Posts Tagged ‘Chennai


Happy Birthday Madras!

Some might prefer the new name, Chennai. But to me, the rather colonial name, Madras sounds better. Whatever the name,the city celebrates its 369th birthday today. Although I may not be a Chennaite by birth, the city still remains fond to me. When I first came to Madras 10 years back, I actually hated the city for its heat. But in time, I realized Madras is not just about the heat.

What fascinates me the most is the history behind the city. The name Madras itself is Portuguese. The Portuguese had named a village that lies to the north of Fort St.George as Madre de Deus. The locals began to call it Madraspattinam and the British, Madras. The city owes a lot to the British. If not for them, we would not have been so proud of the city. British era buildings like the Central station, the Ripon building, Fort. St.George, Victoria hall etc are architectural masterpieces. It is however sad that many such buildings are victim to poor maintenance. Most of the buildings still retain the British charm. The High Court complex, built in 1892, is believed to be the second largest judicial complex in the World. The city is also unique for many other things. It is probably the only city where both Rock bands and Carnatic Sabhas are followed enthusiastically. The city can be a delight for a food lover. Dishes such as dosas, idlis, vadai etc are loved by one and all. A visit to Madras is deemed incomplete without a cup of filter coffee.

Madras Day celebration is a novel innovation. The day focuses on the city, its history and heritage etc. The younger generation especially is greatly benefited from this.Heritage walks, school exchange programmes, talks and contests, poetry, exhibitions, quizes etc are only some of the events that are going to take place.


Chennai’s Shame

Chennai has once again reinforced the fact that it is the dirtiest city in the country. After reading a newspaper report that said the Cooum river is 80% dirtier than sewage, I felt disgusted about the role of the people responsible. The finding implies that the river water is actually far more toxic than our own human waste in a septic tank. Fish couldn’t even survive for 4 hours in some of the samples collected, even after diluting it 50%. Fact remains only negligible levels of oxygen were present in the samples collected.

That the Cooum, along with the Buckingham canal was actually used for drinking purposes 60 years back is pretty unbelievable.  Both these water bodies are signs of total neglect presently. The very color of the water suggests the condition. One cannot even go near the rivers as the stench emanated is unbearable. Slums line the banks of the waterways. Even though the water is contaminated, the people from these slums use it for some purposes. Although there are numerous hotels and commercial establishments along the rivers, none of them have bothered to do something about this issue.

Now that both these rivers, along with the Adyar river, which is in a better condition, are to be converted into water highways is a sign of relief.  Although the authorities are claiming decontamination processes would be on the lines of the one done with London’s Thames river, I doubt of they will ever be able to give a lease of life back to the rivers.


Chennai’s buses… say WOW!!

Bus commuting in Chennai is the cheapest when compared to other metros. Nowhere in India do you find charges as low as 2 Rs for a minimum distance. I was actually surprised when my relatives from Bangalore told me that for the distance I travel from my place to college which is approximately 15 km, if it were in Bangalore I would have to churn out some 15 bucks. I was actually stunned. Here in Chennai all it takes is 5 bucks on an Ordinary bus or 10 bucks on a Deluxe bus. A Deluxe bus here is cheaper than an Ordinary in B’lore. Also there isn’t much difference between an Ordinary and a Deluxe in terms of condition. Just that Deluxe got cushion seats and that it stops only at important places. The new buses brought out by the MTC for ordinary fare are in good shape as well. Despite the rise in fuel prizes MTC for their part haven’t hiked the ticket rates as well, this in stark contrast to other modes of public transport like autos and share autos, which at times charge double of what was the charge six months back. Not one auto driver in the city would charge you less than 20 bucks for a 2 km ride. Add to the fact there are buses to any place in the city and the outskirts. Chennai has after all the biggest bus terminus in Asia in CMBT. Buses are definitely the best way to commute in Channai.

If u agree to the above then read on..

So by now you must be convinced buses are numero uno in Chennai right? Unless of course you use the ‘Public limousine’ (as my friend puts it) between 8 to 9.30 in the morning or 6.30 to 9.00 in the evening. Now all you people who belong to this category must have been cursing me during my first paragraph right? Can’t blame you really. True, bus travel is cheap in Chennai, but it sure comes with a prize. There are times when I have to go to college for some reasons in the morning (College starts normally at 1.45 for me as I am in Shift-II). Now unless I start early I am sure to be squashed, quite literally. So I reach the bus stop and wait for a bus that goes to my college. Speaking of the bus stop, except for the roof above there is nothing worth to be called a bus stop. There are some 40-50 people waiting in the 3 meter long shed. There is no bench to rest my a**, so I have to sweat it out on my feet. So I wait for the bus. I start cursing my stars for buses may come and buses may go, but i stand on forever (Tennyson must have had some idea of my condition while penning the original). Then finally out of the blue, behold here comes my transport. Thank God, but only for a second. The bus itself arrives tilted to one side because of the young men showing their courage hanging on in the foot boards. As soon as the bus stops its as if a flood inside. People just barge in not even bothering to allow those people getting down. Somehow I manage to get in. Actually I don’t have to do anything for the people behind push me inside in no time. This is what I said earlier,about being squashed. I have only read in history books about how dozens of prisoners were cramped together in single cells. In Chennai, you can actually experience it personally. You just get about an inch to rest your feet. Move a little to your left or to the right, you are sure to be hurled abuses at. Sometimes, along with the ticket you could actually get free abuses, especially if you flash a 50 Rs note to the conductor for a ticket of 5 Rs. The travel seems like eternity. The bus moves at snail’s pace as the drivers here unlike the ones in my home Kerala, believe in non-violence. Till the time you get a place to sit you would feel its a punishment for all the mischiefs you have so far gotten away with. Even finding a seat is like a mini battle. There are at least four people at time standing around a seat, so as to occupy it as soon as its free. Once you sit down, its like the best feeling on the planet. BTW, while getting down make sure that you arrive near the non-existent door at least 2 stops before your destination or be ready to face another round of squashing or abuses or sometimes both. Finally you get down from the bus and think- “Whoever said don’t think about the destination, enjoy the ride.” I look at the time, no surprises there- late by 15 min. 🙂