there were no budgetary constraints. When Francis Day landed here, I'm sure he was not just attracted by Madraspatnam's beauty, but also its logistics. Imagine a place with two rivers criss-crossing it. And to think that we've turned them into gutters! We are proud of the city. But the city will not forgive its people for their lack of civic-consciousness. I feel the Singara Chennai drive must start from these waterways-turned-gutters. Cross-cultural winds are blowing across the city. Stereotypes are being shed. But then, the core is very Chennai. Hamburgers and hipsters may signal change. But it's all a pretence. Chennai along with Kolkata was the first city to look westward. But thankfully, it was not the vices, but the sensibilities that were imbibed. Yes, we are becoming modern, but we still remain the quintessential Madrasi!
Film maker and actor
No water, but...
What Chennai means to me? It instantly brings to mind fantastic people with high tolerance levels. I can't think of any other place where the citizens don't complain, even when there's such an acute scarcity of a basic necessity like water. As far as business and industry go, it offers a peaceful climate with hardly any labour problems. Despite having travelled extensively, I can't think of a place that's so close to me as my home - Chennai.
Chairman and MD, MRF
Mine is a very unique attachment to the city. Not because I was born and brought up here, but because I feel deeply about its almost four-century-old history. There's history, there's culture and there's spirituality. What's more, it provides for everyone. Another distinctive feature of Chennai is the Margazhi season. Music, dance and the religious fervour... the ambience is simply inimitable.
Conservative? Typecast? Give me a break. Look at the youngsters around treading un-tread territories. They don't skip a beat whether it's music or fashion. The barriers are crumbling. They are into rock, pop, art, offbeat theatre and catwalk. The change is awesome. Chennai is on the road to transformation. Only hope its people will not leave their typical genuineness, affability and simplicity behind. The city stands for intelligent, culturally driven people. And we should be proud of it.
VJ, SS Channel
Dirty, but delightful
Chennai is synonymous with warmth and friendliness. Someone in my profession would certainly find it conservative. But thankfully, change has swept our psyche in a big way in recent times. People are a lot more open-minded and willing to experiment. And what's remarkable is that the city is emerging a winner in diverse fields - be it technology or beauty pageants. There's so much dirt around, but that's no dampener on Chennai being a delightful place.
Model and Ms. India finalist
Fountainhead of arts
Besides living in various cities in the country, I spent part of my childhood in London. While zipping across these places I absorbed different art forms including Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music. My coming to Chennai was like retracing my roots. It's here that I belong, having made a lifetime commitment to Bharatanatyam. After all, isn't Chennai the fountainhead of the classical art form?
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