Trip down memory lane

Married to a desi software engineer my life is the same as countless other girls who get married to dollar salaries and foreign grooms. Sitting miles away from my hometown of Chennai, nostalgia visits me at the most oddest of times.

Today at my workplace when a colleague got some muffins for breakfast, I for some strange reason was reminded of appams, Dark brown, crusty outside with soft porous insides, the flavor of mashed bananas and jaggery permeating the tongue and my soul. Therein started a huge train of thought that begs of me to put it on paper.

Visions of dusty streets, blazing hot sun, bright yellow mangoes piled in huge mounds at the corner of G.N. Chetty Road. Luscious watermelons stacked end to end with the top layer appetizing cut to reveal a dark crimson inside dotted with black seeds. Slurp!!!!!! Autos, horns blaring weaving through the traffic. Cycles wrecking pandemonium as they blend with the steady stream of cars, buses, lorries and autos. Bright advertisements punctuating the stretch of the Mount Road from Chennai Central to Anna flyover. Countless images flash through my mind when I think of good old Madras. Crowded Ranganathan Street dotted with petty shops selling bangles and bindis of every imaginable color , size and shape. Shops selling blouse bits and narrow alleyways leading to cassette recording shops, Bookshops crowded with students looking for reference books and Konar guides. Vegetable stalls running the entire stretch parallel to the Mambalam railway station. Hawkers selling malli poo, mullai poo and jaathi poo. Men and women with huge wire bags haggling over prices and reaching over to pick their wares with a triumphant look on their faces. Usman road with its brightly lit jewelry shops and sari stores. Rathna stores and Saravana stores compete for attention from the already overwhelmed junta.

To add to this, the Witco at the corner and the steady line of hotel chains catering to every segment of the harassed and tired shopper. A place to rest those weary legs and put the loaded bags away, to sip into a cool fruit juice or bite into a juicy sambar vada. The Nandinees and Hot Chips to cater to the yuppie group. Groups of gangly girls and boys giggling over chat parotas and chikku milk shakes.

The colorful kolams (intricate drawings made of rice flour in front of the home) dotting entire stretches of the back roads in Mylapore and Mambalam during the month of December, load speakers blaring Amman songs and the sound of the temple bell awaken long forgotten memories of a childhood spent running though the streets with siblings and cousins in tow. Memories of annual vacations spent at Grandpa’s place in remote villages come to the fore. Long dusty bus rides and hawkers selling ginger cakes (inji morappa) and peanut candy soon are overcome by the sight of the house at the corner of the agraharam. Old rambling homesteads with wide ‘thinnais’ (verandahs) on either sides of the entrance and huge courtyards and creaky swings make me want to go back to those good old days when Grandma and Grandpa would bring huge jackfruits and patiently cut them open and separate the firm sweet fruit from the sticky insides just so the kids and their moms and dads alike could gobble them up before they can even accumulate on the plate. Endless rounds of steaming hot tumblers of strong decoction coffee and deep fried snacks in various sizes and shapes make their appearance even before the heavy lunch is digested. Speaking of lunch, can one but talk about the aviyals and morkuzhambus and the plantain leaves in which they are served? Hot rasam running all over the leaf is consumed with so much dexterity that some day it will deserve a mention in the Ripley’s show ?

Even as memories jostle and push each other to find themselves on paper, the phone rings and am snapped out of my dreamy state. Another day, another nostalgic journey that is a balm for the homesick soul.

3 comments

  1. I stay pretty close to Chennai. Yet the same nostalgia trip struck me in my last strip.Your post made me relive those days all over again

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