An ode to the city @378
“Šingaara Chennai ÈndruŠølluvøam
ÈndralumVittuPøgaNinaikala..” (Vanakkam Chennai, Film, Marina,2011)
This popular track from a Tamil film expresses the sentiments of the Chennaites’ fondness for their city, however messy and untidy it may be. Chennai is an archetypal Indian city with its infrastructural weaknesses, clogged drains, dingy, congested streets and roads, mountains of garbage strewn all over along with its teeming population. During the monsoon, the lesser said the better; the city and its population are totally paralysed, speaking volumes about its lop-sided development. Yet, the city appeals to its inhabitants as it has a charm of its own, despite its inadequacies.
A sense of belonging towards a place, region, or city is nothing new. Literary artists, photographers, bards, poets and musicians have sung praises of their cities/regions and described it in loving terms. Ancient and contemporary literature is replete with such examples. New Yorkers, Parisians and Londoners are excited about the cultural festivals, music performances and sports tournaments of their city. In an increasingly globalised world, this trend seems to exist pretty much everywhere. Mumbaikars are possessive about Ganesh Chaturthi though it is a major Indian festival. The Jaipur Literary Festival gives the city a new perspective. The Chennai Sangamam, is an attempt on the part of the government of Tamil Nadu, to promote dying folk culture. Transplanting these indigenous arts to Chennai, projects the city in a much better light. These are just a few examples of cityscapes in contemporary times. The possessiveness one feels towards one’s city of residence is obvious; thanks to the mass media, corporate organizations and state governments. Catchy phrases like Namma Chennai, Vanakkam Chennai, Singara Chennai, etc foster feelings of togetherness and possessiveness among Chennaites. Acity cannot exist on its own, it breathes, lives and grows through its people. It is the people, the city-zenswho add colour, excitement and vibrancy to any city. Thus, a city and its people bond together Chennaites,too, love their city, with all its limitations. They are here to stay and can never leave. As the lyric goes: “ÈndralumVittuPøgaNinaikala.. ..”