Two Cities

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.

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Two-anna coin

In the holy month of Margazhi, on the morning of Vaikuntha Ekaadasi, near the holy chariot, a pit would be dug and a large frying pan cleaned out with cow dung set up, the sand from the banks of the Kollidam poured in, and peas fried in this sand till they joyfully popped; one whole bagful of these you could get for two annas. Later that night, under the light of petromax lamps you could buy big-lettered books that told the tales of Vikramadittan, Kokkogam etc. while your eyes drifted elsewhere. At Rangaraja’s the floor ticket for ‘Captain Marvel’ cost two annas.

Radio in Chennai

There’s this old-world romanticism to a big radio set. One that doesn’t tune properly anymore, the capacitors probably having outlived their expected lifetimes.