Calling 'Chennai a name and Madras an emotion', celebrities cheer even as the city turned 380 on August 22. They share their nostalgic moments and assess the changes they have come across in the recent years.
Madras is my cradle, changes aplenty, humanity intact
MALA MANYAN PRODCUER
Madras or Chennai, call it by any name! Actually it makes no difference because it's the flavour of our city that is more predominant in our minds. After touring any state or country for a few days, the minute you land in Madras..woooo….no words can express that feeling of getting back to the city. The entire city is my home. Everyone owns it just as I do.
I get very nostalgic when you say Madras. Because my parents have told me that I was the first baby to be born in the first a/c room of Egmore Children's Hospital. So literally Madras is my cradle. I can never forget my school and college days. I am very sentimental about my PTC 29A, 27D & 22 Ladies Special from Dasaprakash (I can smell masala dosai and mango melba even now) to Queen Mary's College. Dasaprakash has now become a high-rise residential building. I really miss their bread peas masala, masala dosai and mango melba.
A lot has changed and we have evolved. The changes are only physical like the roads, skyscrapers, transport, huge traffic, population, mushrooming shops everywhere including roadside ones. In fact, in the last one year, so much has changed that sometimes it's hard to even recognise the road if you haven't been there for 3 months. But there again it's just the roads and buildings. But the flavour and character of Namma Chennai remain the same. The ever-friendly people offering filter coffee, idli vada sambar, the warm breeze at the beach with a mixed smell of bajji, fish, sand and water, the festive seasons and celebrations have transformed but makes one elated. On top of all, it's the co-existence of all races, languages, caste and creed, rich, poor, etc. etc. with a touch of humanity.
My life changed because of Madras
SUHASINI MANI RATNAM ACTRESS, FILMMAKER & SOCIAL ACTIVIST
Though I was born in Madras, I came to live here when I was 12. My Chithappa Kamal brought me to Madras by KPN bus. I just landed with whatever clothes I was wearing. He took me to Naidu Hall and bought me frocks and shimmies. He was only 19 then. That's how I changed my residence from Paramakudi to Madras.
My life changed because of this city. My most important landmarks were Mambalam station, Krishnaveni Theatre. T. Nagar Sarada Vidyalaya in Burkit Road and Ranganathan Street. I remember TTK Road was full of trees and I used to attend my dance class. After 6, it would become so lonely I used to think I was walking through a forest. I thought Anna Nagar, which was very far off, was part of Bangalore. Even Adyar was considered as far away from the city, which was developing.
Fountain Plaza was the first modern shopping mall, which came in the then Madras. Before that it was Luz, the Lakhs and Lakhs , Crores and Crores and Billions and Billions and Billions stores. We used have such fun going and shopping there. And then we used to visit that Navashakthi Vinayakar temple near Kamadhenu theatre before our Maths exams. He is the one who made us all pass.
My first ever beauty parlour was Lovely Beauty Parlor in TTK Road, which is now near Kamal sir's office. I believe Alwarpet Metro Station is coming there. First time I did my eyebrows and first boutique visit was at Gypsy Rose in Fountain Plaza. We all used to buy our modern clothes from Elsons.
HM hospital in St Mary's Road is where we all went when we took ill. Later HM Hospitals' Pratap Reddy went on to build Apollo Hospitals. Rajaratnam Stadium was where sports events would happen. And then the Air India magnificent office. There were no other airlines other than Air India and Indian Airlines. It took only 15 minutes to reach Bangalore. There was no security check like these days. Someone will pick up my luggage and leave it in the plane when I travel for shoots. That's was the Madras Airport which I knew (smiles).
And then the traffic. At the peak of my career, I used to go home from the studio during the lunch break at 1 pm, have my food, have a small nap, finish my makeup and join the shoot by 2. I used to drive myself then. It just took 10 to 12 minutes to reach Kodambakkam. Today it takes one hour to reach Vadapalini from Alwarpet.
MISS ‘VANDIS’ SELLING GOODIES
MOHAN RAMAN ACTOR/WRITER
What I miss is Chennai are the small mobile handcarts off which they used to sell mangoes, elandhai pazham, groundnuts and vilam pazham. There used to be vendors who would bring plastic buckets and other items on a basket on their head and would exchange them for old clothes. And then there were the ‘saanai pidikkiravan’ who would sharpen knives and the aruva maniai.
When I was in my early teens, a group of friends would watch films in Mount Road theatres. My dad used to give me one rupee and 25 paise. We would all walk to the bus stop near Ajanta hotel from my house in Lloyds Road, take a bus to Mount Road. On one side there was Shanthi and on the other Casino, Wellington, Odeon and Globe. A bus ticket was 15 paise. A film ticket cost 85 paise. We would buy groundnuts and ice cream for the rest of the money and walk back home, sometimes through the beach through Anna Square to Edward Elliots Road. Those were golden memories.
The individual service you were getting has now been replaced by uniformed persons like Swiggy. We had live-in maids who would stay with us and do household chores. Now, all are part-time servants and everything is outsourced.
What is bothering me more now is that there are no rules or guidelines from Corporation for the acquisition of public pavements or platforms, which are acquired to put up a small garden in the name of Green Chennai. And yet another thing is the laying of overhead cables. Each time there's heavy rain, the cables would be dangling all over.
But one thing that has not changed is humanity, which we saw especially after the Chennai Floods. No one is shunning accident sites and auto drivers even act as traffic constables....