So, I’m back in Chennai after two and a half months in Bangalore. I missed this city like crazy. Sure, Bangalore is a nice place, if you’re visiting your uncle there for a week.
Everywhere in Bangalore there is a lingering sense of a town that suddenly sold out to big bucks. A teenager trying too hard to grow up too fast, and desperately needing to be cool. Cosmopolitan, but at a cost. In inviting everyone to come and be a part of the mess, Bangalore has had to make compromises.
Young people from all over the country are everywhere. Packed for the nights like sardines into ubiquitous ‘paying guest’ apartments, sometimes three or four to a room. In the middle of ubiquitous traffic jams. In mazes of cubicles inside glass buildings. Sleepwalking through their ‘hip’ lifestyle.
The sudden influx of people has not been matched by growth of amenities. There are gross inadequacies of living spaces, roads, public transport system and power, to name a few, even as from all over the country, more moths fly to the light. Much more so than in other cities, old-timers in Bangalore remember the good old days with nostalgia, and struggle to understand the need for all the hurry to erect more glass buildings for malls and office complexes.
In contrast, Chennai has a dignity, and an identity that it holds on to, as a priority, even as it grows and changes to embrace the times. There is the unruffled calmness of a city that knows what it’s doing. People don’t try too hard to be something else. The women aren’t all hidden away behind walls of make-up. There is a quiet simplicity to everything.
As for the weather, I found Bangalore’s forever mild weather wonderful in the first week, good for a couple of weeks thereafter and by the time I reached the end of my stay, I was bored. It’s the bloody same thing everyday. Cruelly depriving you of even that little element of surprise in your otherwise programmed life. It is cool in the mornings, and you know by the dampness on the roads that it’s drizzled before you woke up. Then it’s cool in the afternoons, then there’s the mandatory drizzle in the evening, and it’s cool afterwards. People know it by heart, almost subconsciously.
In Chennai, there is the notoriously oppressive heat and humidity, especially in the summer and I have been known to grumble about it all just like anybody who’s ever lived in the city has. But, every once in a while, the elements spring a surprise on you, the sky darkens, and suddenly everyone in the city has a spring in their step. Troubles of everyday life fade away for a brief comforting while and people everywhere look heavenward wanting to spot that first drop of rain.
But more than anything else, Chennai is my city.