Chennai in summer: Those were the days when…..

Recent conversations took me back to the Chennai, then Madras, of yesteryears. The life style in Chennai was very, very different then, especially in T Nagar where I grew up. For instance, not many people had refrigerators at home. We certainly didn’t, so the vegetable vendor would come home in the morning every day with a choice of fresh vegetables for my mother to choose from. What we had for lunch and dinner was usually the consequence of the vegetable man’s stock that day! In the same way, the fruit vendor would turn up, as if by magic, by eleven or so, with the fruits of the season. His standard line was, “Thain pola irrukumaa!” Everything tasted as sweet as honey according to him. And so there was always a basket of fresh fruit on the dining table to choose from. We certainly didn’t miss a refrigerator!

“What about ice cream?” you must be thinking, especially in these hot summer months. Well, the Dasprakash and Kwality ice cream men used to make regular rounds of our neighbourhood. The Dasprakash chap had a peculiar cry, beloved by all the children in the vicinity! “SSSSCreaon! Daas….pra…..Kaaaas!” he used to go, much to every one’s amusement. But he certainly got your attention, and certainly your patronage! And, oh those flavours! So ice cream was a fairly regular treat in the summer months, and we didn’t have to go anywhere to have it. It came right to our homes on a daily basis!

There were so many other vendors as well: The man selling salt from his cart would go, “Uppu, uppoi! Thoothukodi uppu maa!” Then there were the fast foods of those days, the tasty snacks that also used to pass by on carts, or where available at the gates of our schools. The ‘Thenga, maanga, pattani, sundal’ variety! The raw mango, expertly sliced with masala rubbed into the slits, used to get everyone salivating. Then there was the ‘square man’, a short, squat man who was almost square in shape, who used to bring his cycle cart with athirasams, mysore pak, poli and a variety of other goodies.

Lime juice in the mornings, from the limes from our trees in the garden, was another summer favourite. First thing in the morning and at four in the evening. Mangoes, also from the ‘Thain man’ as we used to call him, were gorged upon with complete abandon. Oranges, sappotas, custard apples and melons were also summer favourites. The melon would be served with green grapes, a touch of lime juice and sugar, still the best way to have it!

Life was a lot simpler then, but richer in many ways!

6 Comments so far

  1. Arun (unregistered) on May 6th, 2007 @ 11:20 pm

    Good post David…genuine

  2. snow (unregistered) on May 7th, 2007 @ 4:56 am

    Life was a lot simpler then, but richer in many ways!
    Yeah except for the poor man screaming out of his lungs in hot sun just to earn some pennies. I wonder if his life got richer.

  3. randomwalker (unregistered) on May 7th, 2007 @ 8:40 am

    I’m old enough to remember those days too. But I agree with the comment above — it’s hard to understand why people are so fond of glorifying poverty and hardship. I think industrialization and technological progress are the best things to happen to Madras in a long time.

  4. david (unregistered) on May 7th, 2007 @ 10:24 am

    Random and Snow, this just about going down memeory lane and not about glorifying poverty. Its also not about wishing that those days were here. I am extremely happy with the progress the country has made, and the improving levels of income and lifestyles at all socio-economic levels. We still have a long way to go, and I only wish it happens sooner rather than later.

  5. Karthik Thirumalai (unregistered) on May 8th, 2007 @ 12:59 am

    I agree with the last line completely, it was lot simpler and there weren’t as many choices but still was great. Although iam not that old, i would say that Chennai didn’t have as many different restaurants………we had the Saravana Bhavan and few others………you would wait for it when parents take you there………now it’s like you turn around and have all kinds of specialty restaurants…………..simpler times they were………good or bad??

  6. s (unregistered) on May 9th, 2007 @ 5:32 pm

    Hey you forgot to add the chilled kulfi in tricycle at 9pm or later doing the rounds in the summer months. That unforgettable petromax light, red cloth covered over the big matka pot and the clanging of the bell….ahhh madras nalla madras!!

    nice post david.

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