Archive for September, 2006

RAmalinga AdigaL on Chennai

Some of you may have heard about the poet saint Ra(a)malinga AdigaL also known as Arut Praka(a)sa VaLLaLa(a)r (1823-1874). He is known to have established “worship of light” as omnipresent. He also founded the “Samarasa Sanma(a)rga Sangam” (Society for Truth and Righteous Living) with Vadalur being the headquarters, one of whose aims is to feed as many needy people as possible. His recitals of 6000 poems are inte-grated into a song of verses called (use Unicode (UTF-8) to view) “திருவருட்பா”/”Thiru(v)arutpa(a)”.

Honestly, I don’t know much about this great man myself and my awareness comes solely from a small roadside temple (if it can be called that) for him in my neighborhood in Chennai that I used to pass everyday to school and college. [The reason I am writing about him today is that my brother sent me an email with a quote from VaLLaLa(a)r that is as relevant today as it was then.] – see words in italics at the end of the post.

Thettile Migundha Chennaiyil Irundhaal
Sirukurum EnruLam Bhayandhe
Naattile Siriya OorpurangaLile NaNNinen
Oorpuram aduththa
Kaattile Parukkaikkallile Punsei
KaLatthile Thirinthurra ILaippai
Yettile Ezhutha Mudiyumo Ivaikal Endhai
Nee Arindhadhuthaane!

Meaning: I was afraid that if I stayed in the opulent Chennai my heart may be enchanted to that way of life. That is why I preferred to stay in small villages, townships and even adjacent forests and groves and take rest. Wouldn’t you not know about such things that cannot be brought out in print?

That VaLLaLa(a)r says this of Chennai life roughly 150 years back is to be noted.

(This post again from ChennaiCentral archives dated February 01, 2006)

Life on a Sunday Evening

Life on a Sunday Evening

Just as I went to collect my book that I threw to the floor, I got this sight out of my Window. By the way, I threw the book because the power went off on a Sunday evening. I mean, how can that happen to me on a weekend. But then, all my moods changed when I saw these guys walking on the steel two floors high, and trying to install a new transformer. Work or whatever.. its Sunday, and they had to be doing this job for money.

There’s an interesting Freakanomics stuff here. They are installing a new transformer because, there are a lots of Air conditioners installed in the locality, and the current transformer isnt able to cater. There are a lot of Air Conditioners because a lot of BPO guys reside in the locality. Its not that we havent had such a summer earlier, but the affordability has increased.. and how ?

That has made these workers install the new transformer. Practically, they are the most arrogant when you approach them and ask, “Saar ! Eppo Current varum ?”.. (When will we get back the power ?”.. ) .. They would reply with a stare.. “mmm.. late aagum.. “.. (.. it’ll take time). It is the most predictable reaction, here in Chennai. There’s a similar Question-Stare pair which is very popular. Ask the driver of the bus you are about to travel on, “Eththanai manikku saar poi reach aagum ?”.. and the driver would give a look like a Software Engineer staring at his manager, who is asking the status of a project that just got kicked off.

Luckily I made a good conversation with them today. They were with their perspective of the annoying people who pesture them with calls and enquiries the minute the power goes off. Yeah, we all ask this one person. But to this One person, So many people ask. Thats like, so many managers asking status.

I felt they had a point. I told them they were right. And just as I was about to leave I asked them “Seekiram vandhudumla ?”. That man smiled, and I didnt realize what it meant.

A book reading

Just got back from a book reading at the Park Sheraton. I chose to go not because of the booze or the writer, but because of the invitation letter: a real, metal key and a small card pretending to be the ring. If the invite could be so fancy, imagine what the reading would be like! The card mentioned that actor Rahul Bose would be reading from the book — a collection of poems by Tishani Doshi. I’ve heard about her, read about her, but haven’t read her.

The reading had just begun when I reached. The two, Bose and Doshi, were sitting on the podium in the darkened hall. Rahul was presently reading out, while Tishani kept twisting her chair, just like people habitually shake their leg. Then she read, and he shyly fixed his gaze down, occasionally turning his head to look at her. To me they looked like a newly-married couple — Tishani the bindaas groom and Rahul the shy bride.

Once the reading was over, however, Rahul — the thinking woman’s man — came alive. Assuming a philosphical expression, he suddenly went into a monologue which completely went over my head. All I could make out was that he was talking about the ‘society’ — not the society which gossips and attends parties but the more profound variety — the one which has responsibilities and all that.

By now the lights had come on and I saw the audience — the usual who’s who of Chennai, people who are seen at every single arty function in Chennai (don’t they ever take a break?) Perhaps their wait to appear on the backpage of Chennai Chronicle has not ended. Perhaps it will never end, because the paper focuses on babes — they even have captions that say things like: “This babe seems to be having a good time.” So if you are a woman in your twenties, just put on that spaghetti top and walk into a literary function even if you have never read a book in your life: chances are extremely high you will appear in the paper. Glamour matters, even in literature. Or else, why call Rahul Bose to read a book? Now Bose may take offence to this: he would rather consider himself a celebral actor than a celebrity actor.

Anyway, I headed to the bar. The whisky was Red Label: not something I would like to linger over. But since I had come all the way, I had just one drink standing in the corner, and walked out, leaving the Chennai ‘society’ to bask in the afterglow of the evening in the dimly-lit room.


Nine different sundals come to mind this morning. Also nine different pattu paavadais of childhood, nine different evenings, ten holidays and countless mamis in their beautiful silk saris. Ofcourse there is the golu, there is the official social season, there are the poor mamas who feel quite lost while women all over Chennai ignore the men of the house.


Another Navarathri is here, the next nine days will be all colour and good cheer.

Warm wishes dear people!

A Night At Parthasarathy Temple

I had a chance to go to Triplicane on some work and took about an hour off to soak into the life around the Parthasarathy Temple. Here are a few snapshots.


All in a day: the different faces of Chennai

All in a day. This afternoon, I took an autorickshaw from my home, in T. Nagar, to the Nungambakkam Landmark where “60 percent Sale” on books is going on. The sale isn’t great, though I did pick up loads of Vanity Fair and Esquire for just Rs 50 each. Moments after the autowallah took off, he noticed on the road another auto driver helplessly looking at his dead machine. My guy stopped and asked him what was wrong, and he replied, “No petrol.”

“Get on to your seat,” my guy commanded him, and even before I could realise, he was powering the petrol-less auto with his feet. For about five minutes, he pushed that auto with his feet, and finally, as a petrol pump appeared, next to the Vani Mahal signal on G.N. Chetty Road, he gave it one final kick — powerful enough for the other driver to steer his vehicle into the bunk. Just at that moment, the timer at the signal had already counted down to four. Our man rotated the accelerator and zoomed across — a true hero. Every action of his was so well-coordinated that he could have been Rajnikant playing the role of a heroic auto driver.

While at Landmark I got a call from wife. She is new to Chennai and its roads and flyovers, and this morning, while coming from Alwarpet, she goofed up at Gemini flyover. She had intended to go to Nungambakkam, but a colleague of hers, who was in the car, caused confusion: “Take left… No, sorry, sorry, take right.” By then, my wife had already taken a left, and as she attempted to turn right, a cop sprang up from nowhere. He started with Rs 400, and finally let her off for — shame on the police — just Rs 30. I still don’t know whether to blame the cop for taking bribe, or admire my wife’s bargaining skills. I wish the day had ended with that. But.

Back home, I was engrossed reading an interview with Colin Farrell in Esquire when she called again. “Where are you?” I asked.
“At the ATM near our house.”
“I can’t find my wallet.”
“Check in the car.”
“Checked everywhere. I think I left it in the hotel (she was attending a training programme at Quality Aruna).”

She “thought” she had left the wallet in the hotel: which means chances of finding it were slashed by 50 percent. And considering she had left it behind in a hotel, of all places, where you can steal anything without being accountable for it, the remaining 50 percent was also gone. Yet, we drove to the hotel.

My wife put on music to make the drive less stressful: if only she knew what was going on in my mind. Ever since we got married five months ago, her money has been my money — mine gets over far too quickly. And her wallet had all the ATM cards and her driving licence too. Since I had never bothered learning to drive a car, her licence was crucial. I had visions of sitting in a police station — either to lodge a complaint for the missing wallet, or being taken to task for driving without a licence (in case she dashed into someone in the rush to get to the hotel). I could foresee a tragic evening.

“Anyone there,” my wife said loudly in the now-empty conference hall which was full of people just an hour ago. Total silence. “Excuse me, anyone there?” she said, peeping into the staff corridor. A young bearer appeared. He had the wallet. He handed it over to her along with a piece of advice: “Please keep some identification card in the wallet. I didn’t know where to call.” He asked her to check the money: it was intact. The wife pulled out a 100-rupee note to reward him for his honesty. He refused. She insisted. He refused again.

As the emotional ‘lost and found’ drama went on between them, I silently rejoiced. I had a valid reason to drink this evening, instead of having to invent one.

Boy meets Girl – but where?

Chennai like any other metropolitan city, is crowded. It is hard enough to find space for meeting people. In such situation, where is the place for a boy to meet a girl?

From my observation Seetammal Colony 1st, second and third streets opposite to SIET college have always been occupied. The standard procedure is for the guy to park his bike under a shady tree for the girl to sit while he stands and they talk sweet little nothings till it is time for the girl to go home. I have watched this scene repeat itself for the past 15 years. The bikes have changed from TVS 50 to Bajaj Pulsar, but the scene is still the same.

Madras in Movies

I’ve liked Randor Guy’s writing ever since I read a piece that he wrote in Vikatan, about Chennai’s Kaapi Clubs. Every conceivable, olde-worlde coffee club was in it, Rathna café and everything. I fell in love with old Chennai back then.

That was what made me listen to his speech about Vintage Movies, movies that showcased Madras as it had once been.

On 25th August in the Pennathur Subramaniam High School, Madras. He began, in a raspy voice, on “Vintage Cinema: Madras in Movies,” giving competition to the rains that had suddenly decided to pay a visit to the event as well, about the first Thamizh movie that had spoken to its audience.

DMK to contest 50% of the seats in local body elections

When the DMK government took charge in May, Stalin was given charge of the local administration portfolio. This sent a clear message to their allies and party insiders, that the party’s success in the local elections would be the time when Stalin proves his mettle, and demonstrate his ability to manage elections, and lead the party during election time.

An important aspect of leading a party during elections is seat sharing talks. This time round, the DMK can go it alone and even emerge victorious, but for the stability of its government in the state, it needs to carry its allies along this time too. This time the party isn’t in the mood for a coalition at the local level, therefore it aims to bargain hard and be able to contest 50% of the seats. As this report in Indian Express states (requires registration to access)

Chennai names

From my ChennaiCentral blog archives (post dated April 21, 2006)

The localities within a city are an interesting study by themselves. In Coimbatore and its vicinity, one would find a lot of “pAlayam”s like MettupAlayam, PAppAnaicken pAlayam etc. Tiruchi has its share of “Ur”s and “Nagar”s like UraiyUr, TennUr, GAndhi Nagar etc. I don’t know much about Madurai and its suburbs and someone here may add to the discussion if they know about it. Among all the cities, the capital of Thamizhnaadu has possibly the most diverse of “similar-surname” localities. This list was compiled by my brother (with me adding several examples for each surname that I could think of) and I thank him for that (these are strictly not just pincodes although the majority are) :

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