i was always called the madras ponnu. not fondly though. as a kid with a stubborn streak, her nose in an enid blyton who spoke less tamizh than she does now; most things i did seemed off the wall.
“ava madras ponnu, appadi thaan irupa”
i detested labels long before i fully knew what they were. “don’t brand me” was something i oft repeated. much as loved summer vacations in palakkad, i couldn’t wait to get back to madras.
cut to a few years later, the entire branch of my maternal cousins landed up in madras for a vacation. we spent days on marina, Mahabalipuram, spent most evenings running up and down the Anna Nagar Tower (yes it was open at one time). i took unparalleled pride in standing atop the tower and showing everyone my school and the very few other building i could identity.
i believed i could see all of madras from atop the Anna Nagar Tower because everything i saw looked beautiful.
my cousins loved my city. some of our best memories and childhood pictures are from that trip. everytime someone ooh-ah-ed about something, my little heart would swell up with pride.
from then on “madras ponnu” took on a different meaning for me. no matter the tone or intent, i would agree and accept it with glee everyone someone called me that.
it may seem silly or even overtly emotional to be attached to a city so. but iam very sure iam what iam because of madras. all the knowledge and wisdom that’s has rubbed off, the many friends and people who live varied lives, cultures, eat differently, celebrate contrasting festivals, the annual book fair, the beach, the temples, the cafe’s and juxtaposed tea kadai selling washermanpet biscuits.
elaame ennoda madras. aththanayum ennoda madras. vanthaara vaazha mattum vekkala, irukaravangalayum vittukudukaatha madras.
madras la, we are all different different but same same