Monday, January 7, 2013

Chennai aka Madras!

This post is part of the blog tag titled, The CBC Tablog where CBC stands for Chennai Bloggers Club. About 35 bloggers from Chennai are participating in this blog tag; everyone will write about Chennai and what has attracted them here. Thanks for passing the baton to me Sylvian Patrick, a Thanjavur Karan who became Madras Karan. He is a marketer by profession, a quizzer by passion, a blogger by choice, a poet by chance,a Photographer by Hobby, a non-conformist by gene and a rebel by birth and he blogs at Sylvianism

Chennai! It seems more familiar and closer to me by the name "Madras" though I'd alternately use the names throughout this post. The mere thought of Madras gives me a pleasure like a child at the word 'chocolate'. I was born here, brought up here, went from here, returned here and now living here. Chennai has become an essential entity of my life. I was, am and will be fascinated by this metropolitan. Around nineteen years back, I was born in the suburbs of Chennai. Before I started to recognize things, my parents had me taken to Vellore. I became more curious and more curious about this city. The heart of the state. There are several things which attracted me as a kid and also as a grown up. 

So this city being the place where my grandparents lived, we used to visit it so often during my early years. Almost all the festivals ended up in Chennai and once in a blue moon we did that in Vellore.

"I booked tickets for us. Next weekend we are off to Chennai!"

I had been practically waiting for such conversations every day during those times. We start so happily by train and reach Chennai. The very first thing of amazement is the local electric train. I had always wondered in my childhood days why didn't we have local trains in Vellore! The trains we board at St. Thomas Mount station and the moments we wait for them are memorable. The tickets which they pull out from a machine by pressing a button, the yellow color with minute details in it, the small size with the fonts always make people like to preserve it. The long queue for the ticket counters, the people rushing up and down the stairs and the vendors on and off the platform made me curious. 

Image: Harikrishna Raghuraman

When we wait for the trains, we can see the different class of people; running for the job, hanging out just for fun, college students, vendors and the chief business men, the beggars. If you are somewhere near the airport, you can notice the flights landing and taking off. For a small child who hadn't seen a flight so close, it would be so much fun. I used to count the number of flights sitting on a bench and pronouncing those names. The weighing machines are a play thing for kids. They insert a one-rupee coin; get their card with an advice. 

Image: Harikrishna Raghuraman

The trains! Those days we had meter gauges and the broad gauges were very rare. The horn and the display were enthusiastic. Trains sub-divided to compartments; general, first class and the ladies. The seats on both side of the compartment, those handles, the fans, the windows, the doorstep, the tracks and the electric lines. I love the smoothness even today. Today I realize the advantages of these trains but those days without any reasons, I loved them. "I love trains!"

The other thing I am attracted by are the street vendors. Markets occupy both the sides of the famous streets in the city. There isn't anything you can't get in these places. Either young kids or old people manage these shops.

Image: Harikrishna Raghuraman

"Sir, three items for Rs.20!"
"Madam, take any item for just Rs.10."
"Bro, you can't get any of these anywhere else!" 

These dialogues in the Madras Slang aka Madras Bashai can easily get your attention. Speaking of which, Madras Bashai is the native slang of Madras people which is now the north Madras. This became popular all around the globe by the Tamil films and the 'gana' songs.

"Kundhu!" (Sit down)
"Saavu Graki!" (Death customer)
"Veetla soltu vantiya?" (Did you tell in your home and come?) 

These are the most famous sentences in the colloquial Tamil and one can see auto drivers using much of these. Speaking of whom, there isn't a place in Chennai without autos plying. They have their own associations, ethics and the auto-man from one stand should not pick customer from another stand. There are meters which are not used, there are indicators which are never used and there are rules which are not followed. The share autos are a new tradition today. These auto-wallas become so pious during the "Ayyappa" season. They undergo fasting for the visit to Sabarimala and they form the large part of the people visiting the holy place from our state. 

Image: The New Indian Express

The "Ayyappa" season is well-celebrated here along with other festivals. Wherever you go, you can't miss one wearing black costumes, a chain of beads, sandal and turmeric smeared on their forehead. It is the only festival other than Ganesh Chathurthi celebrated widely among all class of the people. The Margazhi month is the epitome of traditional and cultural aspects of the city on which I have already written a post which you can read here. The bhajans and the loudspeaker make this even wider.

The loudspeaker has become an inevitable part of a Chennai citizen. A political meeting, a star's birthday, a festival, a cinema release, a protest, a celebration and these cover all the areas of this city every day. Without disturbing the students or the aged, it is not customary to celebrate a phenomenon. This is an unsaid rule of Madras. This has indeed increased our noise pollution.

Speaking of pollution, it is at its acme today. The Cooum River flowing across the city with boats has become garbage carrying one. The river is at its worst condition and every political leader has made a promise to renovate it. The banks are occupied by the slums and are full of huts whose lives are dependent on this river. From washing their clothes to their pits, they do everything on this river.

The river! The tourism department arranges every day tour from Chennai till Mahabalipuram which includes a volvo bus, lunch and guide. There are a large number of places in Madras to visit. The zoological park at Vandalur, the snake and the guindy national park, the crocodile bank, the semmozhi poonga, the Marina and the Elliots beach, the Thiruvallikeni and the Mylapore temple and much more. There are buses connecting all these places. Even the remote places.

The buses are of several kinds. The white boards, yellow boards, the deluxe, Ac, ‘M’ services, ‘PP’ services ply throughout the city. Each is classified on the cost of the tickets. 21G is one of the most famous bus connecting Tambaram and Broadway. 568C connects CMBT and Kelambakkam. Another famous one. The highways are so neatly designed and the Kathipara junction is a public roller coaster which I love a lot. The government gives most of its importance to Chennai as it’s our capital.

The Government is here and so the troubles. If any political leader arrives to our state, he comes to Chennai first and there is a lot of diversions; enough to confuse the ordinary. And the airport here gives a great impression about the state to the visitors making this city full of tourists.

The word Chennai not only represents the city but the entire state. When you tell Chennai, it is Tamil Nadu and vice versa. The name Chennai is a shortened form of Chennapattanam, the name of the town that grew around Fort St. George, which was built by the English in 1639. And a few years, we are on our way for the city's 400th day. The Madras day is August 22 and the whole week is full of celebrations. The love for Madras makes its people celebrate its day. We live in Chennai and so we shall live for it.

I have written a short story based on how Chennai changed a person which involves a few scenes (not the main part!) under the title Chennai to Chennai! Now I am passing on the batom to Kalyani Ram who is a passionate new-born blogger whose blog is "ramblings and randomness".

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The suffering beneath the silence

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 35; the thirty-fifth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The theme for the month is "...and the world was silent again"
Guru climbed the steps of the railway station with a little hope. A little more left out of the much he had. He lost his belief in things he had once thought would be for him always. He moved reluctantly to the ticket counter. There was no queue. He went near the counter and bent down to see the lady working. She appeared beautiful and simple to him which are the qualities he adored in a girl. He moved away from the counter to avoid conversation with someone; known or unknown.

He descended the steps to the platform. He stood at the edge of the platform to check if any train was arriving.

"Hey, don't stand near the track. Stand away from it."

Guru heard the voice but didn't respond. He didn't like to.

"Excuse me, sir!"

His eyes remained pinned to the track.

"Are you deaf?"

The peevish police gently pushed the man to face him. He turned around to find a railway police personnel. He starred at the police for a long time only stopped by the same question.

"Are you deaf?"

"I was but I am not."

Saying this he moved away from the platform to sit on the bench. "Are you deaf?" This question echoed in his mind. He didn't wish to recapture those events. But the question reverberated in his mind flooding it with obnoxious thoughts.

He had spent more than 3 decades of his life in mere silence. He was born healthy, all fit and in a perfect condition. Disaster entered his life in the shape of Rubella, a type of measles, at the age of 10 and it cost his hearing. He became hearing impaired. He felt that the world was silent. The world had been silent for him since then. 

He was found by the panchayat workers near a garbage bin on a bright summer morning in a not-so-famous village. He was around 5 years and wasn't deaf then. Since then, he ate whatever he got, lived where ever he could gain access, did whatever work he could do. Everyone around him made the best out of him for free and life was not easy for him. But he moved on happily.

Circumstances changed when a work broker came in a truck to the village advertising about the works in the city on a daily pay basis. Previously, people had gone in the similar way and came back with a good fortune. They didn't amass a luxury yet the price for that city work was more than they could ever imagine in that village. A lot of people boarded the truck with dreams for their future. Guru had always aimed of working in a city. The word 'city' made him eager to join the party. He expressed his wish to the broker but the broker hesitated for a second. He hesitated because of his impairment but his assistant said otherwise. He later motioned him to the truck after a few words with his assistant.

He, like everyone else, landed on the city with a great hope. Contractors from various sites handpicked the people and after a few hours everybody vanished except for Guru. None of those contractors chose him. Guru scanned the entrance of that land of rubble in the hope of a contractor. The broker left the boy alone with his assistant and left the place. That assistant ensured the broker that the boy would be taken care of. He took the boy to a bully.

"Dei, who is this boy?"

"Sahib, An orphan. Perfectly suitable for the job!"

"But his characteristics tell us otherwise!"

"Sahib, none will come searching this boy!"

"But his physical form doesn't suit our requirements!"

"We will make him look like one sahib!"
Both giggled. Sadly, Guru was admiring the sight of a squirrel and didn't look at them to understand their conversation. He knew lip reading and was on his way in mastering it. The sun wasn't on the side of the boy. It was dark; the sun hid behind the clouds in fear of what he was about to witness.

Guru gave a loud cry. Unexpected, the assistant and the bully gave deathly blows to Guru. They twisted his ankle and elbow. He cried in agony and became unconscious unable to bear the pain. When he woke, he found him wrapped with bandages and lying on the steps in a railway station. What made him cry was an aluminum plate which lay in front of him. He was given a job! He was given the job in a city! He was given the job of a beggar! Of a beggar! A beggar!

Though he didn't do the job of begging initially, he eventually gave in. He motioned his hands and begged for money. But what he got was scornful looks, curses, spits, slaps, beatings and very rarely money.

“Sir, please help me. Help me to get a meal.” Guru begged.

People passing by his side used to criticize him.

“Sir, these people are wealthy and they even have a good bank balance.” and they will giggle.

“I am not assured of even a single meal per day!” Guru would reply.

He accepted all for a single meal for he was helpless. Everyday two or three came with the bully around mid night to collect all the money and provide him the meal. He had never touched the food without crying. He learnt to hide a small amount for himself and he had never used it. The only gain was that he mastered lip reading. Yet the world had always been silent for him.

Years rolled by. His ankle and elbow injuries got better. He didn't stay on these steps but did his job in the train, the platforms and sometimes other places but every night he would return to the railway. A few weeks later, he spotted a small boy sneaking around the station and stealing things from people. Guru knew it yet he waited to be catch him red-handed and the day came. Guru caught the boy when he was trying to break open his (illegal) savings. 

"Who are you?"

"Vasan. Leave me! I will never touch yours again."

"I am not going to leave you. Why are you into this?"

"I thought that you were deaf. Are you cheating people?"

"I am deaf. I know lip reading and I am not a mean person like you! I did not choose this job but was forced to do this! Are you? Are you forced kid? You aren't."

"I too am not. I am not mean. None gives me a job because of my father's death sentence. I had no other relation except my dad and he too was hanged to death a few months back and here I am stealing to console my stomach."

"I will offer you food. I will provide you money. Will you be honest? Will you be straight-forward?"

"I don't know who you are, old man but this is too much generosity! You need not offer me anything but I shall take myself! Goodbye!" 

Vasan left but with a little change in his heart. He was abashed by his act and the man's offer. He could not return to him but he wanted to. His pride didn't allow him to return. But later he often visited that station to see the old man secretly and would return. Soon these visits lead to conversations between them. They became friends and a little more than that. A father and a son. He always waited for his arrival like a child waiting for its father. He wanted him to be his son. Guru badly wanted Vasan to drop his egregious job and go to a school. But Vasan didn't like being helped by him who was already in a bad situation.

"I am not accepting any help from you my dear old fellow. You already have enough troubles."

"So are you going to pursue your little special work?" 

"No, I will stop this soon. Wait for a big fortune I'm going to make. And together we’ll leave our jobs." 

"That's what I am at. Don't attempt what you are going to! I don't know what it is about. But I am pretty sure that you are risking it."

"I am not going to risk myself. I am not gonna take any help from you and I have no other go!"

"Tell me about the fortune you are going to make."

"Wait and see for yourself! Tomorrow morning, you will know." 

Guru didn't sleep the entire night in fear of the fortune Vasan is at. He prayed to God sincerely for the first time to save him for he was the only person he ever liked. He started to live his life with a meaning after the introductory chapter of Vasan. His life changed after his arrival. He moved away from the railway station to a hut where Vasan lived. The next day arrived with a bright sun shining on his face and he woke with a jerk. He noticed the absence of Vasan next to him on the floor. He searched for him in the surroundings. 

Guru chided Vasan for leaving unannounced and he went to the railway station; his usual place. He looked deeply anxious about Vasan and his fortune. He opened his bag which was stitched several times to take out the aluminum plate. Suddenly a guy called his name. Guru looked around to see Sara approaching him. Sara too was a beggar; a turned beggar. 

"Guru, I saw Vasan today morning." 

"Oh Thank God, I have been searching him from morning." 

"Oh, don’t thank God! Curse him!" 

A wave of shock passed on Guru's face. He became anxious. 

"What happened to Vasan, Sara? What's the matter?"

"I saw him with the bully in the morning! Sara told me that he was leaving the place for a job the bully was offering and requested me not to inform you about this. I advised him not to go with bully but before that..."

"Sara, tell me!"

"But before I could finish my sentence bully slapped me and ordered me to shut my mouth and they left."

"When was it? What time?" 

"It was 5 hours before! I could not reach you for my disability! Do something about this!" 

Tears welled up in his eyes. He didn't know what to do. When Guru asked bully about Vasan, he just grinned. Guru didn't look at him but the words reached his ear. Shock. Jolt. Tremor.

"You can never find him, Guru. Give up your search."

"What did you do to him? You didn't give him a job! Did you?"

"Did I give you a job? Same for everyone." 

He had a little hope that the bully would have sent him to work. But he proved him otherwise. He had never believed his ears for they had not helped him anytime. So he looked at the bully again and he found him telling the statement. "Same for everyone."


The blaring horn of the train brought him back to his senses. He moved slowly to the train. He would never rest at any place before finding him. He heard the horn so easily and was surprised about his hearing sense. But the only grip of his life was lost and the world was silent again.

P.S: My school mate Sarguruvasan died recently in a bike accident. Stay safe with your bikes. May his soul rest in peace. I used his name in parts in this story in his memory; Guru, Vasan, Sara. We all will miss you our friend. 
The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. Introduced By: Muthu Kumar, Participation Count: 02

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A New Year and a New Post

Every celebration has a certain corporate structure in the way to celebrate it and in the way to share it. The secular New Year has no excuse from it. In fact, the custom of welcoming New Year has been practiced all around the world without any religious rituals in it except going to the places of worship for asking the Gods to give the individual a prosperous new year. I thought of this post while I was indulging in the celebration aspect of New Year which I will let you know as we proceed.

Decembers and Januaries always give so much enthusiasm. You have got several reasons to rejoice. Holidays, Christmas, Pongal, a year leaving and a year welcoming us into the future. The celebration of the New Year starts much before the actual event, even before Christmas. One can easily notice its arrival seeing the idiot box. The television will be the first among the few which welcomes New Year.

"Discount for new year!" 

"Unseen discount for this new year in the century!" 

"Silk is the epitome of purity! Let this new year start with a silk sari in your collection!" 

"The new year has given an opportunity for a brand new car at a discounted rate!" 

And many more such advertisements indicate the leave of the current year and a new year on its way! A few days before the New Year, the channels start their parts in the play.

"For the first time in the history of television channels, a "so-named" film for the new year, especially for the "so-called" channel viewers!" 

"Exclusive talk from this celebrity for the new year!" 

"This celebrity is going to visit your village and celebrate the New Year with you!" 

(How come you record it already on a new year and broadcast it on the same new year? Probably, that village people have their New Year two days before the actual!)

And on the eve, comes the majority of these stuffs. The news papers come with articles discussing the issues of the current year and they almost make it inferior to the new upcoming one!

"The events of the year!" 

"Year: A year of hopes and tragedies!" 

"It’s been a promising year!" 

TV channels have their own ways (!) of things!

"Top 10 Kollywood films of the year!"

"The year: A turn-back!"

"Top 10 songs of the year!"

And the most welcomed one is, "The year's dream actress: People's choice!" 

Not to forget about the networks, they greet us by these messages.

"Full talk time offer on the new year on RC 550." (Who the hell is going to put 550 rupees?)

"Wish you a happy new year and on the special day, you can send any number of messages (no TRAI limit) to any network and each message will be charged as per your plan." 

They quote this as the blackout day and charge for the sms and send us a message indicating it as if they are giving us an offer.

After you finish off these disasters, you are likely to hear thunderous effects of the crackers, songs, dance, whistles, claps, countdowns etc., (depending on the are you live in) aka the new year celebrations.

The working class gives us the notion that it is a festival by their ways.

"It's New Year! Can you give me a bonus?" tells the servant!

"Sir, A New Year! Happy New Year sir, 10 rupees sir!" tells the gurkha.

"Sir, 2013! Any thing sir?" questions the laborer.

The most promising aspect of the New Year is being awake till the 00:00:00 of the New Year and wishing your close ones. There is my difficulty. During Diwali, I can easily stay awake until the clock strikes 12 and will get up late after my father gives up his effort waking me. But during this New Year, I struggle to keep myself awake till the clock strikes 11. And I will eventually fall asleep within 11.10 and when friends and cousins call, they would embarrass me by the following question.

"Hey did you fall asleep? After all its New Year!"

I manage this question with a glib lie.

"I was awake till 11.45 but don't have the faintest idea when I slept!"

This happens every year and I get embarrassed by this question every year. It even happened yesterday or today whatever you call so! One of my friends, only that friend, has been calling me at midnight for the past seven years for the New Year wishes. I fell asleep woken again by the embarrassing question from my cousin in America who called me to wish and I wondered whether to wish her or wish her in advance. Not to mention, it then took around 3 A.M. to fall asleep and unfortunately none called during those hours so that I would have objected their embarrassing question.

On the day, whoever sees me wishes me. The paper boy, the milk boy and anyone who goes in the street known or unknown greets me with a smile and gives his/her wishes. Here comes the resolution part.

"What are your resolutions?"

My mother always criticizes me telling that I usually take resolutions, follow it for three days (that's maximum) and drop it and return to my routine. So I stopped taking them. No resolutions like "I will reduce my weight by 20 kgs!", "I will work hard to score the highest grade!", "I will be polite and laconic!", and “I will do as per my schedule”! I tell you fellas by my experience, no use! No use taking resolutions.

The only useful thing that can be done on this day is that you turn back to the last year. Think what all you have done. Categorize them into the good, the bad and the ugly! I have had several things in this 2012. Very remarkable and very disappointing things. Each year leaves us giving us loads of experience and lessons. I started blogging in 2012 during very bad and remorseful events which I will share in my blog's first year anniversary. I had lessons from my people; friends, relatives, family, college mates and the unknown! A worthy experience and the most important lesson was self-respect. I finally learnt to like, love and respect me!

Years come and leave! What remains with us are the memories! Cherish what you have got in 2012 and if you have got nothing, well life has to move on with hope! Move on with hope to 2013! Make your best out of it! 2013 welcomes you! Wish you a happy and a prosperous new year! :)

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