The last time I said Madras, my best friend chided me for not moving with the times. It is today Chennai but like The Bard said, 'What is in a name?' It will always remain Madras to me, the place where I lived between 1992-'94, the place where I met my best friend, where I fell in love with the beaches, met some amazing people and where I made my experiences become some very special memories today.
I was plucked from my beautiful Madikeri and put into the chaos of the city as a kid, for reasons that I shall not write about here. My first memories of the city are of moving into a mosquito infected apartment in Shakti Nagar next to Adyar. We were out of there in two weeks to a nice place in Besant Nagar where my neighbours were a Telugu doctor couple and a family with three kids my age.
Ma and I lived there for nearly two years. I was admitted to Vidya Vinaya Vinoda School which was run by R N Jayagopal, a Kannada lyricist and his wife. The reason I went there was because they offered Kannada as an optional second language. I met my best friend on the way to school and discovered that we were in fact neighbours. I remember going on her bicycle. She had promised to teach me how to ride but never did.
Ma and I would go to the beach every evening. The one behind Kalakshethra was normally out of bounds as it was not considered very safe. Our favourite was Elliots Beach. We would often buy halwa from Maharaja Supermarket just round the corner, sometimes popcorn and walk back to the house. A special treat when we had company was a stop at Veena Fast Food where you could get the best noodles and uttappam. A luxury was going to 'Golden Smile' to buy toys. I had a gardening set bought from here for many years.
Do these places exist? I wonder often. I do know Fashion Folks still exists. Back then the owner, I never got to ask his name, would put up a little sale every few months. His collection of clothes were always trendy. The last time I was in Madras, I found that he had put up a swanky store next to the beach. He even recognised us after all those years which felt good.
Its been many years now since I went to Madras. Elliots Beach had already changes beyond recognition the last time. I cant wait to go back.
Palm sugar chocolates, Mylapore, a cyclone...all coming up! Read my next post! :-)