Chennai – target of unfair criticism by some

Although I wear my love for Chennai on my sleeve for the whole world to see, yet I was never fully aware of the kind of baseless animosity and persistent negativity that some people up north seemed to harbor about this city. But the root of that feeling, while often being conveniently masked in other so-called problems perceived about the city as in its weather, water, watering holes (or rather the lack of them) or even its women (too conservative yaar), was definitely its pride in its own native language and not being just another city where you could impose your insistence on using Hindi as the default language of communication (as opposed to other southern cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad or Thiruvananthapuram). For proof of the above, you need to do nothing more than look at all the comments against Chennai in this discussion forum. The best part of that was a comment that I saw yesterday briefly before it was removed for abuse and that person had labelled Chennaiva(a)sis as ugly people, obviously with a “fair” perspective.

At work, in the context of hiring key talent for our company, when I once discussed with the HR manager and asked him why we were unable to look beyond Chennai for the kind of people we wanted, I was told many were reluctant to make the move just because it was Chennai and even in cases where they had no choice, they were always jittery about moving here since it was considered a “punishment posting”. I was completely taken aback by the Goebbellian nature of this consistent propaganda against the city which I was sure had led to this horribly twisted opinion in the minds of many, who were not even making an attempt to check factual data and who semed to rely more on hearsay and rumor. If they were MBAs who used such a technique to also base their business decisions, then god save their non-Chennai-based company.

We already have some people referring to Mumbai, Delhi, “Bangalore” and “Pune” as Tier I cities and “Chennai” as a Tier II city. WTF? We have all heard of stretching the truth but can a lie be stretched from Tasmania to Timbuktu? Apparently some people are unwittingly good at self-deception while includes their belief that they are pulling wool over other people’s eyes. Madras is one of the four original metropolises and leads on several social and economic indices. Remove one or two key things from the other cities that are being so prominently promoted in the media and the truth that will stare back will be harsh and bitter. Yet morons abound on message-boards and badmouth Chennai. And what gets them to be so bitter? That people here are supposedly “unfriendly”, where knowledge of Hindi equals friendliness. I ask them this question – is Hindi like the Indian rupee that has been declared the standard currency for India and you have no problem transacting anywhere in India, except Thamizhnaadu where people are exchanging a different currency for the rupee?

Look at the European Union which is geographically and ethnically diverse. Physically it is about the same or a little more than India in size and is represented by countries that are as varied as their languages and customs yet nation after nation has signed up to be a part of this Union because they can see economic and social benefits of doing so. They have all adopted a common currency – the Euro, yet have not sought to establish a common language, jettisoning others. They have ensured free mobility of labor and travel within the Union. Out of the 23 official and working languages, German is the most widely spoken mother-tongue followed by English, Italian and French. But you don’t find Germans insisting on everyone in the UK speaking German when they visit or settle down there or the British expecting all Parisians including street vendors to talk to them in English. In this case, people from Thamizhnaadu are willing to learn Hindi (or the local language) when they settle down in other parts of India. Is it too much to expect that when you visit Chennai or settle down here whether by choice or circumstances, you make a similar effort to learn and communicate with the vast majority of people who speak a language that is far older, richer and is as much loved by its speakers as you do your mother-tongue? Or is it ultimately “learning” that you are so afraid of, which makes you insist on having your way? And in case you are wondering about my credentials in asking these questions, I wish to say that I do know Hindi, having “learnt” it as my second language in a CBSE school at Madras.

22 Comments so far

  1. Sridhar (unregistered) on February 4th, 2007 @ 5:24 am

    What you say is very true, I have overheard people criticising chennai, just based on hearsay and never based on facts. But let them
    go on with their arrogant ways, they look pretty stupid anyway in todays global business arena where the default language is english. I think part of the problem is lazy gujjus,bengalis,marathas,mallus,kanndigas etc who have no interest in maintaining some kind of relevance for their languages.

  2. Giri (unregistered) on February 4th, 2007 @ 11:19 am

    “If they were MBAs who used such a technique to also base their business decisions, then god save their non-Chennai-based company.”

    “We have all heard of stretching the truth but can a lie be stretched from Tasmania to Timbuktu?”

    Punch dialogues? Great stuff man.

  3. vinod (unregistered) on February 4th, 2007 @ 1:26 pm

    hi thennavan – kazhuthaikallukku theriyuma karpoora vasanai… jus ignore the rest… i guess we know what chennai aka madras is about and where we stand…

  4. david (unregistered) on February 4th, 2007 @ 1:30 pm

    Good going Thennavan. I couldn’t agree with you more.

  5. karthik (unregistered) on February 4th, 2007 @ 8:03 pm

    hmmm… if you don’t have any constructive to write then start a Northie Vs Southie war or NRI vs RI war or Kollywood Vs Bollywood war or Illayaraja Vs A.R.Rahman war or Sachin-is-great vs Sachin-is-not-great war. Please stop blogging Thennavan. Does any of the readers know what triggered this blogpost ? Is there a story behind it ? is it not the blogger’s responsibility to give a hint of what triggers his blog post to his readers. Just because there’s a text box in a webpage and you know how to hit the keyboard doesn’t mean you can start writing anything and everything.

    Oh BTW I’m from Chennai and as long as you guys keep electing the stupid sottai thalaiyan as ur CM you are not just Tier II but you are Tier Last.

  6. Sathish Narasimhan (unregistered) on February 4th, 2007 @ 9:31 pm

    Thennavan, I feel that while there is not much of balanced coverage of Chennai, FIs have done their homework which is why they incrasingly invest here. It is of course a pity that some Indians don’t do their homework and rush to be judgemental.

    Karthik, you are commenting negatively both on Thennavan’s blog and here. What is your problem? Has not Thennavan given the Rediff link as the basis of his article? Should blog posts that must naturally flow from an author’s perspective have objectives, methodology etc. as bullet points before each post? What are you saying really, or is baiting Thennavan your only timepass here?

  7. Sathish (unregistered) on February 4th, 2007 @ 10:25 pm

    Also read Karthik’s remarks at the end.

    “Oh BTW I’m from Chennai and as long as you guys keep electing the stupid sottai thalaiyan as ur CM you are not just Tier II but you are Tier Last.”

    These sorts of remarks about Chennai and TN are what Thennavan is writing against. Please tell me how is Karunanidhi or Jayalalitha worse than any of the CMs in India. I think people like you should stop talking. Karthik, Please read the truths interms of investments that are flowing in and do a proper analysis of what has been happening. Or JUST SHUT UP

  8. Karthik (unregistered) on February 5th, 2007 @ 12:42 am

    so the basis of this blog post is some rediff forum where dogs and cats masquerading as prince and princess wrote comments about ur chennai and we all have to read Mr.Thennavan’s repudiation of the same in metblogs. It’s a sheer waste of time. In a nation of billion + ppl there will always be millions who love and hate some city. IMO this blogpost is as useless as the discussion forum on which it is based. It wastes a lot of ppl’s time.

    As a subscriber to other’s writing in the metblogs I hate such cluttering of useless strawman forums and their repudiations. Now please behave sensibly without resorting to SHUT UPs and such. The issue is between my perception of useless contribution from Thennavan and himself and we can sort it out. I’m pretty sure Thennavan doesn’t need mamas like u in the middle.

  9. Sathish (unregistered) on February 5th, 2007 @ 4:10 am

    Look at your language “Mama” etc. No wonder you must be one of those losers

  10. sj (unregistered) on February 5th, 2007 @ 7:53 am

    Hey Thennavan, please ignore the silly comments made my some people and continue to write meaningful blogs. I agree with you that Chennai is looked down upon my people from any place in India outside of TN. This can be said of not only our cities but our people most non Tamils do not appreciate or acknowledge Tamils in general within India. They boast about there own cities which is fine however some of the places mentioned on here have nothing to boast about, places like Chandigarh are is no league to be compared with Chennai. What does this place have its population is a few people majority being Poojabis.

    People will hate Chennai just because it is able to develop and keep it language and culture unlike other parts of India. Look at Hyderabad which is suppose to have Telugu as the main language yet it has no place there thanks to the pain staking efforts of locals to learn and adopt it as there own. This is an example of how one can choose to lose there culture and Bangalore has followed this example however Chennai will not follow these steps. Lets face in Thennavan in India anyone who opposes or doesn’t give Hindi more respect that there own language is discriminated so in this regard TN will always face this discrimination from other states/people. I bet even if Chennai was a world class city which it is on the way to being there will be oppose it because it does not care about Hindi. India has been plagued my problems because we have idiots in Delhi who winge about Hindi and have forced it to fall behind more concerned about Hindi then developing the country now they have finally woke up to the problem. Ovearll most of the metros still have a long to go in terms of reaching international standards firsly we need better roads, driver discipline and footpaths and more pedestrian crossings etc to point out a few.

  11. annoynomas (unregistered) on February 5th, 2007 @ 7:55 am

    Tell me it ain’t so..

    Thennavan: In Chennai they don’t speak Tamil anymore. I was there recently, I listened to the
    FM stations, I went to the shops to buy mad in Tamil nadu, the salespeople don’t speak Tamil, The banks
    mostly some strange language like a jamaican gumbo, Tami, malayali, one half Kings english, the half dravdian attempting to sound like english.

    Honesty. There is none. Start with 99 metro governing body members, then take a ride on the putt-putt, try getting atick to a good cultural event.

    Dravidian governace. It is a Fraud perpetrated on
    good citizens of Chennai by thugs supported by the
    IT management payuola. There are no side-walks for
    people to walk, no good public transport for working class people to travel to and from work.
    There are 6 lane raods for the IT paymasters who
    have no vison for the city other than their pocket books. There are no water fountains, public toilets for working class people who elected these
    Dravidian thugs.

    Arts: There are no good theatres for eprforming arts and the ones pretending to be are filled with
    people with cells phones and children running amuch with dravidian thugs and IT pimps getting up and going in out throughout a concert or a dance recital.

    Caring : There is none. No body cares for the young ones. Just go to the Dravidian thugs Govt. run schools you would knwo what I mean. Walk around the roads, they provide no safety for children. Lack of caring by dravidian leadership thugs and IT mgmt’s blind eye to child labor.

    Go to a Dravidian thugs run govt. hospital
    and figure out what are the chances of a poor
    working class men/woment to survive their
    health probelm being admitted and treated.

    Learning env: IT pimps, ass-kissing IT mgmt and Dravidan leadership thugs and their cotiere can send their childfren to privately run schools and even to harvard when other qualified can’t even get admission. Tell me why there are no basisc learning tools in schools.

    The insignia of the Chennai Govt. is a Temple and yet go to Chennai temple and checkout how poorly it is runa nd their wealth squandered.

    I can go on and on. But I will stop here.
    Yes I did live whent the City was Madras.
    Now Madras is dead and long gone.
    It is Chennai today and for the near future and there is nothing good to say about it except pity those who live there and accept the abuse day after day. So, I do understand, if other Indians
    don’t wnat to move to Chennai. It is for self
    preservation and sanity. They have right to say and deny the offer.

    I am glad it is working out for you. But, don’t be blind and support something it is not.
    In the end it is about quality of life. Tell me what i said above is ain’t so and show me the quality of life in chennai is worth considering.

  12. ni oru.. (unregistered) on February 5th, 2007 @ 3:19 pm

    //There are 6 lane raods for the IT paymasters who
    have no vison for the city other than their pocket books. There are no water fountains, public toilets for working class people who elected these
    Dravidian thugs.//

    dei vennai, first let them facilitate those who pay them highest taxes so that they can spend that money on those who you mention.

    Besides, didn’t “poor” choose these thugs for colour TV and cheap rice? aren’t they getting it? moodittu po!

  13. ni oru.. (unregistered) on February 5th, 2007 @ 3:40 pm

    @ post – Madras is a sticky owen with no water to wash the white shirts that get blackened in 30 minutes of Mount Road traffic. So there’s no big surprise that nobody wants to come here. Heck, people from Coimbatore hate it the most. So if you are happy thodachfying your pisukku pudicha moonji with your yellow karcheep in traffic signals, please, indulge yourself. aduthavana kora solladha!

  14. T.Rajapandian (unregistered) on February 6th, 2007 @ 10:57 am

    People get the rulers they deserve. ‘Thugs’ or otherwise,the government has to be elected by the people.By ‘people’ I mean lower middle class & lower class who vote religiously to elect the candidates who they think would serve their purposes(regularisation of encroachments,free TVs etc). ‘IT people'(upper middle class?) and non IT people (dissatisfied middle class) find it annoying to get out of their air-conditioned coccoons to vote and hence rant and rave about their semi-literate,goondaish elected rulers. Any city reflects the culture of its people.In that aspect Chennai is no different from Mumbai where you are an outsider if you dont speak Marathi,or Delhi where one cant survive outside one’s workplace without knowing Hindi and ofcourse Kolkata the most insular Indian metro where the people think its a crime to speak anything except Bengali.

  15. sj (unregistered) on February 7th, 2007 @ 3:41 am

    Well said Rajapandian I don’t see why people complain about having to learn Tamil if they come to Chennai. If they don’t like it that much then they should not come here at all. I mean we have students coming from places as far as Russia who are mad about learning Tamil and they are quite enthusiastic and appreciate the language unlike some of the ignorant Tamil youth in Chennai who lable it as being uncool and other Indians who despise Tamils and Tamil culture. The people of TN regardless of where it me should never bow down to any other Indian in relation to our language and culture because the rest of India does not have an older culture so to hell with them.

  16. Karthik (unregistered) on February 7th, 2007 @ 8:21 am

    nirai kudam thalumbadhu, kurai kudam koothadum. No one says bow before my culture. Tamizh vaazhga thamizhan vaazhgannu gosham pottavan ellam Hindi padichitu Ministera sutharan. avanukku SunTV moonTVnnu ayiram kodi sothu irukku. Avan pecha kettu neengalum kettu pogadheenga.

    I’ll ask all those who are worried about Tamil being in danger of exitinction. Are u speaking the same tamil that Tiruvalluvar used ? R u speaking the same Tamil that Illango used ? Why this obsession ? Tamil has borrowed from Sanskrit and also from Urdu. Why don’t u kick all the islamists out of TN because they introduced words like Ghajana, rajinama etc etc.

    World’s lingua franca is English. Do you see them clamouring for purity of their language ? They love words from other languages. Tamizhan madaiyangaradhai ovoru postum solludhu. Tamizh senthamizhnu announcement potta tamizh azhiyadha enna ? Poda pokkatha pasangala.

  17. sj (unregistered) on February 7th, 2007 @ 9:13 am

    Karthik so what are you saying that we should learn Hindi? Tamil is in danger of becoming extinct? That maybe be the case but we are not talking about that here. Hindi language is a disease that has plagued India from the start and still continues to do so. However Chennai ha s been able to fight of this unwanted disease which stop progress and everything else. States that have not adopted Hindi are doing better TN is a perfect example of that look at UP, MP all backward states.

  18. jillu (unregistered) on February 10th, 2007 @ 10:14 pm

    Maybe every company’s expectation is for Indian children to be:
    1. Born and brought up in the Bacchan household.
    2. Be called Abhishek and a famous bolly actor.
    3. Marry a Tree.
    4. Then marry the reigning queen of world beauty.
    5. Always stay in Malabar Hill.
    6. During lean periods in cine world commute to New Mumbai to work for them in their software parks.

    Goundamani bashela sollanumnaa – “Intha Satti thalayanungala ellam Roadleye pottu mithikkanumpa….yaaravathu ivangala Off pannungappa!”

  19. vijay (unregistered) on February 19th, 2007 @ 7:24 am


    namba kitta irukra prachanai, ungala mathiri Thamizhargal TN la “Second language” hindi padikrathu thaan.

    Thamizhargal Thamizh padikala na, yaaru padippa ???

    Thappa eduthukaatheenga, at least unga payan/ponna Thamizh second language padika veyunga – Thamizhukaaga !

  20. Alias (unregistered) on February 20th, 2007 @ 2:00 pm

    I’ve had the previlige to live for 2-3 yrs in all places from Srinagar to Coimbatore to Mumbai to Tejpur (Assam). Before going the “eye for an eye” way lets understand why Northie’s don’t enjoy Chennai as much:

    1) They are not used to the humidity.
    2) By nature they are people who like to make a lot of conversation, useless time pass at times with the other person over any and every transaction. In Chennai, that’s not possible becuase of language constraint.
    3) Just as an avg Chennai bloke would love his language, every North Indian is extremely comfortable with Hindi. Let’s not begin about which is a “greater” language!
    4) North Indian’s are always “branded” as agressive, hot headed, money minded and rude people with an innate superiority complex. Trust me, even they don’t enjoy being stereo-typed.
    5) Please take it up with the constitution if Hindi/English are the business languages but having no Hindi/English board-signs etc. isn’t exactly a great way to show your love for the
    mother tongue.

    I could go on and on. It’s a pointless discussion. Some of the most beautiful ladies I’ve met are from Chennai/TN. A South India beauty beats anyone hands down. But don’t run away from the fact that “Fair & Lovely” has max sales in TN! It’s an Indian thing…not North or South!

    Here’s to Rasam with Chole Bhature!


  21. kumar (unregistered) on February 21st, 2007 @ 3:19 pm

    chennai is a moffusil kind of place.guys like me who have landed up from metros like mumbai are aghast that this overgrown village,is called a city because of the sheer numbers which inhabit the place rather than any metro outlook. the poshest place chennai has to offer os anna nagar and besant nagar with their huts , road side vendors and absence of any good malls.

  22. kumar (unregistered) on February 21st, 2007 @ 3:20 pm

    chennai is a moffusil kind of place.guys like me who have landed up from metros like mumbai are aghast that this overgrown village,is called a city because of the sheer numbers which inhabit the place rather than any metro outlook. the poshest place chennai has to offer os anna nagar and besant nagar with their huts , road side vendors and absence of any good malls.

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