According to The New York Times (NYT), Chennai is one among the ‘52 places to go in 2014’. In a list that is dominated by cities like Dubai, Perth, Frankfurt, Yorkshire and the like, Chennai is at 26 right before Seychelles. According to the list, Chennai earned its place for its rich cultural heritage and for the several dance and music schools in the city, like the Kalakshetra Foundation for dance and the Music Academy for Carnatic music. NYT says that the city has several historic sites, like the Kapaleeshwarar Temple and its ‘fresh buzz’ makes it more enticing, with its hotels, trendy clubs, boutiques and restaurants.
Does the young and happening crowd endorse this perception of Chennai? Are they in tune with the city’s vibe and popularity? Parvathi Nayar, a noted visual artist, says that life in Chennai is much simpler even in a contemporary milieu where the old and the new co-exist in a gentler way. “For a contemporary artist like me, Chennai is a place that has a creative depth. It gives you room to grow without the burden of preconceived notions. It is, of course, a city that is rocked in a creative cradle where the contemporary comes along with a rich heritage of the classical,” says Parvathi. For her, Chennai is a place that has a very gentle spirit and creates a platform for anything new. “It is the best city to live in, in India,” she says. “I always wanted to live in a city that does not have the aggression of a city or a city that is not superficial in its culture and heritage. The only city that comes to my mind is Chennai.”
For Frenchwoman Marylene Laetitia Laforet, who has been living in the city since 2008, Chennai is a city that is lively, abundant and vibrant. Marylene says that the city has no end to fun and entertainment. “Chennai is a city whose energy is high. It is a city that is made up of many small areas, having their own culture, heritage and tradition. Anna Nagar is so different from Nungambakkam that it surprises me every time. Chennai is a melting pot of many cultures. In this city, you can choose to be alone when you want to, and at the same time, mix with people, socialise and freak out at the same time,” says Marylene, with a laugh. What she hates is the traffic after seven pm and the overly crowded places like Pondy Bazzar. Marylene says that Nungambakkam is her favourite place in the city and Kader Nawaz Khan Road is her second home.
For restaurateur Vipin Sachdev, the fact that Chennai has made it to NYT’s list has no meaning nor does it make him particularly happy. “None of the cities in India qualify to be visited by anyone,” he thinks. “These places are not human friendly, it is a challenge to survive in this place each and every day, the roads are filthy, there is too much stress and travelling is difficult, compared to the western cities.” When it comes to hotels and pubs, Vipin says, “Nowadays, people want to have a meal with either wine or beer, and there is not a single place in the city, where a middle class man can go have a decent meal with wine or beer.”
Opinion will always be divided But for the city to make it to a ‘world’s best’ is very gratifying.