I wake up to the sounds of raindrops falling. I wish the rain would stop soon. But till now it hasn’t. Yet another rainy morning which will mean taking umbrellas and watching our step carefully during the morning drop to school. Rains in Madras were/are a rarity and any heavy rainy day meant a school holiday. Rain in Singapore is almost an everyday occurrence and there is no way any routine activity will be stopped because of rain. Singapore, nowadays, is surprisingly pleasant too in the early mornings and during rains.
There was a time when I might have enjoyed this kind of a pleasant weather, but, nowadays, I don’t really seem to be enjoying it most of the time. Especially not when a full load of clothes are waiting to be washed in the washing machine! Rain translates to managing children with their umbrellas when outdoors, walking on wet floor which in some places turn out to be slippery, clothes hanging out to be dried ending up with musty smell and not feeling fully dry, children locked up indoors and missing their outdoor play time which automatically translates to extra screen time and so on.
There was a time when any rant of this sort eventually ended up with me tracing it all back to missing Madras. Today, while I still continue to root for my life back in Madras, I have come to terms with reality. You just can’t have it ALL in life, can you?
It could be something as simple as the joy of riding a Scooty on Mount Road, or something as retail-therapeutic as shopping in T. Nagar, or some little pleasure as indulging in a channa samosa at Shree Mithai, or something as comforting as being able to visit the family paediatrician when the kids end up with fever, or something as fun for the kids as playing with their close friends who also happen to be neighbours, or something as relaxing as going for a long drive on car with Rahman’s music on at high volume, or something as emotional as the joy of being able to see my parents at any time that I want to right away! Madras! – Oh just how much am I missing you! At this point in my life, the very fact that I can get to experience this life in Madras at least for a few weeks every year is what matters the most to me.
I have always loved travelling by train during day time since I can happily vEDikkai pAtthufy. From Madras to Mayavaram as the landscape changes from concrete jungle and dirty, smelly rivers like Cooum and Adyar to hillocks, hills, lakes including the huge Chengalpet lake and almost-dry rivers like Paalar to lush green fields and canals with the fields and water bodies inhabitated by cranes, storks and the like and cows and goats happily grazing in the open pastures, it has always been a nice, beautiful journey. The familiarity of the scenes and landscapes feel comforting to me.
Every time I take a train having overhead stretch in Singapore, it is this Madras to Mayavaram route that I remember. The views from MRT in Singapore predominantly comprise only of HDB apartments, private Condominiums and malls barring a few companies/offices. Cut back to the train journey in our vast country – isn’t it filled with nature’s beauty?
I also remember the train journeys in Europe – in the Belgium, Paris, Luxembourg regions. The countryside or so I think it was, were all very, very beautiful with nice independent houses having backyards with horses, gardens and slides and swings for the kids of the house. The cool weather further added to the beauty.
Sitting at the ophthalmologist waiting for my turn, I tell myself that I just should not launch off on that endless rant about how the last few trips to Madras became ones filled with way too many doctor appointments. Yes, I am grateful for the fact that these were all only for routine check-ups, speech therapy sessions and some dental procedures including surgical tooth removals. But I hate the fact that I have to wait for that trip to India to get everything from a routine eye check-up to a dental filling done. I see a lot of NRIs have all these eye doctor and dentist appointments as part of their India trip itinerary. No, I am not launching off on another rant about my preference for India or Madras. But all I crave for right now is for at least the next trip being one just for spending full-time with my parents and sister with no doctor visits or interruptions whatsoever. Maybe next year, just for that I should book a ticket at a short notice and come and enjoy for at least a week.
Come to think of it, I have always hated travelling by share autos. Right from my college days when the share autos started becoming popular, it was never my preferred mode of transport since it meant sitting squeezed next to strangers. Later on, with the introduction of those white Tata Magic share autos, there was a lot more space, the vehicles themselves were in a much better condition and the rides were much more better. The few times I travelled so far were only during off-peak hours.
The last week saw me taking these share autos from Vani Mahal to T. Nagar bus stand at 6 in the evening. With autos coming every two minutes and charging only Rs. 10 for the travel, this is a great commuting option for shopping in T. Nagar without parking woes.
However, the problem arises only when 10th person wants to board the share auto. This is when everyone in the middle compartment which can accommodate only 6 persons has to move and get crushed and give space to that person. The situation further worsened during yesterday’s ride when eleventh person wanted to board the auto too!!!
I was the lone soul asking the tenth and eleventh persons why they wanted to board the share auto when it was already full and why they couldn’t wait for another two-three minutes more to board the next auto. Neither the passengers nor the driver opened their mouth leaving me wondering whom I was talking to.
I, for one, am done with travelling by share autos during peak hours.
At 11 in the night, that too after a long, tiring day and the alarm already set for the ungodly hour of 4 in the morning, I know that I should already be fast asleep. But, when the reason you have to wake up early is to catch a morning flight to Madras, how will the excitement evenet you sleep?!
School holidays. A break from routine. December season. Family. Friends. Relatives. Children fully lost in the company and world of their own friends. Yummy, tasty food made by my mother. Driving my car – did I tell you I am tired of running to the bus stop to catch the public transport bus to school every morning?. The impending Margazhi kuLuru. Shopping at Cotton Street, Max, Pantaloons, Westside, Lifestyle and the one and only Saravana Stores. Kapaleswarar kovil visit. The very joy of being in Madras!
Oh the visits to pediatrician, ophthalmologist, dentist – Forget about the cost, do you know how difficult it is to see a specialist in Singapore? – I really hate how the Madras trips have become synonymous with all the routine doctor visits, but the comfort of visiting your family physician is a different thing anyway.
To say that I am excited is an understatement! Here’s hoping that the next one month gets filled with loads and loads of happy memories! Madras, here I come!
Me: Are you going to India for vacation?
Me: Will you go during June holidays?
X: No, it will be too hot there. There will be power cuts and my child isn’t used to power cuts!
It is conversations like these that always reminds me how even after moving away from India, my views and wishes have just not changed and how my husband and I continue to let our children remain strongly rooted in our Indian values, culture and lifestyle and want them to be exposed to what others perceive as ‘hardships’ in a developing country like ours. Strangely, these others are people from our very own country. These are the people who have not just lost themselves in the comforts offered by a developed nation and are absolutely enjoying it, but they don’t even want to expose their children to the current status in our country.
I will not deny that I am not enjoying all the comforts from clean drinking water which you can drink straight from the tap to uninterrupted power supply to high-speed uninterrupted Internet (How essential has this become!). Yes, the city is super clean at all times. But, in the larger scheme of life, these just don’t matter. It is the people who surround us who make our life what it is. It doesn’t matter whether there is a power failure or not when you have the strength and support of your family and friends with you and you are in the comfort zone in your own native.
Before you start reminding me that I also don’t stay in my country anymore, yes, I don’t stay there now. Work, career, studies and marriage have brought so many of us away from our country. But, my heart remains deep-rooted in India or, to be precise, in Madras and I, for one, will never really miss these comforts of a developed nation which are still a luxury in our own country, if and when I move back to India for good.
Yes I did want to wish you on your birthday itself. But you don’t know just how much I miss you these days that I just didn’t want to write yet another post here expressing my longing for you. I read posts all around celebrating you, your culture, heritage and everything that is Madras.
Hey Madras, every time I see a sign board giving details of a heritage place, road or a tree (Yes heritage tree!) in Singapore, I think about how we all have taken your culture and heritage for granted and, forget about taking care of it and promoting it, how much we are neglecting it. Forget about heritage, even your roads are not how they used to be. It is now filled with potholes and bumpy patches in many places. The new Metro and MRTS continue to run with not much patronage. Here’s wishing that you get your infrastructure back in excellent shape and your heritage gets preserved!
On a sunny Sunday afternoon, there I was, sitting on a bench, watching my kids running around in the play area. As a slight breeze started blowing, bringing with it not just a welcome respite from the sweltering heat, but also a ‘rain’ of drying leaves from the raintree near us, my kids and I rejoiced together. The drying leaves in varied shades of yellow to green to brown continued to fall down in colourful bursts for a minute or two. As I lost myself in these dull colours of nature, my kids ran around laughing and catching as many falling tiny leaves as they could.
It is always with a touch of nostalgia that I look at a raintree / thoongumoonji maram. When I was a small kid, my father used to bring back thoongumoonji poo during his morning walks for me to play with. I remember how, back then, I used to watch the leaves of this tree closing down to fall asleep at the onset of evening.
In our apartment in Madras, we had a huge raintree growing more than three floors high. Every time I went to the terrace, I used to watch the beautiful combination made by the pink flowers and green leaves of this tree. Before we put mosquito nets, our balcony used to always have lots of dried leaves of this tree fallen inside. Huge branches of this tree fell during last year’s cyclone and the entire tree had to then be cut off.
Today, I have huge rain trees outside my window and did I tell you that there are always a few dried leaves to be swept away in my living room?
Stuck in Singapore, one thing that I miss now is the Adi sale. Driving in the chaotic T. Nagar traffic and braving the crowds of Usman Road and coming back with bags loaded with all the new clothes is an experience by itself indeed. The ‘Great Singapore Sale’ which is going on here from May 30th to July 27th is no match to that to a hardcore Chennaiite like me.