Aug 22, 2014

Madras - A Flashback

Madras, what a lovely name, I still use this name whenever I go abroad when people ask me "Which part of India you belong to", and yes, still it is very well known and famous when we say Madras, rather than saying "Chennai". This brief post is a tribute to the city I was born, brought up and the city I live in, and hopefully the city where I wanted to die as well. I am not sure about the other cities in India, but when it comes to Madras, the population here has a lot of emotional bonding, after all we are the folks who gave a "teary" send off to our beloved "meter gauge" train when it was all converted into "broad gauge", so this particular city is just more than a place in the map, it is more like a DNA in every "madaraasi"

Born in the year of 1977, I was fortunate to do all my education and some years of work in Madras before my career took me to various places. Mylapore is the area where I grew and still continue to live, and to me Mylapore is one place which did not want to change much for good, when compared to the other parts of Madras, of all the famous identities of Madras actually originated from Mylapore only - "Filter Coffee", "Iyer Maama", "Veshti", "Idly-Vadai-Pongal", "Maami Mess" so this place is the start of Madras to me and if you dig history as well, when Madras was formed, Mylapore was already in existence. 

I have travelled in "Pallavan" bus transport (PTC) to my school, during those days the bus ticket used to be "10" paise from Mylapore to "Sanskrit College", the bus number "21" which plies between "Mandaiveli - Parrys" is still in service. During those days, Mylapore used to have a bus depot which would house "5B - Mylapore - TNagar", "3A - Mylapore - Alwarpet", "38F - Mylapore - Maadhavaram", nowadays due to congestion, they have moved these busses to Mandaiveli, unfortunately we dont see any service of "3A and 38F" these days. I used to maintain some of the old bus tickets as collectives, but I have missed them somehow, those were the times where the busses does not have a door, and there used to be an "alarm" behind the driver, and that would beep whenever the bus driver "over speeds", these days they are gone.

Madras and food are inseparable, but default madrasi's are foodies, you name a restaurant, you will get a minimum of 100 reviews about that restaurant, the quality of food that you get in Madras is incomparable to any other place in India, be it your morning "pongal-vadai" and "kaapi", or your limited "south indian thali" Madras has maintained its taste and quality. It is only in the recent times we are used to "Saravana Bhavan's and Sangeetha's" of Madras, to me they are not so good in taste or quality when compared to our good old "Rayar Cafe", "Shanthi Vihaar", "Ramakrishna Lunch Home (Parrys Corner)" or "Udupi Vilas", those players had "service" as their motto and hence provided super hygenic food, but today's players only have "service tax" in mind.

The very famous Madras slang is extremely unique to this place, and there used to be a "Wiki" link as well for translations of some of the "slang",  though I studied in a high-class school in Mylapore (P.S.S.S.S), I developed a liking for this "madras bhaashai" and once in my school, the teacher asked me to show her my home work notebook and I spontaneously gave her "Idho keedhu paaru" response, of course I was made to kneel down in front of principal's room for using "offensive language" in the class, but today, a kinder garden kid is using the "F" word, just like that. When we talk about this Madras slang, we will have to talk about the "Rickshaw" walas who mastered this language as well as made it so popular.

Madras main identity was "Rickshaws", of course when I grew up, there were not "hand pulling" rickshaw's, and most of them were "pedal" operated, thanks to MGR (the then CM) who mandated a law that "humans cannot pull humans" and gave free rickshaws to many poor people. Those small yellow colored vehicles were all over the city and at that time, "auto" was not that famous, they charge you somewhere between 1 rupee to 5 rupees during those days for a 4km trip, round trips were even more cheaper. During rainy seasons, those rickshaw wala's would tickle their creative brains and used to decorate "plastic" covers to shelve their passengers from rain, and during summer days (those days summer was never this hot), the "top" of the rickshaw would be pulled down and you get some awesome breeze. 

Madras also had another identity which is "aavin" milk, and during those days they used to serve them in a "bottle" container, and if I am not wrong and my memory was right, 1 liter of milk used to be Rs 3.50 and slowly that creeped higher and higher, and they removed "bottles" and replaced them with "plastic" pouches. In those days, you can sell those empty milk bottles for a good sum, and even in my house we used to keep aside the empty milk "plastic covers" and then sell it, 100 covers would fetch you 8 rupees or so, it was good money then. There used to be an aluminium "cap" for those milk bottles, that can be sold separately for a better amount, so every part of "aavin" can give you money. Glad that we still have aavin in business till date.

Madras and Music, to me they are husband and wife, Madras always gave importance to "Arts and Music", I dont think any other city in this country would have hosted so many "art exhibitions" than madras, in those days "Vaani Mahal" is very famous for hosting "art" exhibitions. When it comes to music, Madras stands first in organising big events, during the month of "Maargazhi" madras would be bubbling with crowd of all famous singers, in those days, it used to be a "pride" to sing in "R R Sabha (Rasika Ranjani Sabha)", I have seen so many great singers perform in "Kabaaleeswarar Temple", so Madras in one city which got itself upgraded without losing its "eternal" traits, the culture and heritage of Madras did not fade because of the other mushroomed entertainments which came into the city recently

Madras is a place where anyone can come and survive, this city has got something to offer for everyone who walks in, the following "businesses" could only be found in Madras and today most of them are non-existent - "Aruvaamanai - Katthi - Saanai", a guy used to carry a huge wooden stole which would have a "grinding stone" fitted on its top and connected via a cycle chain, that guy used to come twice a month to "sharpen" kitchen knives and "aruvaamanai's", these folks are not seen today. Also there used to be a business where we call it as "Thari podaradhu", a group of men would come, place few iron rods on the road and start weaving threads", they are killed by the modernisation of this society. There used to be folks who carry a big basket full of new vessels, they would take old clothes from you and then replace them with some useful utensils, they are not to be seen today. So Madras did offer all of them some kind of revenue till the time they were in existence.

Madras and cycles, oh how sweet of a combo it used to be, for anything and everything "Cycle" was considered to be a "status symbol", in those days, marriages too would be decided if the guy owns a "cycle", because "cycle" is such a precious thing to have. Even if someone's wife went missing, they may take a day or two to report to the police, but if a cycle is lost, that would send a panic attack and immediately the theft would be reported at the nearby police station, and my family was a victim of one such incident, and when we reported that to our "Kutchery Road" police station, the immediately replaced us with another "cycle" though it was not that new, but ok to manage. It used to be a mandate that every sunday all "cycle" owners would wash their cycle and put oil between the moving parts, putting an attractive "seat cover" and again covering it with a "shabby" cover was the norm those days, and notorious people, putting "blade" on the seat cover too is a famous "hobby". That good old "cycle" is not in existence and hence we could see huge crowds standing in front of hospitals and doctor clinics

"Jhaam Bajaar", that is how we pronounce it, is one place in Madras where you can get "refurbished" items, it is also notoriously famous for "stealing" new parts from varied "articles" and then sell them as "refurbished", so the famous such thefts were, removing the "cycle handle guard and locks". You name it, you will get it in Jhaam Bajaar, and if someone says that he knows someone in "Jhaam Bajaar", he is considered as "wowww" person. Another famous place used to be "Moore Market" which is famous for almost everything, books to clothes to video cassettes you get everything in that market, and it is the only identity of "mount road", unfortunately we lost it in a bad fire accident and today I am not sure what lies there as remains

Madras and Kuchi Ice / Gulfi - This industry flourished in Madras during my school days, and we used to wait for the last bell for the day to strike and the next moment you can see some 50 to 60 kids circling the "Ice man" to buy variety of ice. If a guy is wealthy, he used to buy "Semiya Ice" which is Rs 1, a guy from an upper middle class family would buy "Grape Ice", which was priced at 0.50p, and other normal guys like me would settle for "pepsi cola" which used to be 0.25p, "milk ice" is something which you can buy if you have Rs 2. That tiny vehicle which has no power or any motor would store 100s of ice kuchi's without melting, and to me that was "world wonder no 8", but later I realised that they use "dry ice" to keep them going. Another night time entertainment was "Gulfi", these vendors would come only in the night, they used to come in a tri-cycle which is covered with a "red" cloth, and they have this unique "bell" which would be audible even when you are fast asleep, they come pretty late into the nights and still they make good business. The guy who sells that was looked like a "super star", the way he opens that gulfi ice, the way he takes it out and cuts it into pieces, were all a treat to watch, finally it would be served on a "thaiyal ilai" which add more taste to that ice cream.

Madras and Games - No, I am not talking about the games that is played at any level, I am talking about the games that ruled the streets of Madras, when I was a kid, I have played "Gilli" - A game where you will have a big stick on your hand and there will be a "<--->" shaped wooden object on the floor, you will have to hit the wooden object on one of its "conical" side and when that wooden piece flies up in the air, you should hit it as long as you can with your stick on hand, the more the distance you score the winner would be decided, I have played "gilli" across many streets. Then comes "Goli" a game played with glass marbles, and not to boast my skills here, but I was a champion in this game, at one stage not many folks were willing to play with me as I would break their marbles, this game has got so many variants like "Raaja - Raani", "Bendhaa", and "Double Decker". Next famous game was "Top (Bambaram)" and I have played these as well, it is an art to wind the chord and then spin the top, also this has got a "sub game" called "Aakar" where you have to hit the opponents "top" and break it into pieces. There is another game called "Vattam" where we used to make "round" cuts with a "soda moodi" (Panneer Soda Cap) on a "cigar" box and then throw it in the air, one who collects more "dots" is the winner. Thank GOD, when we were young "Steve Jobs" was also young, hence we were not pampered with any of the "i"s

I can write loads and loads of such sweet things about Madras, but I think, too much of over-dose on anything is a killer, :) hence, I stop here and I hope these would have kindled some of your nostalgic memories, if you are also a 70s child. I love Madras and I love this city beyond anything else. Let this city be the same for the next 1000 years. Love you Madras.

Read more...

May 17, 2014

பயணம்

அந்த எதிர்க்காற்றின் குளிர்ச்சியை தாங்க முடியாமல் ஜன்னலை மூடிவிட்டு அம்மா கொடுத்து அனுப்பிய மப்ளரை தலையில் சுற்றிக்கொண்டான் ரமேஷ், அவனின் அன்றாட வாழ்க்கையின் சராசரி பயணம் அது. தேனீ தான் அவனது சொந்த ஊர், அம்மா தேனியில் தனி வீட்டில் இருக்கிறாள், வாழ்கை இழுத்த இழுப்பில் மிகவும் நடுங்கியும், ஒடுங்கியும் போனவள், கணவனின் மறைவுக்கு பின் நான்கு சுவருக்குள் அடைந்து கொண்டவள். அவன் கண் முன்னே அவனது தந்தை வெட்டி கொல்லப்பட்டது இன்னும் அவன் மனத்திரையில் பசுமையாக ஓடிக்கொண்டே இருக்கிறது.

இவனது பால்ய பருவம் சினிமாவில் வருவது போலவே மிகவும் செழிப்பானது, கண்ணுக்கு எட்டிய தூரம் வரை இவனது தந்தையின் இடம் தான் அந்த ஊரில், அவனது கிராமத்தில் கணிப்பொறி வாங்கிய முதல் ஆளும் அவனே, பணத்திற்கு என்றும் குறைவு இருந்ததே இல்லை, அவனின் தந்தை செய்யும் தொழில் என்னவென்று அவனுக்கு ஒருநாளும் புரிந்ததில்லை, அந்த வயதில் அவன் புரிந்து கொள்ளவும் ஆசை படவில்லை. மனிதன் நாளையை பற்றி கவலை படாத ஒரே பருவம் அவனின் குழந்தை பருவம் தானே. அவனின் வீடு எப்பொழுதும் மக்கள் கூட்டம் திளைக்கும் ஒரு இடமாகவே இருந்தது, அனைவருக்கும் விருந்தோம்பல் செய்வதே அவன் தாயின் தலையாய கடமையாக இருந்தது.

கந்து வட்டி என்ற பெயரை அவன் தந்தையின் கொலை வழக்கின் போது தான் அவன் முதன் முதலில் கேள்விப்பட்டான், அது என்னவென்று அவனுக்கு அப்போதும் புரியவில்லை, வழக்கில் போதுமான ஆதாரம் இல்லாததால் அவன் தந்தையை சிதைத்த குற்றவாளிகள் எளிதாக வெளியே வந்து விட்டார்கள். அந்த இரவின் கொடூரம் அவனை இன்றும் தூக்கம் கொள்ளாமல் தவிக்க வைத்து கொண்டு தான் இருக்கிறது. அவன் மேல் அவனது தந்தை வைத்திருந்த பாசத்தை சொல்லி மாளாது, மகனுக்கு என்னென்ன வேண்டும் என்று குறிப்பறிந்து செய்து கொடுக்கும் ஓர் நல்ல தந்தை, உலகத்தில் எதை வேண்டுமானாலும் விட்டுக்கொடுக்க தயாராக இருப்பார் தன் மகனுக்காக.

அன்று அவனின் தாய் அவளது தாய் வீட்டிற்க்கு சென்ற சமயம், இரவு மணி 10 இருக்கும், அவனுக்கு கதை சொல்லி உணவு ஊட்டிவிட்டு இவனை உறங்க வைக்க பாடிக்கொண்டிருந்தார் இவன் அப்பா, அப்பொழுது வீட்டின் வாசலில் பலமாக இடிக்கும் சத்தம், ஏதோ நடக்க போவதை முன்னரே அறிந்தது போல், இவனை மார்போடு வாரி அணைத்து அரிசி குதிருக்கு பின்னால் இவனை கடத்தினார், கூரையில் சொருகி இருந்த வீச்சறுவாளை பற்களுக்கு இடையில் சொருகிக்கொண்டு தனது வேட்டியை மேலிழுத்து கட்டிக்கொண்டார், "யாருடா அங்க" என்று உரக்க குரல் கொடுத்து வாசற்கதவை நெருங்கியவரின் பின் கழுத்தில் விழுந்தது ஒரு வெட்டு, ஜன்னல் வழியாக பாய்ந்த அரிவாளை அவர் பார்க்கவில்லை 

அடுத்த 10 நிமிடங்களுக்கு அங்க நடந்தது மனித மிருகங்கள் அவன் தந்தையை கூறு போட்டு கிழித்த ரத்த காட்சி, இனியும் மறைந்திருப்பது தவறு என்று எண்ணி, அரிசி குதிருக்கு பின்னால் இருந்து இவன் ஓடி வர, ரத்த கரை படிந்த அவன் தந்தையின் கைகள் அவனை வராதே என்று ஆட்டியது, அதை துளியும் பார்க்காமல் வெட்டு பட்ட அவன் தந்தையின் சிதைந்த உடலை பார்த்து கூக்குரலிட்டு அழுதான், வெட்டிய கும்பலில் ஒருவன் ரமேஷின் கழுத்தில் அரிவாளை வைத்த போது, உள்ளிருக்கும் உயிரின் மிச்சத்தை எல்லாம் தேக்கி வந்து அவன் கால் பிடித்து மன்றாடினார் அவன் தந்தை, அவனை விடச்சொல்லி. அவரின் கண்கள் கொஞ்சம் கொஞ்சமாக மங்கி பார்வையும் உயிரும் பிரியும் தருணத்தில் அவர் அந்த அரிவாள் ரமேஷின் கழுத்தை விட்டு விலகியது மட்டும் தெரிந்தது.

திடீரென்று ரமேஷின் தோளை அடித்து எழுப்பினார் ஒரு போலீஸ் அதிகாரி, "டேய் ஊமையா, எறங்கு, கோர்ட் வந்தாச்சு, வந்து கையெழுத்து போட்டுட்டு போ", கோர்ட்டுக்கு தான் அவன் தந்தையை கொன்றவர்களுக்கு எதிராக ஆதாரம் இல்லை, வாய் பேசாத இவனது வாக்குமூலத்தை ஏற்காத நீதிமன்றம், இப்பொழுது வாய் பேசாத ஒருவன் செய்த கொலையை மட்டும் விசாரிக்க தயாராகிறது, 20 வருடங்களாக இவன் மனத்திரையில் ஓடிய படத்திற்கு இவனே கிளைமாக்ஸ் எழுதி முடித்துவிட்டான்.


Read more...