3S + 2T + 2R = Chennai
This simple mathematical formula defines the city — the city that grabs me by my elbow every time I think of leaving.
3S = Sights, Sounds and Smells. The sights of the city are like no other. Each morning when I go to work, it feels as if it is my first day in Chennai. The city is awash with fresh colours — of the posters of Tamil magazines, of the new hoardings, green TASMAC signboards, yellow autos, white flowers on the hair of women. The sounds, well, the less said about it the better. Even as I write this, I can hear furious drumbeats from a nearby street. The drums have been playing since the last two nights, late into the midnight, and they are punctuated with the bursting of crackers. Boy, some of these Sivakasi bombs explode like grenades! As for the smell, it varies from Ranganathan Street to the Marina. Ranganathan Street smells of people, of fruit juices, of bajjis, of flowers. The Marina smells of the sea and bajjis. Spencer Plaza, on the other hand, smells of perfume and desire.
2T = Tradition and Technology. A temple priest, riding pillion on a bike, is talking on a mobile phone: the picture published in a newspaper three or four years ago remains stuck in my memory. The priest, head shaved except the pigtail and in white robes, was the ultimate symbol of tradition — he could have belonged to the 19th century. The mobile phone, on the other hand, is the ultimate symbol of technology. Here, the two Ts blend beautifully.
So do the 2R’s: Religion and Rationality. Rationality is supposed to be the presiding deity of Tamil Nadu’s political system, but the grip of religion is visible all over. Where else can you see your colleague coming to work barefeet and in black robes and not giving you company over drinks for 40 days?