It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom; it was the age of foolishness. It was the epic of belief; it was the epic of incredulity. It was the season of light; it was the season of darkness. It was the spring of hope; it was the winter of despair.
These opening lines from A Tale of Two Cities nicely summarize my life in Chennai.
Life in Chennai! That phrase sounds so big, doesn’t it? It should seem odd too, considering that I lived in Chennai for only two months. But then probably I had some of the most memorable experiences of my life in those two months. Experiences that made me both love and hate Chennai at the same time. Some of my greatest joys and deepest sorrows have become synonymous with Chennai. A small but immensely important portion of my life is contained in those two months. The funny part is that I ended up there by accident. It sometimes feels really odd to think that some people don’t believe in destiny!
I went to Chennai because some careless fool in my company had mixed up my data with somebody else’s while feeding it into the database. I was allotted a training location which must have been the choice of the other person. Anyway, I was made to understand by the politicians in the HR Department of our Kolkata office that once the training was over, changing my posting location to Kolkata is going to be a piece of cake. And I did badly want to come back to Kolkata, as the sudden death of my grandma a few weeks earlier had rendered our house in
So I boarded the train for Chennai from
Our training started the next day. If the two months that followed seem like a dream to me now, they certainly looked like a nightmare then. Daily my cell phone alarm rang at am. Amit and I were ready and out on the street by where we were joined by Shreevallabh and Naveen. Then we went to Sangeetha Restaurant and ordered rend idlis, thenga chutney mottum for each of us, and tanya tanya bills (two idlis with coconut chutney only, and separate bills). Our bus arrived at . Once inside the bus, I would go to sleep, waking up when we arrived at the office at . Then we would have classes till in the evening, with a one-hour lunch and two small coffe breaks in between. We would have dinner again at Sangeeta, or maybe in the office itself, and then come back home exhausted at . But then I had to wash clothes, study a little and solve the daily SU-DO-KU, so… miles to go before I sleep!
In between this hectic schedule I had so many enjoyable moments: Mahabalipuram with friends, bathing in the sea there, the Pondicherry trip with Shreevallabh, climbing the hillock at Pallavaram alone, visits to the temples and sweet shops and the Snake Park, lunch with Swati and Zeb, playing knee deep in the sea whole evening with Swati and Akash and then having dinner together, window shopping at Odyssey’s bookstore, chatting on free SMS whole day and night, and above all, the long walks along the Marina Beach on the weekends, collecting seashells (keeping the dead ones and throwing the live ones back into the water)… they were too good to describe. We had lighter moments in the office too… fire fighting lessons in ERT class, sleeping in all classes, mini project under Dinesh Bhatt, and everything in Prashanthi’s soft skills class.
This was also the time when I learnt that I was a ‘resource’ whose posting in
I had fallen in love with Chennai on my first visit to Elliot Beach, but that love had suffered a setback during the subsequent months. I rediscovered that love in the ten days that followed our assessment. Every morning, I would wake up before dawn and walk down to the beach with Shreevallabh and my camera (the sky remained cloudy without exception, and my wish of photographing the sun rise from the sea was never fulfilled). We returned early in the evenings. This was also the time when my friends were buying gifts (mostly Saris) for their family members with their first salary before leaving Chennai. I didn’t buy anything, as I had certain restrictions on buying new clothes due to the death of my grandma, but that did not prevent me from going shopping with them. But my favourite shop was Odyssey, the huge bookstore beside Sangeetha Restaurant. I suppressed my urge to buy a few books as I already had enough luggage to carry to
I left Chennai for
And to Chennai, I said, “Poitwaren” (Tamil phrase for Goodbye, which literally means “I’ll be back”).