The 12 km Burst

When I landed on the shores of Chennai much like the British and the Portuguese, I too felt an all -conquering need to make this place mine. After all this was going to be home for some time to come…These thoughts found their genesis to an extent with a 12 km dash I made on the ever so popular and road much travelled, the East Coast Road, lovingly and conveniently known as ECR.

The journey doesn’t begin on a stretch of road extending from Thriruvanmiyur but begins on a little lane in Perungudi. This is a story of small yet important patches of my life here and how it all nicely led up to this day.

My first morning in Chennai was characterised not by jitters for my first job, but greater fear of getting to work in a city where not knowing the language can lead to instant alienation. After hitching a 60 buck ride for a kilometre long stretch, I instantly knew life was going to be a bitch. An ability to bargain, crassness coupled with rudeness and stoic apathy are a deadly triumvirate and a much needed one to tackle the Chennai rickshaw driver. But I was to learn that gradually, until then, my knight in shining armour (the black and yellow kind) was here. The shared auto. A concept both unique and extremely gratifying, a big auto stuffed with people to the brim, who share the cost of the ride. Simple and effective and in one simple discovery I had managed to get rid of the scourge of the Chennai rickshaw driver.

Thiruvanmiyur is for all practical purposes on the periphery of Chennai, right at the edge of civilization. It’s at that precise distance where friends begin to make excuses about not coming over to your place. You start throwing beaches and proximity to Mahabalipuram to them as bait. but all in vain. This reduces you to a very obvious reality. YOU HAVE TO GO WHERE YOUR FRIENDS ARE AND THEY LIVE EQUALLY FAR!! So I began my first tryst with the city buses. With strange numbers like 21Hct, PP19X and the ilk, it felt like I had just walked into some secret military testing base. The buses honking, the crowds of people and a 29C nearly driving over me brought me back to reality. 29C is a bus route which spans Thiruvanmiyur to Perambur. It’s also the one bus that connects all the bus stops of the major all girl colleges(Stellas, MOP and WCC,.. beat that) which should be a great opportunity for most men to exercise their charm and chivalry but is mostly an exhibition of just how terribly stupid and cheap we can get. A story for another day and a more serious occasion. For me, this route proved to be a lifesaver, connecting me with all the places I needed to ever go to. The frequency is simply brilliant and with Volvos doing the route too, I couldn’t have asked for more. From Alwarpet to Egmore to Ispahani to walking distance from Sathyam to yummy eating joints in Nungambakkam. Ganesha, had found his mouse.

Long journeys, the summer and a lack of novelty set in. Public transport was still convenient, cheap and a boon to my wallet but was soon becoming an arduous routine which my mind could not take anymore. The roads of Chennai are wide and inviting, beckoning me to unleash myself on them. On my own terms. I needed a 2 wheeler to really enjoy this city, a city I have been itching to discover. I want to be able to wake up in the morning and ride to a quaint Armenian church in Parrys when my mind demands. I wanted to ride to Sathyam at 10 in hope of getting tickets for the night show, only to be turned down and enjoy the ride back. I wanted to get out of work and head to that lovely fish stall for a plate of 40 buck prawns on Bessie. Ride to Saint Thomas Mount and watch planes take off and disappear into the Chennai sky, fly like the wind on Radhakrishna Salai over the flyover and admire Music Academy on an evening when it’s lit in all its glory. Midnight coffees at the Hyatt, cheap beer from a Tasmac, stay at Kottivakam beach till the cops chase me away, ride to Amethyst (best coffee shop in town..Period) and read a book sipping a bitter Frappe. Endless thoughts, spiralling in my head for months now. Bus windows, front seats of share auto, non existent meters of rickshaws were all the motivation I needed.

Back on that lovely ECR stretch on a Tuesday evening after filling fuel in my new second hand Activa. I stood and saw the road open up in front of me. It’s like all of Chennai was offering itself to me, saying ‘Son, go, you deserve this. Let rip and she will hold you good. Let this remind you of all the good days and the not so good ones spent on my roads. Let this be the day you break free and finally unleash yourself on this imperfect but addictive city’.

The rest is a whirl of speed (not too much Mom, so cool it) and joy. A 12 km burst on ECR that shall be forever etched in my memory of one of the better, make it best, day of my life on Chennai roads.   


Someone should get hold of you to endorse Madras! :) Lovely post, Som!

ROTFL....awesome - am gonna return for more (meanwhile, lemme bookmark you. Yes... bookmark, not 'follow' :P

Thanks a lot Phatichar (if I may call you that) Glad you enjoyed reading it.

Ulp..this was nice...and my previous comment was for your previous post..errr..confused?

I'm so used to seeing comments at the bottom of the post, I automatically assumed I was commenting for the first post. :P

Ah that is ok. Does account for the ROTFL then :)