Friday, May 18, 2012

My Chennai!

I'm from Chennai and I work in the IT industry, which means that my office is full of people from all over the country.  People come from beautiful remote villages, simple nearby towns and far-away cities.  This provides an unique opportunity to learn more about these amazing places and the lifestyle of people living there.  But it also means having to listen to a lot of complaints about city life, like

Yes, cities are polluted.  But cities didn't start out this way.  Lets take the example of Cooum.  Cooum wasn't filled with garbage from day one.  Cooum was once the pride of the city but as the population density sky-rocketed, there wasn't enough vacant land to dump all the garbage. When I was a toddler, we used to live in T.Nagar.  My mom says that the streets were so empty that I used to run off to the local park on my own because there won't be a single vehicle on the road.  Can you imagine such a T.Nagar now?

When it got crowded, we moved to Nanganallur which was back then, the outskirts of the city.  There were very few houses and the place was pretty much a forest and we had to walk a long distance even for groceries.  Now, the place is developed and so full of apartments that there isn't a single vacant patch of land in Nanganallur to even play cricket.  And we are once again planning to move further away.  Just because a city has a bigger municipality and the people have more money, doesn't mean that they can magically make all the junk and eventual pollution, disappear.  This is what a city sacrifices in order to support such a population.

Distant Neighbours
My friend narrated this beautiful story about the warm welcome he gets in his hometown.  A few hours after he reached home, the lady next door came to his house to offer him sweets because she had heard him come in.  That is obviously not something we see often in the city.  He went on to say that his conversations with his neighbours at Chennai have been strictly on need-only basis, like 'has the garbage collector come to the flat yet'.

Even in my case, I know a lot of kids from the street in my mom's home town where my grandpa lived.  But I hardly know the kid who lives upstairs in my flat in Chennai.  This is not because the people here are unfriendly.  This is because of the years that the family has spent in a home.  In my grandpa's street, the families there have been living there for nearly 4 decades.  Our families know each other, my grandpa knows their grandpa and my parents know their parents, thanks to the years they spend together in the same neighbourhood.  The same is probably true for my friend.  The sweet lady next door would've probably known him from his childhood days.

But its a different story in the city.  Here, the neighbourhood is constantly changing.  I have myself never lived in a house for more than a decade.  Neighbours move in and move out all the time, just like me.  My friend moved in to his new room in Chennai only a few months ago.  His neighbours have never met my friend's parents or nephew or any other family member.  All they probably see is a locked house where someone comes home at night & leaves in the morning on weekdays & on weekends, nobody is home (because he leaves for his home town).  Yet, people here accept unknown neighbours into their lives and to an extent even the loud music and booze..  :P

There are more complaints like food, weather, traffic, mosquitoes etc.  Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to both metro as well as village/town life.

But I'm not trying to start a debate on city life. I'm not trying to argue the advantages or point fingers at reasons.  Of course someone who is not from the city will prefer his hometown life while I find it hard to give up my city life.  I'm simply trying to explain the city's side of the story.  Because unless you really understand something, you won't be able to see how beautiful it really is!

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