Archive for April, 2010

Chennai. For years it was synonymous with the rust-coloured, clock-towered Central Station, a transit point on journeys to and fro from Pondicherry. A comma, a semi-colon at most, that you paused at for a while but never really cared enough to give a thought to. It was that hustle-bustle of a big city quite alien to the quiet of the five-street Pondicherry that was home.

But in the past two years, Chennai grew into much much more, and all seemingly at once, or at least in quick succession. It was college at ACJ, work at The Hindu and home at Ramaniyam Gallery. In an ironic reversal of roles, home at Pondy became the transit point as I returned there like a homing pigeon on practically every day off in the week, even if it was only to spend a few hours.
In two years, that must be give or take100 trips on the Pondy-Chennai ECR. Freaking 32,000 km. Name any hour of the day or night and chances are I’ve traveled at that time either one way or the other. At times it was six hours of traveling for fewer hours home.

Come to think of it, they could make a film, “Down on the Ground” about my journeys on the ECR. It’s a pity Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation and PRTC don’t have a miles program. If they did, by now I’d have given George Clooney a run for his money while holding a platinum privilege card guaranteeing lifelong free travel on the ECR.

Anyway, in the beginning it was always getting to Pondy that felt like homecoming, until slowly, that feeling extended to Thiruvanmiyur, Ramaniyam Gallery, and Apartment 5B. Whichever way the bus was headed on the ECR, it felt I was always going home, and that was comforting to say the least.

There’s something quite liberating about living alone, in a place that feels like and you’d love to call home. To be in charge, in control of things. To be the one making the rules of what’s allowed, what’s not, and to be responsible and sensible enough to know the difference. To be the host. To cook, to sweep, to do the dishes. To shop for vegetables and groceries. To dance like no one’s watching, to sing like no one’s hearing, to sleep when the hell it pleased you, and more so to wake up like the day was all yours.

But all that’s a closed chapter now. And for now at least, in a strange way, Chennai seems more home than Pondy. I know it’s only a passing feeling, because while I’ve learned to live away from Pondy like I never thought possible, it is still too much part of me to be replaced by any other city.

I guess it’s just one of those days when you feel warm inside about being nostalgic and sad in a happy sort of way. To look back on two years spent in a city that went about its way, and let you go about yours without making too much of a fuss. A city that grew on you and developed into words and sentences from the punctuation mark it once was.
Words and sentences that might perhaps fade inconspicuously into pages, without ever fully getting erased. Coming up every now and then, like bittersweet thoughts that resurface quite inexplicably when you are idling, thinking of nothing in particular, staring at the ceiling fan go round, or looking blankly at the fleeting scenery on a long road trip.

Be it the little girl who walked in the evening with her grandfather by the Thiruvanmiyur beach and waved with subdued excitement every time I crossed her as I trained for the marathon or the peanuts man who kept my cone of hot, boiled peanuts ready at 6 p.m. for me to munch on during the short walk to the MRTS station, or just sitting on the water tank of the tallest building in the area and watching the 21st century go busily about its business far below to the right, while to the left, the white surf lazily came and went on the black Bay.

Home is where the heart is all right, but right now that’s all over the place. I never thought I’d feel this way, but I’ll miss Chennai… I’ll miss Apartment 5B and all that it represented… And even though I’m homeward bound, I guess I’ll miss my home.


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