Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chennai Diaries: Holiday in Hometown

I am from Chennai. Yes, my city is hot, humid, and beyond the comprehension of anyone who originated outside it. Yes, we have the worst auto drivers in the world, who will fleece you dry (and we are nor proud of it). Almost everyone who is not from Chennai, when they visit it for the first time, seem to hate it. I understand. A friend of mine landed in Chennai to interview for a faculty position in IIT-Madras and instantly decided that he couldn't be in a city that is so hot and humid, and immediately bid good bye to Chennai. But, none of that will influence what I feel about the city. I love Chennai, unequivocally.

I live in Pune now. So, recently when we got a chance to take a break and decided to go to Chennai for a week - I was pretty excited - as you can see by now. And that too, it was a relatively agenda free trip. No pre-trip plans to visit relatives, weddings, first-birthday parties, LKG-graduations etc. etc. Which meant, that one could actually take a break. And not keep wondering if you have committed a major family-political faux pas by visiting relative X and not visit relative Y and started a Devar Magan level family feud.

Or, so I thought.

The day after we landed in Chennai, a group of relatives landed in my place - invitations in hand, inviting my folks and us for an engagement function scheduled smack in the middle of our stay in Chennai. And, things of this sort kept happening at a rapid pace, completely unplanned and by chance, and before the end of day one of the trip, we had our schedules filled with events, lunches, dinners, bidding goodbye to a hoped-for agenda-free week in chennai.

Man proposes - god disposes. In India, man proposes, his relatives dispose of his proposals, his ideas and rearrange everything so comprehensively around him, the man wouldn't know what hit him.

This no-agenda bliss-filled vacations are a mirage anyway. One can keep thinking about them, and hoping to be completely rejuvenated and super-charged and refreshed after such a dream vacation, so that you jump back into your work and be super-productive - sorry, that is not how it goes. And you have find your vacation and everything else you expected out of it in the midst of all this mayhem and turbulence.

So, instead of worrying over the over-booked vacation week, one has got to do, what one has got to do.

I like to take my cycle and roam around the city. If I start early in the morning, it gives me enough time to do my rounds and return before it becomes too hot, and the roads become too busy. So, I did that. I came across a bunch of coffee shops - I noticed that coffee shops in general are pretty ambitious in life. None of them is content of just being a coffee shop - they all want to be more. In some way they hope they can add a tiny-bit of something else to your lives.

For example, these are some of the name boards I came across: "Mocha Joe's: Coffee and Conversation", "Java Green: Coffees and More", Cafe Coffee Day: A lot can happen over coffee" and so on - you see what I mean. None of them is satisfied with being just a coffee shop. None of them just want to provide you a good cup of coffee and stop there. They always want and hope "more" would happened to you while you are there. Some are clear and specific as to what that "more" is - like Mocha Joe's - they just wish that you would converse your head off while you are having coffee. But some are very generic: Cafe Coffee Day for example, hopes "a lot" would happen to you while you are there. Hopefully next time you are there, you will decide to change your career to be a circus manager, and as a part time activity be a spy and conduct high profile espionage missions, and learn to walk on your head while composing poems in chaste Urdu with your left hand - that would make the coffee shop people happy, hopefully.

Contrast these coffee shops with, say, ice cream shops. For example, baskin robins' name board reads: Baskin Robins: Ice Cream". Very clear and very non-ambitious in their outlook towards life. They don't want "a lot" to happen to you while you are having your ice cream, and neither do they want you to converse or do anything of that sort. They just hope that you would walk in, have your ice cream, and get the hell out of there.

If you would excuse me, I need to leave for a dinner now.


Anonymous said...

Good one :) And I completely agree about the "hot and humid" part. People who are not from Chennai, regardless of where they come from - even if from another coastal city - find it rather offending. I personally love it for the heat as well as a lot else.

The lines expanding on "a lot" (w. r. t Cafe Coffee Day) just cracked me up. :) Waiting for the next part (if there is a next part to this post, during this vacation!)

Anonymous said...

You should write more diaries like Mayil.

Anonymous said...

A chennaite can not love Chennai unequivocally, not anymore anyway.It is the mystic nostalgia combined with the thought of going back to Pune which makes you bat for Chennai.The city is humid, hot and increasingly getting filthier.
As for the family functions, if the food for the stomach is good then one shouldn't really complain.
Agenda-free or not, vacations do prove that a life of pleasure is overrated.
Happy cycling in Pune!

nmagesh said...

@Srini: thankyou, fellow chennai-lover. There was a second part in my mind- but never materialized due to laziness and other associated reasons.

@ Anon1: I lost my diary when I was stuck in traffic on my way to the train station.

@ Anon2: thank you. never got to touch my cycle in Pune (it helps my neighbor more than it does me)

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