Never Mind This New Upstart Chennai

Chennai, court
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Madras has changed - some even call it Chennai now. But an ode to its memory and warmth of the past keeps the old city alive.

Very briefly then, I am middle class
and very Madras.
Born and raised in
West Mambalam –
the other side of the railway tracks
where fabled mosquitoes turn
people into elephants.
Went to college in
Khushboo sarees stripped
right off the absurdly voluptuous
mannequins at
Saravana Stores T. Nagar
Chennai 17.
To weddings I wore,
in deference to my mother,
silk kanjeevarams with temple
borders.
Every other girl
was a designer-sequined shimmer.
I thought nothing of
throwing away
my dreaming hours on
MTC’s 47A,
sitting beside women who ruined my
view,
leaning casually across to
spit or
chuck
through the grime of windows
spinach stems they didn’t fancy
in their evening kuzhambu,
hurling motherly advice at
young men who dared death by
swinging,
two-fingered,
from other women’s windows.
My idea of a holiday
was rolling down the hillsides
of Ooty,
dressed in white
like Sridevi.
Objects of love-hate:
the auto annas.
And of course it is coffee that
defines
the limits of my imagination.
I never could think of it as
cappuccino or mocha or
anything other than
decoction coffee,
deep brown like my own Dravidian
skin.
Lunch:
10.30 sharp: sambhar rasam curry.
Tiffin:
5 sharp: idli dosa vada.
My idea of arctic winter:
twenty six degree centigrade.
And so on and so forth as
they don’t say in Tamil.
Never mind this new upstart
Chennai.
Madras, my dear, here I come!
About me, rest assured,
there is
no Bombay, no Delhi, no London
and certainly no New York.
I am all yours,
Madras, my dear,
wrap and filling!

‘Never Mind This New Upstart Chennai’ is taken from professor Srilata K’s 2011 book of poems titled ‘Arriving Shortly’.

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Madras Courier originally ran as a broadsheet with a poetry section. It was a time when readers felt comfortable sharing glimpses of their lives through verse. If you too have a poem you’d like to submit, mail us at editor@madrascourier.com.

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