Chennai, formerly known as Madras, is one of the major Metropolitan cities of India. It is also the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India. Although it likes to think of itself as the most important metropolitan city, the weather reports on television still mention it only after certain tribal settlements in Nagaland. The name of the city was officially changed to Chennai in 1996, but the older name Madras is still widely used by very old people with Alzheimer's and phonies who can actually say lines like, "To me, Madras will always be Madras."
Chennai is a sprawling port city situated on the shores of the Bay of Bengal. That point raises in my mind the very pertinent question - What the hell does 'sprawling' mean? I mean, how come humans never sprawl? Do you have to be a city in order to be able to do it? hmmmm.... Anyways, we'll come back to that later. For now, moving back to the subject at hand, Chennai is India's 4th largest city and 35th among the most populous cities in the world. However, it is only 7,368th as far as uninterrupted electricity is concerned and a lowly 13,457th in the field of water supply. But Chennai lovers, cheer up because our city is the undisputed 1st on the list of cities where you sweat more than you pee.
Chennai is one of the oldest of British colonial possessions, and has inherited a rich cultural heritage. The city used to be the nerve centre of the British colonial empire in India. Now, of course, it serves as the Indian Government's rectum.
St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Christ and believed to be the first ever Christian missionary to set foot on Indian soil, is closely associated with Chennai. He is supposed to have visited India in the first century A.D and died in Chennai after falling into a ditch dug by the Public Works Department. He supposedly set up a church near the southern shoreline and made a small hillock his home. Legend has it that he used to walk to the church - a distance of over 15 kilometers - and back everyday through what was then and now, a menacing jungle. To this very day, that is considered to be the fastest way to travel between Santhome and St. Thomas Mount, which were the two places in question.
In 1639, the British East India Company was granted some land by the Nayak of Wandiwash and in return, they agreed not to make fun of his title. That piece of land is where they built Fort St. George in 1640. Initially, the fort was just an extra-strong warehouse but it soon became the nucleus around which Chennai grew and from which it was administered. Even today the official legislative and administrative headquarters of the state is located there, apparently.
The majority of the population are Tamils, whose mother tongue is pink. Their native language is quite amazingly, also called Tamil. Times have changed though, and the official language of the city now is 'Tanglish', which has to be heard to be believed. People insist on speaking it all the time but can be persuaded to shut up with a small bribe. In recent times, the Tamils have been massively outnumbered by an incredible number of Telugus, who come in droves to Chennai in order to enroll in one of its 150 engineering colleges so that they can go back to their homeland Andhra Pradesh after 4 years and demand a huge dowry from their Telugu brides there. Of course, they will not tell the girl's family that they have 53 arrears, including 2 in English.
Apart from the congenial Tamils, Chennai is also home to an indigenous tribe of people known simply as the auto-drivers. Their chief occupation is driving auto-rickshaws, though some of them have followed other interests - like chit funds, insurance, second-hand cars or the local mafia. The auto-drivers of Chennai are world renowned for their honesty and polite disposition.
Food and Culture
Chennai is known for its traditional South Indian Cuisine, which is notable for having contributed the 'barota' to the culinary world. Apart from this, traditional dishes include Idli, Vada, Pongal, Dosa, Paper Dosa, Rava Dosa, Ghee Dosa, Butter Dosa, Masala Dosa, Onion Dosa, Onion Rava Dosa, Ghee Masala Dosa, Special Dosa etc etc. At the end of the day, let's face the facts, there is a limit to what you can do with rice batter...
The Tamils pride themselves on their culture, and everyone else wonders why. It's famous for Carnatic Music, which you can read about here and Tamil Films, which are absolutely hilarious in a completely unintentional way.
Apart from the rich indigenus culture of the city, Chennai also has a vibrant Western-Cultural scene. There are a number of active theatre and dance groups that perform on a regular basis. Rock shows are also a regular feature. The Unwind Center, hosts a grand annual event where bands from around the country come to participate. It's called the 'June Rock Out' and this year, it was held in July.
Being in the equatorial zone, Chennai is hot and humid for most of the year, with day temperatures frequently exceeding 40°C/104°F during summer, which lasts for 12 months. Quite obviously, the temperature can get quite hot, so it might be a good idea to stay indoors from 04:00 a.m to about 11:00 p.m.
The city gets most of its rains from the two monsoons, the South-West monsoon and the North-East monsoon both of which, combined, fail more times than a Telugu engineering student. This results in an acute water shortage in the city. So, in recent times, attention has been focused on water saving methods like 'Rainwater Harvesting' but the idea hasn't quite taken off yet because nobody has the faintest idea what it means.
Chennai has a fairly large and extensive public transport system which is inefficient and can get very crowded. Buses ply between all major city zones, or so it is claimed. However, this service is not popular among the male community because, according to a government order, guys aren't allowed to sit in buses. All the seats are reserved for fat women selling fish.
Local suburban trains run between Chennai Beach and Tambaram and run over a minimum of 29 people and 14 cows everyday. This is a major source of inconvenience as it causes a lot of delays. In fact, it's pretty common to see huge crowds of people at such rain-run-over sites. Hundreds of onlookers creating an almost festive atmosphere around the accident scene, willing to wait for hours before the bodies are cleared off the tracks. Looking at this optimistically however, if a routine run-over case can attract such large crowds, quite obviously, the folks here are highly jobless. That probably explains the large number of bloggers, and the success of Bollywood movies.
The best school in the city is undoubtedly St. Michael's Academy. Some of the other good schools are Good Shepherd, Sacred Heart Church Park, and the Holy Angels convent. And as far as colleges are concerned, the only ones worth knowing are Stella Maris College For Women, Queen Mary's, Ethiraj, Women's Christian College and M.O.P Vaishnav College For Women.
Landmark, Nungambakkam and Landmark, Spencer Plaza.
Places To See
When you're in Chennai, you might want to take a walk along Marina Beach - the world's 2nd longest beach but you'd better do it soon, because according to latest reports, it's shrinking by the day and could soon slip down to 6th or, god forbid, even 7th.
When you're tired after walking that distance, you might want to visit Vandalur Zoo because that's what tired people always want to do - visit zoos. The city also has a Central Prison, situated in West Tambaram, around a 1,00,000 km from civilisation. I know of it because I happen to study there.
Places To Smell
The majestic Cooum River, which er..flows... right through the heart of the city.
Founded as a trading outpost by the British East India Company in the early seventeenth century, today Chennai is a large industrial and commercial centre. It has long been a traditional centre for the automobile industry in India and in recent years has consolidated that position. Other major industries are leather, textiles and chemicals. Chennai is also responsible in major part for the IT boom in India. It supplied the detonators.
However, inspite of so much progress, Chennai has always had a very backward image. This is probably because of its proximity to Andhra Pradesh.
There, that should do it for a write-up about Chennai. I've told you everything you need to know. If I remember anything later, I'll just keep it to myself.
In conclusion, I'd just like to say that to me, Chennai is like my mother. I scream at her, blame her for everything that goes wrong in my life but in the end, I love her anyway. Similarly, inspite of all its shortcomings, this colourful and intriguing city has a unique character that just seems to grow on its residents. It does not necessarily have the greatest weather, the smoothest roads, or even the nicest people but there's simply no denying it - there is something in this city that's totally magical and frighteningly addictive. I've lived here for nearly twenty years now and I can't even imagine living anywhere else. I love Chennai too much. Chennai Rocks.