When Chennai wets itself..

So when I landed in Chennai, they warned me of the summer. ‘It will burn your pants off’, ‘You will lose the desire to live’, ‘Legend has it that no outsider has survived’, ‘Hope you have an AC dude’. Yup so I heard it all and in between my consternations on how to wrap my mind around getting past this hellish summer, some kind soul remembered to warn me about the monsoon too…

‘It begins to rain and then it doesn’t stop. Every inch of what you previously were introduced to as the road, will lose all its identity and just become one huge puddle of water waiting to be splashed on your newly polished shoes/ironed pant/snazzy party shirt/face (true story).’
I used to wake in horror at the thought of this all depressing season. Never been the greatest fan. And yes they write many a prose and poetry of this wonderful season but to me it’s just a messed up coming together of all that is terrible.

Wet muddy slush                Check
Slush on your clothes          Check
Nowhere to walk               Check
Cancel plans coz of rain      Double check
Did I Mention, slush?          Check

So to all the romantics out there who wait for the rains to profess your love, don’t do it in Chennai. Now when it all began I had the fortune of being out of town. Like how Switzerland must be feeling every time some part of the world breaks out into war, I sat comfortably numb to the fact that I was going to be thrown right into the battlefield very soon. Upon landing in Chennai I was greeted with wet roads, remains of a shower, scattered umbrellas, women in wet silk sarees..Ok back to reality. Basically, a colossal mess. But no rain, none at all. Could it be over?

I quietly sauntered into my house as not to disturb the rain gods/devils and tucked myself into bed with ‘Here comes the sun’ slowly playing in the background. And that’s when that eerie voice returned in my head, ‘it begins to rain and then it doesn’t stop’ . True to his words and apparently the ruling party’s manifesto, the rains returned the next day. Now I would like to use the words’ with the vengeance’ or ‘like its going out of fashion’ but it was much worse. I mean I was looking at the dictionary for the right words when it got blown away with the wind. Instantly there were flash floods on the little street outside my house. The victims being every pair of shoes/chappals in a 5km radius, lowest office turnout rates in a year (since the last Rajnikant movie release) and a floating Egg Bodimaas stall that had the name ‘Mobile Egg Cuisine’, couldn’t be more apt.

I stared at the roads ala John Cusack in 2012 or even Jack Black checking out an inflated Gwyneth Paltrow in ‘Shallow Hal’ and there was nothing shallow about this. It was pure chaos except that nobody else seemed to feel that way. It was like another day for every other mortal/superhero on the road. I mean these guys were just waking up to another day. I, was waking up in a nightmare or wait, a wet dream (PG rating mentioned*). So I waded to my office, jumped on a few bricks and crossed the rivers of Chennai’s monsoon. Then I turned back and looked at the mess and was amazed at how we adapt, like we were born with these abilities. Come the summer we curse and get through with all that we can remove off our bodies, come the monsoon and we wet ourselves (ha ha ha) with thoughts of getting wet everyday.

Then when we least expect it, the sun creeps out from behind and goes all ‘Peek a Boo’ for a couple of days, teasing and tantalizing, and with me wanting to give it one solid slap. Finally it appears in all its glory and across town people start running up to their terraces with bucket loads of clothes to put it to dry. Panting and relieved at the same time, they put up their clothes and smile in relief and like na├»ve kids return to their daily lives only to be greeted in the evenings with a downpour and clothes thrown all over the terrace and your sense of belief in all that is good taking a major beating.

But we still wake up the next morning, wear our Sunday best and get down and dirty back in that all conquering mess. We roll up our pants and flip out our umbrellas and raincoats, make a silent prayer hoping for the winter (story for another day) and make the dip in the unholy waters of the Chennai monsoon.

At the end we prevail.. But the monsoon kindly begs to differ. 

Writing my way out of trouble

The greatest act in any drama is the act of committing. That is the one thing I managed to get my head around a very long while ago. But the act of execution has always been my Waterloo. I have always known and felt that surge deep down, primarily in my head, so not that deep down, that I want to be a writer. And besides the previous ill constructed sentence, there have been many reasons limiting my yet to be explored/exploited talents. This entire post can be summed up with one reason and that is laziness but then how does the audience waiting with baited breath – make that a paltry number of people who really love me – know how this story reached this not so conclusive present. Be prepared to be regaled with the greatest excuse(s) ever…and a grand stand end!

It all began with a notebook given by my uncle and aunt where I was told to pen down any story that came to my mind. At the tender age of 8 and I still wonder what is so tender about a boy who wants to break pencils for tea, I began to write my first few short stories. Tales of 5 rupee coins and trucks, Iraqi born American Air Force pilots and an ode to the west wind ( I still believe I own the rights to the original, mine being more entertaining). I managed all this and so much more at that terribly labeled ‘tender age’. The tenderness surely vanished after that because all I could think of was how to get the guys at our evening cricket game to allow me to bat and not always be the runner for some lazy player. So when life was playing these unfair tricks on me, I began to let my one lone talent slip away while cultivating another; complete disregard for my writing skills.

I returned to writing only in college after a 9 year hiatus in which time I could have become the youngest novelist in the world, the first 10 year old self-made millionaire, pin up boy for Chandamama, Tinkle, Cartoon Network and the ilk. But the constant learner in me decided to wait a couple more years to hone my talent.

The 8 year old in me is asking me right now, ‘what bloody talent?’

Pah look at the language on that. Kids these days. Sorry. Kids those days.

By then the world had moved on from the pen and paper approach to the all conquering 'blog'. A medium I have greatly admired for its ability to do the job of showing itself around. No more of those 'please have a look at what I have written' routines anymore. Typing on a keyboard I realised helped me recover from the nightmares of having to spellcheck my handwriting which by no means deserved to see the light of day. From here began my journey across the blogverse (blog + universe - better spin than the outdated blogospehere) which in true Starship Enterprise style was beyond the thrills of any earthly adventure. From setting up a blog to taking my following from a paltry 1 (that being my room mate who was tricked into following) to a loyal following of 7, I had done it all.

I managed to maintain blog decorum by posting frequently, keeping it short and crisp, minding my Ps and Q s and overall keeping it real. Yet deep down like the termites in your kitchen shelf, something was eating away. A sense of non accomplishment coupled with a feeling of no real direction to it all. I needed to be bigger and better, reach out to more people and with something more substantial. Thus began my pursuit of happiness, my yet to be completed (4 years on) novel.

The novel has been the one true enigma in my life. Very much in my hands to complete, yet so distant because of the pure will required to pull it off, which I lack in abundance. I have been laboring through those 50 pages I have written for the past so many years, yet don’t quite see where I’m going with it. I put this down to my inability to keep an audience entertained over the duration of a novel. Somehow blogging has shown me the joy of quick returns on low investments, a positioning unfortunately my novel writing cells are happily lapping up. So is blogging really killing the novelist in me? A question I have pondered on many lonely and alcohol filled nights and I have finally reached a suitable answer.. Who cares?

So from where I see the literary world unfold in front of me I see a very well defined path ahead littered with my fast evolving writing ambitions. As long as I can keep the junta I have accumulated entertained and wanting more, I guess it really doesn’t matter in what form I churn the goodies out as long as I don’t reach a day that I stop wanting to do it anymore. So like many a rockstar has said in the past, ‘let’s keep it real’ and keep it coming.

May they write on my epitaph – He was born, he cried a bit, he woke the hell up, he lived it up, he made them all happy, he made the money and the money didn’t make him, he waited but never wasted, he always loved never hated and whenever it all went pear shaped..he wrote his way out of trouble.

The Frustration of a Writer’s Block

What I thought was only a myth actually happens even to the best of us (modesty shall prevail eventually). The dreaded writer’s block has afflicted me, an uncommon yet over worked and abused condition which takes away from a writer ( 2 blogs so I guess I qualify) his sense of imagination rendering him worthless to himself anymore. I haven’t written a post for extremely long and in the interim period have written very little else. So how did this excruciating disease afflict my mind after having taken that entire gamut of keep-the-writing-going vaccines? A question worth pondering about.. Let’s rewind the past few weeks and attempt to reach a formidable argument which can thus cure me of this condition.

Here we go…

Work is my true master and I love being its slave

Really?? Work? That’s your excuse!! You walk in at 9 and get out by 6 and have the rest of the evening to make sense of life and put it down on paper, so don’t you dare give me that as an excuse. But wait, I never said that work drains me or leaves me unfit to write. Unlike many people who will scoff at this idea and others who will sink into it like quick sand, I am enjoying work. It challenges my faculties, pushes me to think (not like I had given up on it till now) and makes me want to go back for more. I know you all are waiting for me to burst out laughing and say I’m kidding but I’m not and NO my boss won’t be reading this. So strangely you get a little wrapped up in what you do, you think it, you plan and begin to believe it’s all you have. While that is not such a bad sentiment to throw at my baffled readers, it surely cannot be the path of my existence. So yes maybe the work got to me but no excuse to run away from what quite surely drives my yet to be defined existence.

Chennai and building a life

So one is thrust upon this world with a new city, a new job and asked to switch to a mode you never knew you had. ‘Life is your responsibility’ mode. Considering I had a day’s break to segue from college days to work bays I could not ask for a timeout and it really isn’t a tag team sport now is it. So besides finding my way around a new job I also had to fit into a new city with a complete identity of its own, of the kind I have never experienced before. This was surely made easy thanks to friends you should die for and my general ability to love any place I have lived in (Look up Binnaguri on the Indian map and you shall know what I’m talking about) But Chennai kept throwing surprise after shock at me. Falling in love with this city, for me, and I may have an army full of detractors, but it been the easiest ever. From finding small places to eat to neat pubs to drink to a little piece of heaven on a terrace to live, I covered the basic needs quite easily. There on, discovering this city and its many facets, faces, facades has just been fascinating (Read Chennai, Oh Chennai). Well, maybe then discovering this new city has absorbed me in a much needed journey of self discovery coupled with a desire to have something of my own, but could it possibly have taken away from me the only talent in my repertoire, my writing. I think not.

A Lot like Love..

So besides being my favourite romantic comedy, this feeling is quite possibly another reason for the condition. So without breaking into a cross between a tap dance and a highly questionable Bhangra like jig, I surely do have all the symptoms of the much dreaded yet breezy ‘K’ word. So taking off from there, the last month has been a whirlwind discovering this whole new side to life. Something that has reinvigorated me and shown me a whole new path. You spend sometime with a person and life’s perspective begins to change, that is not some filmy funda, it’s a real life in the face believe-it-or-not kind of awakening. So every day seems a little more beautiful than the previous, the motions you go through everyday begin to have an end to it and if that end is in a little house full of all that you love, it just begins to fall in place. You start getting that epiphany they all talk about, of how life suddenly clears its windscreen one day for you and you see clearly again. That vision is upon me and surely I know who has helped me see it and that makes this feeling all the more special. So evenings spent in deep conversation and the thrills of life, early mornings spent in despair of leaving that beautiful vision, the day spent constantly hoping for the evening to come.. Could this be the reason then for my writer’s block? Hmmm…

I guess I will never know the correct reason or the set of reasons but I surely know one thing, these set of reasons have surely helped me advance to the next level of my writing, not necessarily in my skill but surely in my persistence and need to churn out the good stuff.

And funnily, in the process of finding the reasons, I have forgotten the fact that I have been cured..

P.S. If you are still searching for Binnaguri, you may take longer than you think.

And if you are wondering what is the ‘K’ word. Learn some Tamil.

Chennai, Oh Chennai

Not the most creative title but then just wanted to get into this post without further ado because it has been a long time coming…
Many people and that included me too doubted and absolutely feared me landing in Chennai and for once they weren’t fearing for the good people of Chennai but plainly just for me. Yes I am an Armyman’s son and change and adapting is all but second nature but this was truly my first big move. My first job, my first shot at taking care of my own life and that tiny thing of adjusting to a new city. The language, the people, the food, the WEATHER!! The list was endless of all the things that would take a lifetime to get used to. I will not disagree that it’s has not been a smooth transition because it has been sparkling. For some strange reason which many are still befuddled about, I fell in love with this place the moment I stepped onto it. You can attribute it to the fact that I was picked up in a snazzy car and had an amazing friend waiting at the station for me to do the bargaining with the coolie while I admired the crazy atmosphere. But as my friend took me out of the station like a child being taken to a fair, I immersed myself into what would become ‘daily life’ soon. Chennai unlike any other city I have been to, maybe you can add Mumbai to it, had a strong pumping heart to it. The city was a city in a village in a metropolitan in a country full of small villages separated by a modern city, some sewage and a whole bunch of urban dwellers and pure hearted villagers. That is the best way to describe this city which is the reason the science of physics has found a fourth dimension, just to explain what is happening here.
I live and work on what many will say the other end of Chennai, while we here will say you guys live in the other end of the world. So putting it into geographical perspective, the heart really is the Nungambakkams, Mount Streets, Parrys Corners of the world while the T Nagars and the Anna Nagars are well, the Nagars and the Thiruvanmiyurs, Adyars, Besant Nagars is home. That will sound like absolute nonsense to a blue eyed Chennaite but to me it was just so cool that I could name and spell all the places in one go. Getting back to what is important is that the much spoken about government/s in the state which are basically, two (you know who), revolve like a game of musical chairs in which the final two keep running and the music just doesn’t stop. Well one of these geniuses are the ones who sanctioned the entry of IT in Chennai, ensured it was away from the city, built a home for it and said, ‘Listen you modern non - traditional little brat, I know you are going to spoil the other children in the house so I’m going to put you in a separate room away from the others. You can come to our side once in a while for stuff you don’t have there (theatres!!) and we will come once in a while to check on you. So you make your own living, call your kind of friends and we shall live happily ever after.’ Well the conversation happened in Tamil but that is all I could translate and basically that was the birth of what is now ‘my side of town’.
I have found myself a living abode in Thiruvanmiyur with all the luxuries I could ask for around me. Bessie beach - 10 minutes away, restaurants – you name it, we have it, essentials – so what is essential for you? and all the heart could desire. In all I am living in just the right place where every bachelor has ever dreamt of living. My little penthouse on the third floor of this house is where it all comes together as I walk into what already feels like home everyday. A great set of friends from my past and present (you know who) have also made life a breeze. I have discovered many a thing in very little time and I would like to share it with future aspirants of Chennai:
• Public transport rocks which include my favourite – share autos, buses – with strange numbers though!! and the train service – not crowded like Mumbai and much cooler.
• Egg burjee is egg bodimaas. They will refuse to understand burjee.
• Biriyani is generally Briyani
• All medical stores do home delivery. ALL!
• Movie tickets will never be more than 120 bucks. Even in multiplexes. Even on Fridays.
• Taking a walk into random lanes is an absolute treat.
• The cops can be bribed. Wait!! That is everywhere
• The streets are really wide.
• The CCD in the IIT is dirt cheap and Sparkys on a Friday is like heaven on earth
• Pondy is closer than you can imagine and more heavenly than you can imagine.
• Drinking is difficult as there are very few wine stores and the pubs aint cheap but then isn’t forbidden love always more exciting.

And finally, if you walk into this city with an open mind there is no way you can’t love it. It’s got its problems but just become a part of it and you will love the problems and I know I’m speaking a tad bit too early but I can’t wait for what’s yet to come. Now that would be the summer, right?
Yevlo, Venda, Naire, Ponnam, Sollringha.. Yup that is all you need for the first few months.