Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The land where I lead a happy life

I don’t want to live in any country or place which does not have Mylapore in it. If you happen to be in Chennai, just take a walk around the Kapaleeshwarar temple tank and see if the incredible juxtaposition of the ancient with the modern, old with the new, the rotting with the nascent does not strike straight into your Indian heart! If your heart is still Indian that is.
The “fragrance” of Mylapore is that aroma of coffee beans frying in ‘Sundaram coffee’ combined with the smell of vegetables, fruits and flowers on the pavement shops, mingling with the fumes of vehicles and the mild scent of holy ash (vibhuti) wafting from the bare bodies of tuft-wearing Brahmins, not to mention the urine on the walls. On one side is the clang of temple bells and just yonder is a sabha exuding music. By the temple car is the famous nameless roadside bajji stall shooting sizzling noises into the air.
And just as you feel divided between adai-ayival at Karpagambal mess and the roadside bajjis, the nadaswaram vidwans emerge into the streets leading the temple procession. One mallari or a brilliant raktimelam from them is enough. All appetite is sated. I… just love this heady bouq­uet of perfumes and sounds which is India, well... “South India” to me. Be it crowded, dirty or congested or whatever, I love my land, just as I love my mother’s cooking burnt or otherwise. If it is from my mother’s hand, I love it… Period.
I don’t know why I have to sound so apologetic about declaring my love for my own country. But you see when I urge people not to look for “US bridegrooms” or when I tell migrating friends and relatives not to become permanent citizens and “come back” at least in the distant future, they look at me queerly. Recently, I gave a guest talk at a famous college of technology. When I appealed to those engineering students who had written TOEFL and GRE to consider making worthwhile careers here in India itself and “first sweep our country before departing to sweep other countries” huge dissenting noises burst out in the hall.
I had opened a Pandora’s box. Many explanations poured forth from the students on how “quality life” was possible abroad and how they were “world citizens” and how India was “narrow minded” and so on. In a room of 300, I knew I was alone. It reminded me of the day when my parents were forcing me to look at my first love as mere puppy love. On both these days my love was ridiculed as naïve, silly and unrealistic.
Well, I went abroad too. While bidding goodbye, my grandmother took a pinch of earth and smeared it like vibhuti on my forehead. Once there, I fell severely homesick after the first few weeks. No amount of persuasion that “roads were bigger, environment cleaner and facilities greater” could take India out of me. “What the hell, you can drink water out of the bathroom tap here,” shouted my friend. “Go on and drink water from bathroom tap because that’s where you belong,” I snapped. In my poem Migratory Birds I wrote, “In the land of seagulls/the crows try to merge with snow.”
This Republic Day, my son’s school gave me the honour of hoisting the Tricolour, which I did with great pride and tears in my eyes. When they asked me to deliver a speech, I refused. How to express deep love in spoken words? I instead offered to sing and presented Bharathiyar’s song Enthayum Thayum (“This is the land, where father and mother mine/lead a happy life”).
That pinch of Indian earth my grandmother smeared on my forehead burned like a third eye, for long after the song.


  1. I'm a Tamilian settled in Kerala and brought up in the middle-east. I did my PG in Delhi and much to my delight got posted recently in the Mylapore branch of a leading Private Sector bank. I can actually sense what you are trying to say. The evenings in Mylapore are spectacular. After having spent a major part of my life as a mall rat, this is a truly satisfying experience. The used to get the same thrill walking along the lanes of Old Delhi and Connought place. I regularly read your columns in The New Sunday Express for I myself regularly write Sunday features for the paper.

  2. 春冰薄,人情更薄;登天難,求人更難。 ............................................................

  3. I live in small town Tuticorin. Very dusty dirty and unruly. Yet... I love it for many (odd) reasons. People laugh at me. Reading this just made me feel good - From my mum's hand burnt or otherwise it is sweet!! Thank you for the post. I love it. It is always a pleasure to look for your column in Sunday Express!

  4. Can I say "Mylapore is the heart of the heartless City of Chennai ?"

    Thanks Jaya for rekindling our memories of
    good old mylapore.

  5. thanks jaya for making sunday's begin with smile:)..always look forward to ur loony life

  6. A sunday wouldn't be a sunday without loony life :)

  7. I am writing to you from Nalandaway Foundation,an NGO for child rights based in Chennai. I went through your blog and found it very interesting and delightful to read.

    Every year we conduct an Annual children’s festival in Chennai called “Art Arattai Aarpattam”which includes professional shows, an arts carnival and a film festival.

    We would like to know if you would be interested in covering the festival in your blog.

    We would really appreciate your response to this message.we would like to send you our brochure and details regarding the festival.

    if interested please send me your ID at upasana@nalandaway.org

    looking forward to hearing from you

  8. Jeez! how do u do that? get so many comments and followers and u dont reply to anY!

  9. Readers,
    Thanks for the support and love.
    Upasana and others, please write to me at jayamadhavan@gmail.com if you want a reply.
    Kitty, it just didn't occur to me to leave a reply in my blog. Phew! That's where I am socially. NO offense.

  10. madam, i am interesting a lot in writing.. i always look forward to your "loony life"..

  11. There is not a more honourable offer in my life than having to hoist our national flag and sing the national anthem .
    Every time I sing the national anthem, my eyes well up.