Two Cities

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.

23 Responses to “Two Cities”
  1. Anonymous says:

    Some body is jealous that his city has saturated its development, his girls aren’t wearing any makeup and his city’s weather is the most horrible weather any mortal can ever face. Ice creams are useless, baths are useless, the ACs are useless. Chennai is like an old conservative man with no scope for growth who has been sitting in the micro wave oven too long.

    In a random survey conducted among 200 residents of the IITM campus revealed that 195 residents including the author himself felt that they were facing the most horrible weather ever and would do anything to get out of it and the remaining 5 were too lazy to fill up the form. Probably this is why there has never been a sudden influx of people into the city and hence no need for malls and glass buildings. And its because of the perennial sweat that people don’t wear make up.

    There are 3 seasons in Chennai, Summer, Summer and the hot season and this hasn’t changed much in the past many years. So much for the elements of surprise.

  2. Thank you, Kashyap, for the anonymous comment, and the impromptu stats too.

    • Anonymous says:

      Dude! you didn’t have to reveal my name, only you knew that through my email.

      • I know that. I just chose to.
        What are you scared of, anyway?

      • Anonymous says:

        Dude! You silently wait to get out of our city and once you are safe at home you make this post. Now when I am about to enter your city you reveal my name? The old blind dude who wears the yellow shawl is waiting to find a reason to kill me. You just got me more enemies!

      • Lol, as a matter of fact I was already grumbling quite loudly when i was in bangalore. I just didn’t have the time for a post.
        Anway, I’m sure the new, improved, 1.55-times-stronger you can handle that old blind dude.

  3. Dhinesh says:

    @dinesh: very true.. my 10 week stay in bangalore has been hell too!!

    • adhaan andha kaalathuliye namma ramarajan annen solliyirukkaaru machaa- swargame endraalum namma oora pola varuma.

      Hello, btw, nee coal town case aache. Don’t pose as a chennaiite!

  4. Aishwarya says:

    This makes me want to go to Chennai again!

    Loved the post.

    P.S: i have never visited Bangalore..i’ve always wanted to, though.

    • Oh, you should go there. And stay for a week. That will cover everything you’d like to see around there, and you’d even have time to squeeze in a 2-day packaged trip to mysore etc. I did that last year, so I know.

  5. Ramya says:

    I agree with what the author has got to say about the disproportionate growth of the city.
    But I do disagree with the rest of it. How much of Bangalore has the author seen?
    There is a part of the city that is posh and so called ‘Hi-Tech’ kind of atmosphere. But there is a different face of the city. The ‘Common Bengaluru’. I guess the Bengalurigas are just too accommodative that the non-localites have outnumbered the localites. As far as the weather is concerned, the author is the second person I have seen cribbing about such a pleasant weather. Having been accustomed to the ever hot, hotter and hottest weather conditions, I see that the author had a difficult time getting adjusted here 😉

    ” But more than anything else, Chennai is my city”. That is true. Every one loves his/her city/town. I love Sagara 🙂

    Nice post by the way 🙂

    • “The author”? Wow, I felt like someone responded to an article of mine in a newspaper. or a journal.
      Thank you for your comment.
      I just spoke about what I saw; after all, that is all anyone can do.

  6. Abhijit says:

    “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.”

    That is a strange thing to complain about! Stranger than that is the fact that you appreciate the harsh, cruel and oppressive weather of Chennai! Anyway, it all amounts to nostalgia, and Bangalore does have its ups.

    Sure traffic’s bad, amenities are sparse or power cuts are frequent, but that’s just India, dude!

    Anyway, I had a fun 10 weeks at Bangalore! Fun place, and I love rains!

  7. Siddharth says:

    Bravo! Very well written, put a smile on my face. Every time I come home from the US and look at all the things that people here tout as growth and I sometimes feel like we’re trying too hard to be something we’re not. And I think bangalore just exemplifies this phenomenon.

  8. Vinay Hegde says:

    I can’t blame you for the picture of Bangalore you’ve in mind.
    But ‘Everywhere in Bangalore there is a lingering sense of a town that suddenly sold..’ is hard to accept. Especially the ‘Everywhere’ in that sentence. I recommend you to stay in those warmer, representative parts of Bangalore and you’ll surely realize what I am saying. Pranesh, when in Bangalore, said something similar, ‘.. had been to MG Road yesterday. Bangalore is stinking rich man!’ and he was speaking about one very small area in the city. Nothing could be further from the average. And of course, the teenagers would have been the ones you saw in those places. The cosmopolitan air about the same places too. Again, far from the average.
    And as far as the weather goes, it is pleasantly boring, yes. Unlike Kashyap or Ramya there ^, I don’t have anything against Chennai’s weather in particular, my native place being a coastal town and having a similar weather too. But again, you are bored, going by Chennai standards! For the people of Bangalore who are accustomed to the moderately pleasant weather throughout, the minute changes/ short drizzles are enough to bring a spring into their steps. It’s like one of my Chennai friends said, ‘..your city is frikking cold! I wore socks all the time!’. It is nothing more than cool if you ask the localites.
    And unlike some people there ^, I absolutely love Chennai. For various various reasons, of course. Since Bangalore is not strictly ‘my city’ too, I objectively like both cities for whatever they are.
    Well written, nevertheless. 🙂

  9. madan says:

    your take on the consistent pleasant weather in bangalore is … for loss of better words, exceptional .. very well said . i’m a big fan of the sudden showers that chennai often treats us with 🙂 read all ur blogs .. awesome da .. u should write more often !

  10. Yeshwanthi says:

    Very true. . The uncertainty of weather is something so typical of Chennai; and so is Bengaluru’s totally predictable weatger 😛
    Great post. Keep it coming…

  11. Apoorva says:

    So much for complaining about Bangalore and yet many many die to live even in the worst of worst areas of Bangalore. Absolutely one sided opinion. You have not seen Bangalore to make statements like “weather is same” or “women hidden in make up”. Absolutely ridiculous if you visit MG road or Brigade road and draw this opinion. All this half cooked opinions just makes me think that you are either plain jealous or you are too judgmental.. Everyone loves their own city, which is definitely not a license to make such offensive comments.

    • The post wasn’t meant to offend anyone.. it was only a response to rants I’ve heard from one too many Kannadigas about Chennai. And mind you, all of these rants are also born out of half-baked opinions and dangerously little real knowledge. But people can only form opinions out of their own experiences, and I’ve formed my opinions out of mine.

      And to be fair, I did finish by saying that Chennai is, more than anything else, my city.

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