“Appa, look! There is a blue train flying high in the sky!”

The office of Deccan Chronicle, and that’s where I work, is located at Guindy Industrial Estate. To be precise, it is just behind the Olympia IT Park, which is a stone’s throwaway from the newly constructed Ekkaduthangal metro station.

Having my residence at Anna Nagar, I had two public transport options to my office. The MTC bus service (more of which later) or the shared cab service, which has greatly evolved to be now counted as a public transit system. Alternatively, I could have, anytime, flagged down an auto and arrived in style. But not before haggling with the auto driver regarding the fare. And oh, after all that negotiating, the drivers do put the meter but that’s only for the ‘records’.

I primarily use the MTC bus service, of which there are multiple routes plying on the Jawaharlal Nehru Road. That was due to convenience rather than preference. Though Chennai has a well-connected bus network, bested by very few cities in the country, it has become a common grouse that the journey is cumbersome, due to the worsening traffic, especially during the peak office hours. Ironically, several busy arterial roads in the city have lost out too much space due to the metro rail construction work. Risky foot boarding, sweaty faces and jam-packed buses – not an ideal journey all in all.

That was until Monday though. With the commissioning of the much-awaited metro rail, I have one more public transit option and at first glance one that is very much welcoming. Boarding the train at CMBT station (the connection to Anna Nagar is yet being built) at 6.10 PM in the evening, I barely finished my conversation about the new addition to the city with a fellow traveler, when the train pulled into the Ekkaduthangal station. The journey completed in less than 15 minutes and more significantly in absolute comfort. If I had taken the bus around at the same time, I would have probably reached by 6.40 PM and that is not factoring in the very much possible traffic scenario. There are some notorious signals, including the infamous Vadapalani junction, which could easily delay your travel time. But, operating at a higher plain, the metro thankfully avoids all the congestion on the roads below.

However there is a grouse, and acceptable in that too, aimed at the metro. It can be summed up by a pointed conversation between a child and his father. Towards the end of the journey, I overheard the kid asking, “Father, what happens if I lose the small token (ticket)?” to which the dad replied, “I think we have to pay a fine.” “But, we already are paying such a high amount anyway!”

personal diary

The ‘unspoken’ conversation with an auto-driver

Even as the train slowly chugged into the platform, I couldn’t wait to see the city. Had the city’s landscape changed since my last visit? What happened to that construction in my neighborhood? Is it the latest upscale restaurant or is it Amma’s restaurant? No matter what I did to constrain it, the excitement and suspense kept building up all the time and, not to forget, I made a mental note to drop in by the mall that’s got everybody talking.

With the train finally screeching to a halt, I got down spiritedly. Upon recognizing my dutiful father, who had been waiting patiently for the past half-hour, I walked towards him, towards the city that I have always looked out. Making our way out of the crowded station, we crossed the road and flagged down an auto. “Annanagar West, Thirumangalam.” “Yes sir, 250.” “Meter?” and to my immense surprise, the auto-wallah acceded. Wow, what a change over mama! With the luggage firmly in tow, I managed to get one fleeting glimpse of the regal Chennai Central building. “Appa, it’s good to be home.”

It so happens that the just- retuned person has much to talk about, and the driver who ferries him home, invariably, becomes party to the conversation. This blog post is dedicated to that chap, who listened into the conversation with my father, and though he didn’t utter a word throughout the fare, I felt he would have been compelled to offer his piece of mind…

As we went past the Ripon Building, the seat of the city’s Corporation, huge machines and cranes dotted the stretch. “Appa, I tell you… these guys are taking ages to complete the metro. Back from where I just came, five phases are operational and the city (Delhi) just can’t survive without it.” My dad was only willing to offer his take on the subject. “Yes, I am yearning for the day when the Metro is up and running, for I can ditch these autos and travel on them. If everyone takes the metro, the autowallahs will buckle up.” (No sooner than my dad said this, the autodriver, whose name for the convenience of this post will be Raju, glanced at us through the mirror, and mockingly said, “Oh yeah? I am pretty sure the metro won’t drop you at your doorstep. We are here to stay, after all!”)

Flying past the Harrington road subway, I whipped out a hankie to wipe out the sweat. “Appa, you know, it was raining in my place and not so long ago, we had a hailstorm. Hail storm! Can you imagine that?!” “First things first, what on earth is a Hailstorm?” “It is heavy; no monstrous rainfall accompanied by ice pellets the size of a small pebble.” (The astonished Raju stopped by the wayside and turned back with incredulous eyes. “Are those the ones we get to experience in Abhirami Snow World?” “No, those guys are deceiving you Raju.” He turned back grudgingly, and started the ride, while uttering curses that are only too pleasant to recall.)

After few minutes, I again raise the topic of the weather. “Appa, how has been the temperature like, here?” “So far, bearable but the dog days are not far away.” “Phew, I don’t want to think about it!” (Raju, negotiating a signal countdown, was at it in an instant. “Switzerland returnee, are you?”)

With the house merely blocks away, I saw the unfinished construction nearby. “Appa, are they ever going to finish it? It seems that ‘under-construction signage’ has been there forever.”

(“Are you ever going to finish your conversation? Tell me, when was the last time you were here? I mumbled, ‘four months.’ ‘Four months?’ you sound as if you were away for a long time!”) 


Whistle Podu mamae!

I have been a proud Chennai Super Kings fan right from its inception and today, I shall continue to stand by my team. Despite the loss, the lions have shown the fight within them. Led by a warrior, CSK can count on the diehard patronage of crazy fans like me and many others. I have never been so pumped up by a cricket match and today proved to be an exception and I owe that adrenalin rush to a special incident in the penultimate over of CSK’s innings.

It was the 19th over and Kieran Pollard was being shown ‘what it takes to be a superking!’ Scenes of a bowler stopping mid-way through his stride are common but seldom do you find an apt reply given by the batsmen. The very next delivery, the batsman stepped aside prompting huge maniac cheers from the adoring fans. Only he could have managed to do that and get away. Immediately I realized why cricket is a religion in India. A game not that physical, seldom arouses passion but after I saw MSD showing Pollard his rightful place, I was convinced cricket indeed has a life! Mind you, he is no ordinary cricketer. He is the prince of Chennai, the adopted son of a city which just can’t get enough of him. The honorary first citizen of the city is a title awaiting Dhoni should he decide to relocate. Chennai is today home to thousands and thousands of professionals, workers from around the country but I have never seen anyone been so warmly accorded a special place in the hearts of Chennaiites as him. Chennai has another super hero right after its main deity. While the latter is a superstar par excellence, the former claims un-paralled fan following. So what if he was not born in Chennai, he is as much a Tamil as I am!

I am bound to mention the Chennai crowd. Hats off to you guys! You have truly made Chepauk a lion’s den from which, escape without a fight is impossible. I grew up listening to tales of the sporting crowd that graces matches in Chennai. The legendary standing ovation given to the Pakistan team after their victory over India in 1999 comes straight to my mind. I can confidently say no other crowd in India would applaud the rival team in the same way as did my Chennai crowd! Can you see the crowd in Delhi or Mumbai doing so? Not a chance in hell and that is what makes Chennai stand out. Even today, when the cricketing god Sachin Tendulkar entered the fray in an opponent jersey, he was warmly applauded. Respect shown to the opponents and the knowledge of the game is what makes Chennai crowd stand out for me.

So what if we are being owned by the BCCI president with allegations of undue advantage vested on the team? I know as a matter of fact, success breeds jealousy and I like the rest of the countless fans of CSK would like to reply to all critics with a single phrase. Get a life!