Traditions left behind

If you’ve been on the net long enough, and been a little, what shall we say, fond of Madras, you’d have surely come across a thousand websites which describe Madras/Chennai as a “place where tradition and modernity mingle”. While there might be some truth to that easy cliche, this post is not about that.

I am not sure if this is just a fantasy that exists in my brain or actual incidents, but a long time ago, I used to live in Mandavelli. And because there was very little to do on a Saturday evening, the family would pile up on the old Vijay Super scooter and go to the Marina.

Now, here’s where the tradition comes in. All these trips to the beach would not be taken without a steel-tiffin-box filled with either idlis or kozhukattai or some such light snack. Eating out was not an option, much less at the bajji kadais. (I don’t recall if there were many bajji stalls then)

(Mandavelli to Marina is at most 5 minutes of 1980s Madras roads – we packed food from home for such a trip!)

When families swell in size during the annual festivities, the newcomers would most definitely be taken to the Marina. And gifts bought. Rubber balls. Plastic dolls. I remember my father once buying a murukku making machine in the beach.

Sadly these don’t occur anymore. My questions is, what’s your family’s Marina tradition?

19 Comments so far

  1. sachin (unregistered) on December 19th, 2007 @ 3:39 pm

    Dont mind me disagreeing with you bro.. but the marina and bessy beach traditions are very much still on for a hell of a lot of people. Me included. Just look at the crowds there every weekend.

    So….Now dont blame IT companies, women and north indians all over again – i know the commentors will just take this as fodder for right wing views

    You, the average guy blogger and several thousand other chennaites can probably afford more now Hence your all taking your kids to the malls and clubs in your cars. And since you all have some much disposible income there is heck of a lot more commerical activity going on around you. So please Dont mistake economic growth with the loss of tradition.

  2. Chandrachoodan (unregistered) on December 19th, 2007 @ 3:45 pm

    Sachin: Where in this post have I made any mention of IT, women, north-indians or anything remotely resembling them?

    Who is confusing economic growth with loss of tradition? My question is/was: What’s your favourite Marina tradition. Not what is your favourite troll-baiting.

  3. Ela (unregistered) on December 19th, 2007 @ 4:21 pm

    Hmmmm…..i still love to go to marina beach with my family……the best part of our family travelling is the food that my mom packs……puliyotharai with uralai kilangu varuval……and of course we will supplement it with the masal vadais from the shop…. this is our standard menu wherever we go……when it comes to marina i love to stand in the water while my parents sit on the shore and watch us…..then from time to time we(my brother, sister and myself) go to them and stuff ourselves with murukku, sundal and then go back to the waters…. it is always a beautiful thing..i loved those times and definitely cherish those moments….and we also buy bajji from the shops and just walk back slowly looking at those shops lining the way…..always my mom is attracted to the shops selling murukku/semiya acchu….so we end up buying them sometimes…..

    Nowadays i don´t allow my mom to pack food stuffs when we travel….it is not becoz i don´t like tradition but i feel bad that my mom has to get up early and then cook everything and pack everything……she need not to trouble herself all her life….sometimes if i have the energy to help her then fine….if not i prefer to eat out and give her a break…….

    sorry this became a long comment…but u have asked such an nostalgic question!

  4. Deepak (unregistered) on December 19th, 2007 @ 4:50 pm

    I think the Marina tradition of Chennai has never gone down. For instance, I belong to a Kannada family living in Chennai for around 25 years. Whenever our relatives come to Chennai, the place we head is Marina, even today (though we live in Perambur… way off from the sea). Of course, there has been a change in the style… earlier we used to take a bus, now we take the car. Earlier, Marina was the only place we went, now it is one of the places… still Marina makes it to the list all the time.

    Anyway, the custom of packing the food and taking it along to the beach has come down over the years… and people nowadays prefer to eat out. I remember my mom cooking puliyotharai and thayir sadam and packing it in banana leaves for us to open and have on the sands of the beach… that used to be a great trip those days…

  5. curiouscat (unregistered) on December 19th, 2007 @ 6:07 pm

    Could not resist sharing mine : We lived in Adyar. Every saturday evening we went to Marina on two bikes (mom and dad’s, me on one my brother on the other). First item on Agenda : get wet. Next, walk to the cholam stand and get sutta cholam for all of us. Then play something (frisbee, throw ball or fly a kite) till we dry. Then “eat out” at the woodlands that was at the intersection of Sardar patel road and the lattice bridge road…

  6. ag (unregistered) on December 19th, 2007 @ 7:44 pm

    When i was in school, I used to head out to the Marina beach and do the same things u mentioned, with my family . When i was in college, I used to head out to Elliots beach with a group of friends for meeting new people from the ‘cool’ gen X! Nowadays, when i visit chennai, i would probably head out to the farthest beach out there beyond kottivakkam, with my family to enjoy some calm and serene beach aura! I think the ‘going to the beach’ phrase takes new meanings as our perspectives change!!!:)

  7. sachin (unregistered) on December 19th, 2007 @ 10:36 pm

    u know what chandra, you know it and i know it.. the moment u say the word “tradition” , “sadly so and so doesnt happen anymore” .. its the same 3 scapegoats that come out of all the commentors.

    My comment wasnt directed at your post, but at what i was expecting commentors to react at.

    Hope it clears the air

  8. Abhishek (unregistered) on December 20th, 2007 @ 10:12 am

    Tradition and modernity…unfortunately, the worst of both reside in Chennai. Modernity is not about having malls and eating at Pizza huts. It is about a state of mind which embraces the good things in the new world without inhibitions, and not imposing your thoughts and language on other people. Tradition is not even that definable. It changes with time. The tradition that Chennai follows is its morals based on the Victorian style, something the English have themselves given up long ago.

    Why does Chennai have the most unkempt, ill-dressed people among all the metros is beyond me. It looks like a village masquerading as a town most times. Just take a trip down the mangalore-kerala coast. The climate is as humid as in Chennai but the people take care to have a bath and not end up like the stinking masses on board trains and buses in Chennai.

    My first experience at the Marina was terrible because it was highly overcrowded with people who had no sense of cleanliness and littered the beach like it was their personal garbage bin. Go close to the sea and you never know which fisherman’s refuse you are going to step on. The relatively better beaches are towards Pondicherry. I traveled by bus to the Marina, and that is where the comment on the unkempt people come from.

    No city likes doing as little introspection and as much pointing fingers as Chennai does. Do you consider it any surprise that it is never the first choice for other people in India to travel to Chennai for work?

    If you want to see tradition and modernity, you should be looking at Mumbai. All festivals from all over India are celebrated with intense fervor. While the Biharis and UP guys join the Ganesh Chaturthi celebration, the Marathi guys dance to the dandiya with equal fervor. At the same time, Mumbai has a rocking night life. Everyone gets a slice of the pie. Try celebrating Holi in Chennai and look at the stares you get!

  9. (unregistered) on December 20th, 2007 @ 12:04 pm

    changes are constant , so the old traditions are changed with stupid western cultures.. which will be worse in future . to bring back old tradition is really hard , as a small step i had utlised a space in website ( name shows it) for chennai , yes i have gave the link for old madras photos – check for our marina here in old times. and click for photos and pictures

    friends u can suggest what more can add in my website about chennai ,, i will add it in 2 hours time just mail me ,,

  10. Murali (unregistered) on December 21st, 2007 @ 1:44 am

    Abishek –
    Have you ever heard of the story of tortoise and hare story? I don’t know whether you are a native of Tamilnadu or not? But the issue you have to understand is that Tamilnadu is not driven by one industry. Most of us here are working in software industry, and we assume that world ends there, but the truth is, to have a healthy economy you need a multitude industries. Tamilnadu has all types of industries, from textiles, automobiles, electronics, heavy equipments and all the other. All these industries need man power, who might not be a white-collar worker you might like. Blue-collared workers are essential for these industries. A place like Mumbai or Bangalore might have a very high percentage or white-collar worker because majority of their work is either with computers or finance related. So, even though you might not like Chennai now, you will be in a better place given time. All these industries will give you a vibrant economy; believe me you are better off than Mumbai or Bangalore.
    About cleanliness, Haman which holds 10% market share on soap in India, has more 25% of its revenue from Tamilnadu. 85% Mysore Sandal’s total sales (around $1.59 Million) come from TN, Karnataka and AP. Lux and Lifebouy are always big players in Tamilnadu, so I don’t know what you mean. Now I know you will shout back that, “Just because the state have high sales number, it does not mean people are clean”, then my question is how do you judge? Ill-dressed, again it is the difference between white-collar and blue-collar workers man.
    Traditions are a thing of beauty man. Have you ever stood in front of Parthasarathy Temple during a parade (I think it’s called Utsavam)? It is really beautiful. Now do you want that to be stopped because it brings traffic to a halt? You have to work around it.
    I know most of the people living outside Tamilnadu dislike the state, because people here take a stance. They don’t follow a rule because it is said or written by Gandhi, Nehru or whoever it may be. They question it, and if it is applicable I don’t see people rejecting it. That’s one of the biggest identity crisis Tamilnadu faces because people don’t like to be questioned. When you do, you become an outsider; it doesn’t matter whether it is for good or bad. Leave Anna, MGR, and all the current leaders, Tamilnadu had great leaders such as Periyar, Rajaji, and Kamarajar. All these leaders are great social thinkers, they questioned everything put in front of them and they choose the best. So don’t judge things by the way they look, do some study and find out why it is in the current state. Give us ways in which we can improve it. I totally agree that there is a lot more to be done to uplift the state, so let’s work together and get it done. Don’t start mudslinging.

  11. outsider (unregistered) on December 21st, 2007 @ 3:00 am

    abhishek – hahah mumbai?? it stinks like open drainage everywhere in mumbai and there also ppl on trains are smelly – they carry dry fish and all. mumbai juhu beach is just one small beach but there also people eat behl puri and put plates on sand…is that cleanliness for u?

    in madras also ppl celebrate holi – go to north madras and sowcarpet you will think you are in rajasthan. there auto guys dont spk tamil they spk only in hindi. that is where i lrnt to spk hindi also.

    you are saying so much no why dont u think of celebrating pongal or golu in bombay or delhi or calcutta or bangalore?? then you will know that everybody is free to do what they wish in chennai.

    dont take me wrong – there are many wrong things also in chennai. roads and traffic sense is bad and there are badly built houses everywhere but because of one thing chennai doesnt force ppl to be like others. this city is truly good.

  12. abhishek (unregistered) on December 21st, 2007 @ 10:13 am

    Murali, my name is Abhishek and not Abishek. I know that Tamil is a phonetically flawed language like most European ones, and unlike most Indian ones but I would appreciate the correct spelling.

    Now, coming to your argument, I was talking of Mangalore and Kerala and not Bangalore or Pune. I would advise you to go to Mangalore and travel by local transport or anywhere in Kerala for that matter. None of them boast of a high percentage of blue collar workers you talk about. Am not even commenting on your soap sales thing. It depends on so many other factors. About your leaders, if garlanding gods with slippers and abusing the Hindu religion while promoting the rest is what you are talking about, I am better off without them. Why is there such a highly disproportionate number of TamBrahms outside your state than inside it. I remember that when in Mumbai all my Tamil friends in school were Brahmins and hated their home state. Now I know why. Can you point me to another state where people hate their home state? Karunanidhi openly promotes other religions at the expense of Hinduism. But the people do not raise a whimper. So much for the people taking a stance. Coming to Hindi, your favorite topic, most people in my office here regret not having learnt it in school because they truly feel like outsiders when we gather. People of all other states speak in one language and the people from your state simply cannot share anything that we have in common – language, culture, politics or movies.

    Coming to the beach itself, I never praised Mumbai’s beaches. But at the very least, you can approach the sea without the fear of stepping on something that the fisherman left in the morning.You cannot eat out in Chennai with the same amount of confidence than you do in Bangalore, Mumbai, and Delhi. Do you see any city where people carry their Bisleri’s along with them?

    About Pongal not being celebrated, I would advise Mr Outsider to visit Matunga and Sion in Mumbai during the festival. You can then comment. And about stinking people in Mumbai’s compartments, we must be traveling in different local trains altogether.

  13. NAMS (unregistered) on December 21st, 2007 @ 5:13 pm

    Well, i can observe how much is disliking towards chennai and Tamil ffrom your posts.
    for your kind information u tell Abhishek to any person in any remote village of TN, they will pronounce it correctly…but i bet any one from north india cant even pronounce a simple tamil name correctly…nor do they care abt that….i ve seen more people like that…
    To say Tamil is phonetically flawed and comparing it with european languages, it shows u ve little knowledge in indology or u know little abt Tamil…without knowing anything or just by knowing vey little thing, no one shud indulge in these kind of mudslinging…its you like guys who ve spread bad abt chennai outside..

    i dont understand why u jumped out to compare chennai n mangalore n kerala in a blog which is abt tradition of chennai…well thatswar u understood what is tradition??

    to say Tradition….that too in mumbai…i can only laugh at you..families drinking together….and couples doing all the kind of ugly activities in open n public places…i have seen more n more like these in mumbai…well of course this is what u ppl call it as tradition mixed with modernity….
    having cosmopolitan outlook and losing out our own mother language in the name of speaking national language hindi (of course its not national language) is happening in all cities…can u tell how many are seeing marathi films in mumbai and how many are speaking it really…?? any known growth to marathi literature in recent times..
    any updates abt maratha culture..?
    whats the fate of maratha culture n marathi in mumbai?
    whats the fate of kannada culture n kannada in blore?
    whats the fate of andhra culture n telugu in hydbad?
    this list goes on and on….
    but if we tend to protect our Tamil inside TN..u ppl will not accept that…

    have u seen any tamil outside TN not willing to learn the local language??
    how many north indians u have seen who settled in TN learnt Tamil atleast for survival…its ur attitude which sucks..!!

    u want to know abt real culture and tradition ,..come n live in chennai for atleast 1 yr…then u wont speak….
    of course..the so called holi, ganesh chathurthi are all started just before 100 yrs ..ganesh chathurthi was started by Balagangathara thilagat just to bring up the much needed unity….and now everyone knows the fate of those festivals ??

    we know how many wwomen are eveteased in name of holi in mumbai…!
    we know how many are made homeless in name of Ganesh chathurthi…!
    still is there any safety for other religion persons in mumbai or in north india??
    am damp sure still they are living with some kind of fear…but just saying everything is fine when TV channels interview them..!

    just drama everywhere…in north india!!

    yes…we garland gods with slippers but we dont kill our own people in the name of religion..!
    here if one person karuna speaks atheism…entire north india can go mad…
    but not TN…
    because we know what is real spirituality…
    of course, the real home of spirituality knows what is real ..?

    yes…those who ve gone to Mumbai will not like chennai..
    coz of the facilities…24 hr power supply, water supply…but all these things how u got? at the expense of south right??
    u ppl ruled the nation for the past 50 yrs and all the things to mumbai and entirely neglected south..!

    now only u guys started coming towards south coz the real progress is happening here..and u guys talk all the hell abt us…!

    yes….most ppl who does nt know hindi will regret only coz they are not able to communicate….but i bet Tamils are the ones who learn other languages and adapt to other cultures easily…if u want , do a research..u will come to know..

    “People of all other states speak in one language and the people from your state simply cannot share anything that we have in common – language, culture, politics or movies. ”
    —i have never seen an vague statement like this anywhere…!
    this shows u r ignorance abt others…other states…!

    coming to beach….
    the statements u ve made…i can only laugh at them man..!
    u shu have gone to any fishermans toilet in marina or bessy beach…and talking like this…u hve little knowlege in everything and crying like a child….given chennai is a metro and crores of people throng to the beach, i can say, marina n bessy are the best beaches…dont compare with Pondicherry or vizag…if marina happened to be there e…out of city it wud be a heaven..

    i can only pity at me for wasting my time, energy and everything in answering guys like u who never change their mindset or even they are not ready to..!

    good luck,

  14. Murali (unregistered) on December 22nd, 2007 @ 12:42 am

    Sorry Abishek, oops Abhishek. If only I can type in Tamil may be I can do a better Job (Fun intended don’t take it personally). ;)

    Regarding you argument about Kerala and Madras, man you are trying to compare apples and oranges. How can you compare a metro city to a non metro city? I can come back with the argument that if you go from Pollachi all the way to Theni, that’s truly a God’s own country.

    The point I am going to make, I know for sure is the reason for Hinduism downfall. But I have no doubt that the future will be better. So let’s remove our prejudice and be open for a minute. Let’s not worry about what the west is doing or what’ is happening in the Middle East and Philippines and analysis the situation for a minute. What is Hinduism? We have had great Carvaka leaders; I feel Buddhism is an offspring of Carvaka principle, where in they question the very existence of God. So if we accept Carvaka and Buddhism as part of Hinduism as a whole, why we are so narrow minded with people like Periyar. Doesn’t Hinduism say that you can be an atheist and still attain God? I think there are some great books by Jiddu Krishnamurthy on this thought. The difference between Periyar and the followers of Anna are the same between Lenin and Stalin. Lenin might have had a good intention behind his revolution but all it took was a leader like Stalin who hijacked Lenin’s principle and screwed everyone. Now do you blame Lenin or for that matter Periyar for the events that followed after them? In conclusion, I know it is a tough time to be a Hindu. We see religions which tend to give you a Yes/No kind of an answer for every question in this world. It is simple isn’t it, when you find a religion which says, “What ever sin you have committed, will completely be vanished if you beg for mercy or if you follow their path”. Isn’t it easy to have book which gives you all the answers in life? But the truth is there is no book, which might give you all answers you want. You have to struggle through in life to find answers. There are hundreds of ways to attain God. You may find Abraham’s path to be the perfect match for you, or you might find that the path from the east fits your bill perfectly, or you may think that you have to make your own path, all of which are perfect as long as you don’t start saying that the other path is imperfect. That’s where I have my biggest issue with Abraham’s path. I am not going to argue here, whether your path is right or wrong. Who am I to make a call? Who gave you liberty to kill others because their path is different?

    Now this is time, we should sit back and think about how great our forefathers were. With all the development with evolution and science, what percentage of people in west questions the principle of Abraham? During an age when man was trying to understand the origin, it was easy to worship the elements. It was easy to be a herd of people who follow a voice which they never heard. During this time of uncertainty, we have had people like Buddha and other Carvaka leaders who have questioned the very essence of life. Given that, we now bash leaders like Periyar just because he did not fit into our mold.

    Now, to your next point, the Brahmin/Non-Brahmin split. Tell me a solution. Depending on who we talk to there is either Brahmin or Non-Brahmin discrimination isn’t it? There used to be time, in India when the government job was the only option to settle down in life, not anymore. The moment we step outside out college, these days the playing fields are the same. So why is there a concern? From what I see majority of Brahmin live near city, so they get better education, so they should be able to get a better job, so in other words they are better off today. We tend to live in the past and still complain about how things were. Look outside, the things are far better.

    I think I already wasted too much of my office time, I will answer your concern about Hindi and cleanliness of Marina later….

  15. Chandrachoodan (unregistered) on December 22nd, 2007 @ 2:48 am

    Um, this is getting crazy.
    But fun crazy.
    Perhaps one or the other would like to come back to the topic?

  16. Sanjeeva (unregistered) on December 22nd, 2007 @ 10:35 am

    Thirty years ago, I dont recall any other entertainment other than the marina and moore market. Traditionally we used to go and eat the sundals and arisi murukkus and sutta cholam etc etc… sometimes we dined at the Buhari on the beach..That was till the amlls began to happen and cinemas andvideos etc etc…madras is growing up…what say rest of you…

    \plz ignore people like Abhishek who seems to have a remarkable hatered towards Chennai and its inhabitants…. A ride in the mumbai local will probably prove him wrong.

    Mangalore and other kerala towns are very small versions which cannot be compared with chennai..

  17. bubbishek (unregistered) on December 22nd, 2007 @ 6:42 pm

    take not that mans opinion, who takes the spelling of his own name seriously – sudalaimuthu kadalaiappan,sundal vendor,marina beach,madras

  18. bubbishek (unregistered) on December 22nd, 2007 @ 6:45 pm

    take not that mans opinion, who takes the spelling of his own name seriously – sudalaimuthu kadalaiappan,sundal vendor,marina beach,madras

  19. dodo (unregistered) on December 22nd, 2007 @ 7:35 pm

    “and couples doing all the kind of ugly activities in open n public places..”

    This argument from NAMS takes the cake…..Now, I dont have any doubt left on how base Mumbai is….

    Happy to know Chennai still maintains the Indian tradition..

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