Chennai is not a city of joy, nor is she haunted by the phantoms of melancholia. Chennai is neither plain nor placid, She has a sense of vigor and liveliness inside of her. I find it particularly hard to attribute any specific emotion to her, not because she is devoid of emotions but because she shows it all without prejudice. She has no sorrow flowing right across her heart, nor is she known for the grant patios of procrastination. What she is and what she has always been is that she is real.
Chennai is as real as it will ever get, unlike many of her friends she upholds no pretense, she wears no facade and she embodies no plasticity. Her denizens are like she is, simple and real. In every alley that dots her backyard, is an women who scrounges for her children, a man who struggles to make the ends meet. She is not the adobe of the ultra rich but the tree under whose shades sleeps the normal man. One can see in the dried up eyes on the sun scorched faces of Chennai the harsh realities of life.
While in her backyard you may not find the soft spoken, civilized beings of Vienna, nor will you find coat donned bosses of New York who looks at all life with no emotion but disgust. But here you wind find simpletons, workers and laborers, You will see the educated educators or the men of service, and mostly servants of one of its many civil bodies. I pose not to say that they are humble and well behaved, but I insist that they are real and depict on their faces real emotions both good and evil.
Scratched across her face is a very thick line, bloated and black that separates the cities tiny rich community from the vast poor ones. This is the story of any of India’s mammoth cities but here you will not find imitators who try to scale the big divide with fanciful appearance, Here you wont find people pretending to be anything other than what they are, except may be a micro minority that is still yet to find its place in this discomforted city. The leisure of Chennai lies in understanding the reality of who you are and when that itself is in great doubt she can at times be alien and at others discomforting. The rich of Chennai lies in its own world and the other is seldom seen in its vastness. They may be playing pretense and that they only exists here and the others simply don’t bother, they show a kind of indifference that is graceful in a way. They just the let them be and let themselves be.
If you venture to reach out and touch the heart of Chennai, you wont hear the calm serene musicals of the beating heart but a rather hurried and uneven one of a struggling heart. She would bleed under your touch and you would feel the warmth of blood flowing through your hands. The harshness of Chennai is not exactly in the hot and humid climate of Chennai but in the hard and unforgiving realities of life that dot her face. Yet she is not a sad and devastating city, she is happy as life is. In her trains you will find fathers playing with their sons, seated on the steel floors. In her streets you will find mothers feeding their daughters while making a dainty living at her numerous street shops.
I think I have been in Chennai long enough to feel the pulse of Chennai. long enough to understand her amazing eccentricities. All one have to do to understand the realities of Chennai is to look beyond the scorching sun, the humid air and the coarse water. When you are ready to do that she herself prepares to give you a couple of hard lessons, lessons about the realities of life. It is a sin to be blind when you can see, to be deaf when you can hear and to be unkind when confronted with great human tragedy. I am fascinated by the nudity of Chennai, her realities are never hidden they are visible and plain, most importantly she is real. May be that’s why I have been slowly falling in love with her.
Image Courtesy : Well-Bred Kannan