Chennai Means Madras, No? Well, it means so much more.

Kannagi,, Signal Post and the Crow
A few months back there was a contest to sketch a logo for the Patios Brisbane Club and I was wondering if the essence of Madras can be sketched and I realized that this city is a mystery. She has so much hidden under all that tradition and you should not be surprised to see that a Veshti wearing guy with full viboothi and temple visit in the morning may be chilling out with a mug of beer in a pub in the evening or even better at a TASMAC with fellow kudimagans. Beer is not the drink of choice among the lower middle class kudimagans because it does not give the much needed kick after a hard days work. But how these folks manage to drink “Hot drinks” (Whisky, Brandy, Rum…) in the weather that Chennai has been blessed with has always been beyond my comprehension.

There are three seasons in Chennai,  Summer, Summerer and Summerest. Trust me, it is true. You may say that those words don’t exist but the heat from these three seasons is so damn real. When the mercury dips to 22degrees Celsius you can find the early morning Marina beach walkers wearing sweaters and balaclavas a.k.a. monkey caps (where do we find these words?) and going about their business of walking while complaining on how cold the city has become. While this might be baffling for an out of towner what baffles even the Chennaiites is how all those lovers manage to sit on the sands of the Marina at noon and spend time loving one another. It has made me wonder if it is true what all those poets say that when you are in Love then Sun feels cold and the moon seems hot.

Time has hardly stood still in Chennai. So much has been happening here in quick succesion.  How many people know that the true Madrasi speaks a very unique language No it is not Tamil It is a mixture of several languages. It is called Madras Bashai. Here are some samples of this unique language.

  • Saavu Graaki – Customer of Death
  • Vootla Sollitu vandhuginiya – Have you told in your house and come
  • Naastha thunitiya – Have you had your breakfast?
  • Bemani – Scoundrel/Rascal
  • Kasmalam – Dirty Fellow
  • Naina – Father
  • Aatha – Mother
  • Kundhiko – Sit Down
  • Biscothu!!! – Biscuit
  • Saitu – Reference to All North Indians.

If you ever want to hear the colourful Madras Bashai hop on to one of the buses which ply on the Pachaiyappa’s, Nandanam or Loyola College routes and you will be treated to some brilliant Gaana songs accompanied by beats. Songs about how girls tend to break hearts by merely calling a guy anna or about how the guys father was drunk and beat up his mother last night. Lots of take-aways from these songs. But beware while you are immersed in the songs there may be Pick pockets and pick pocketees (women) who are busy blade pottufying your pocket or your handbag.


Cooum River Under the Napier's Bridge

Some places which means the world to me in Chennai.

  • Marina Beach with the Gandhi Statue and more importantly a statue of Kannagi with anklet in her hand.
  • The Schmidt Memorial on Elliots Beach which is today used as an open air urinal and a place to drink alcohol.
  • The Central Railway Station where people step out to be fleeced by Auto Rickshaw Drivers who would volunteer to take them on a ride literally and figuratively.
  • Ayodhya Kuppam near Marina Beach and Ayodhya Mandapam in West Mambalam both these places have no similarities other than Ayodhya being a part of their names.
  • Super keera vadai, muttagose bonda, bajjis and somas (thats what those small samosa are called) accompanied with Nair kadai chai.
  • 29C bus which connects Beasant Nagar and Perambur.
  • Ranganathan Street, T.Nagar which has all those Annachi kadais selling anything that an average person would need including haircuts and Full Meals and is a concrete disater.
  • Areas which have been taken over by the Marwaris and Gujaratis. We have welcomed them with open hearts and they in turn have given so much back to Chennai. From Clothes to Food…
  • Road side Temples.
  • The Cooum River which has borne the brunt of the waste from the city.
  • Gopalapuram, Poes Thottam and Fort St. George the seats of power in this city.  Ofcourse we have the New Legislative assembly which is in disuse and now houses snakes and other sundry wild life. But I assure you it is no different from the legislative assembly in Fort St. George.
  • Kodambakkam with all it’s glitter and high budget movies.


Chennai is the city of dreams and so many dreams have been realized in this city where you seem to know everyone.

I moved away from Chennai a year back but I still hear the waves asking me to come back and I answer the call on some weekends.

A Small City with a Big Heart.

The Next in line for the CBC Tablog is Bushavalli a fashionista and a traveller. She blogs at Fashion Panache and My Travelogue. I am a keen follower of her travelogues and she has some excellent posts.

Here are two lovely posts on What Chennai means to these bloggers.

Click here for the post by Susan Deborah

Click here for the post by Anne John

Click here for the post by Bushavalli

Click here for the post by Ashwini C N


The Photos are from my Big Sunday Walk and Miscellaneous set on Flickr

36 thoughts on “Chennai Means Madras, No? Well, it means so much more.

  1. Wow! Neatly summed up in a post, Aravind. I loved the way you tightly packed so many aspects of Chennai in one package oops post.

    And the end part . . . so philosophical yet heartfelt. Make the waves happy. Don’t let it cry for you.

    Thanks for participating in this blog tag, Aravind. You’ve added masala to the the Tag 😉

    Joy always,

    • Ippo lam makkal masala dhan kekuranga. Cinema la masala, operation theatre la masala blog la kooda masala kekuranga. That is life…

  2. Excellent sum-up of What Chennai means to you! Chennai is ofcourse a majestic city and we all love it.. The Madras Bashai is a key of Chennai’s popularity…


  3. Saitu means ogling right? Did not know that it means North Indians!! Also did not know the name of that structure at Elliot’s Beach – always maintained a safe distance from it!
    And yeah I’ve also always wondering about the love birds coochie-ccoing in the blazing heat at Marina! Remains a mystery…

    • Saitu means the northies and sightu means ogling.

      Eg: Naan saitu vootu ponna sightu adichen, ava appan enna serupalla adichan.

      I ogled at the northies daughter and her father beat me with a slipper.

      That’s only an example eh!

      And next time you are in Chennai do try and spend a few minutes at the Schmidt Memorial preferably during sunrise. Beware of glass pieces.a

  4. What a nice description. These days, it’s the engineering college (school) busses that ply in the city,and the students inside are mostly quiet. I often wonder, if Chennai has been bribed from being a lively place to a quiet/disciplined/boring place, these days?

    Destination Infinity

  5. Loved the post. So true about the Gaana songs. Once it so happened that I was passing by one of the places you mentioned and it was nice to hear different creative versions of many old songs and the Surangani song.

    The Madras Bhashai was too good, that is one of the USPs of Namma Chennai 🙂

  6. Well written 🙂 Marina Beach, Railway Stations, T.Nagar are my personal favorites 🙂

    Loved this post, especially these lines, “There are three seasons in Chennai, Summer, Summerer and Summerest.”-EPIC!!

    Keep blogging! Cheers! 🙂

    • Railway stations are such activity filled spaces that the idea of personal space takes a slap. So much to discover at central, Egmore and the space in between. 🙂

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