For me Bombay has always been home. If anyone asks me “favourate city” I say Bombay in a heartbeat. There are several reasons I am attached to the city, apart from the fact that it always spells out home. So recently I was myself stumped (discombobulated, googly-ed, startled senseless out of my wits) when someone asked my what’s my favourate city and I said “Chennai”.
There was silence, the kind associated with a patriarch revealing incestuous facts of a family. Friends opened mouths and forgot to close them, others looked at me and wondered if the flu hit my brain and as for myself I sat in a quiet daze of shock still ruffled at the alacrity and the gall of my response. Later that night I took in a deep breath and came out of the proverbial closet. To myself first, then to family and friends. It was true I liked Chennai, ok loved. Yes I had always had these aberrant desires. No it wasn’t my parent’s fault I assured them. It must be the trauma of a scarring childhood experience my wise counselors sighed and concluded. Maybe it is.
Vacation for me always meant gallivanting off to the south by whatever means of transport available. And vacations were never complete without Chennai. The city played host to me several time a year, lulled me to sleep on lazy summer days, fed my appetites on breezy evenings and watched me grow with a matronly eye. As a kid, and a Bombayite I hated Chennai. I wanted to Gestapo the auto-karans, outlaw Saravana Bhavan and revamp the Marina into a mega-mall. No one travelled by trains, buses ahd alphabets and no one spoke indhi. And yet I unfailingly visited the city, my visits held together by a gaggle of endearing relatives and affectionate grandparents.
Very much like the prodigal son coming home, slow realization dawned on me. Like the first soft rays of dawn that broke over the Bay of Bengal, like the subtle aroma of coffee assaulting nostrils, like the gentle whiff of malli on a hot summer’s day. Every time I visited the city I was hit by a wave of nostalgia and a realization of returning to something inherently comfortable. Chennai did not have Bombay’s sense of acceptance or Bombay’s kill to get to the top attitude, but Chennai felt different, felt like home.
Childhood remembrances are important clues to personality traits my psychiatric friend says. If ever mine was analyzed there would be an entire kaleidoscope of images. Of Mylapore in the mornings, T. Nagar in the evenings. Of going up and down the 1A with cousins, running on the endless expanse of sand on Marina and a thousand other inconspicuous, innocuous memories all of which climax into a giant snowball of emotions leading to lumpy throats and misted visions.
So there. I’m coming out on my blog now. I love Chennai, I think it rocks and I’m proud of it.