Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My Locality....

A Man’s home is where is money is made

This was the adage, which drove a whole generation of young men from Deep South of tamilnadu away from their homes to the city of promise – Chennai. My dad was not an exception. He was a central government employee, a species which used to top the matrimonial market with regards to demand and dowry,but thanks to influence of IT and the 6 digit earning programmers, they have totally lost out. My dad settled in the heart of Chennai with this central government job which gave a decent living, a good bride with a not-so-good dowry..err..kanya dhaan to be politically right. Thought I will pen down a few things about this locality in which I spent the first 14 years of my life.

It was not the affable adyar or the posh besant nagar, neither was it a cultural hub like Mylapore. It was a locality called Thousand lights, aayiram vilakku in tamil. Those who have been to Chennai may have noticed the huge thousand lights mosque near the anna flyover on your way to spencer’s plaza. Opposite to this huge mosque in those lanes, by lanes and cramped allies lies a place, which is home for more than a million people. Thousand lights is a place where people of different language, religion, culture and even race – its home to many Tibetans and srilankan refugees- live together.

The people, yes they are the most integral part of this locality. If not for them there would be nothing to speak about thousand lights and it would be yet another lower middle class locality.The most attractive section of the population are the local goondas whom even the cops dread..did I say dread..yeah only the cops dread them. We can see these goondas getting thrashed by the local lady vendors when they demand too much. What’s more interesting about them are their names. They had names like dolphin kumar, plastic pandu, iron ranga and so on. And the reasons for their names are a local folklore..like they used to say dolphin kumar possesses this sharp knife which can slice a dolphin into pieces with a single swish. No body can authenticate these stories, as the truth was lot funnier. In fact I personally knew the true story behind plastic pandu’s name. He was called so because the first FIR that was filed on him was for stealing plastic bucket from an old lady..so much for bravado… but ofcourse the folklore has a totally different story. Need to build the aura around them you see.

The locality was not just a residential one; it has its share of shops especially wine shops. In fact a friend of mine used to tell directions using these wine shops as landmarks. “Go straight you can see the Ponnu wines right? Take the road opposite to it after a 10metre walk there will be the aishwarya wines..take the right next to it, the street where you find karuna wines is the one you are asking for”.

Next to wine shops the other shops that were high in numbers were the teashops. You can call it cliché or stereotyping but somehow all these shops were owned by malyalees. And too add to the stereotyping all of them were addressed as nairs, just as how a person coming from any part of north india is called as set-ji. Of course these nairs had some titular differences like the munda banian nair, one legged nair, bald nair… It was a kind of fixed equation. Mallu tea shop owner = nair, even if they belonged to different religion..so we had Jacob nair , mohammad nair and also a nizzim nair. A jew who was a nair.

Then there was this small but vibrant Anglo Indian population. There were two good things about them. One is the way they live their lives, though they were not well to do they carry themselves with a Victorian elegance and lived life king size. Two, is the pretty Anglo Indian girls. I had a friend called Sharon, a very pretty little girl whose English I always used to admire. I had this misconception that Anglo Indians are rich folks getting monthly cheques from queen Elizabeth, all these misconceptions took a beating ..... One fine Saturday morning when I went to Sharon’s house, she was having her breakfast, but kind of covering and hiding it up and me being the curious cat was trying to peep in. At that time Sharon’s mom came in and seeing the cat and mouse game screamed at her “Sharon why cant you share it with that kid!!”..she called me into their 7x8 feet kitchen and gave porridge. I was totally enthralled..porridge!!!...I am gonna have some British breakfast. I took the bowl with a royal look and a body language which would have made Prince Harry feel like a rickshaw puller...to my utter shock, surprise and disgust what she had given me was old rice mixed in butter milk..something we call as pazhaya saadham in tamil…if this porridge had been served at my home the porridge along with the bowl would have been flying out of the window…but here I was gulping it down and exclaiming to Sharon… “the porridge of your mommy ..tastes so yummy ”

As said the thousand lights area had a huge mosque, so a noticeable number of Muslim families lived there. The best thing about the Muslims bred in thousand lights is their ability to fuse 3-4 languages and speak in it. An instance…. When me and my friend khaddar play cricket on the street his little sister used to call him for lunch from the balcony…the announcement goes something like “baayi ammi therey ko bulathi hein..soru daalna hein” so you had urdu[ammi], hindi[bulathi hein], and tamil[soru-rice]…they can speak for hours together is this dialect.

With folks of almost every religion and community living in my locality, there has never been the smallest communal clash in the area. A perfect locality where you can stand and scream “Mera Bharath Mahan”. Its not just we the kids of all communities play together even the adults socialized very well. Infact I know the ceremonies that happen in any Indian marriage a Hindu, Christian or a Muslim. Hats off to my locality which has taught me the biggest mantra in life religious tolerance – a concept very relevant today.


Prasad said...

LOL..LOL!!!!! nice one there mate!!! liked the way u put it into words!!!!

ROFLLLLLLLLL @ the muslim longo!!!! hav heard lots abt it!

Nautankey said...

Hi Prasad,
Thanks for the first comment :).. And man those guys can speak in hours in that lingo..amazing I say :)

Curious said...

"A Man’s home is where is money is made"

Saari but I read it as" a man's home is where monkey is made!: Lame! I know..But that's how I read it! :))

But hey, beautifully written...sounds absolutely like "namma chennai"

Welcome to the blogging world buddy! Hope you have much fun while it lasts.. :D

lavender tulips【ツ】 said...

I have not read anything like this about namba Madras ever! I've lived in Madras for years but I didn't even know such a place existed there!
This post was really well written and you put it so beautifully in words :) Welcome to blogger! Hope you have loads to write about :) 'cuz I can't wait to read!!

Nautankey said...

Money and monkey..hmm where you in some philosophical mood..both are kinda similar I feel :)..and thanks a lot for the warm welcome

Thanks for dropping by and yeah will keep coming back with more.. have been stuck in this city for quite some time :) so will keep blabbering about more areas n chennai escapades :)

Praddy said...


haha that wasa good one dude, i never knew this side of chennai - now am enlightened :P
lol@the lingo..hehe

Tarun Goel said...

You write a good, funny and realistic stuff.

Nautankey said...

Thanks for dropping in and I would prefer a cheque as enlightenment charges :)

Thanks a lot dude

Praddy said...

sure man, cheque on whose name ;)

swashbuckler said...

that was a really good one.. romba nalla likthe ho!! :) have passed thru the mount road and the mosque a thousand times.. but never thought there is anything there besides the mosque itself!! being a nair myself, have been asked a thousand times about tea shops!! never got a connection.. but guess its all clear now!! next time someone asks me, i shall send them straight to thousand lights!
thanks nautankey! really superb post.. keep em coming..

Nautankey said...

Address it to "The honorable nautankey" :) I maintain an account like that :P

Thanks for dropping in and am surprised that my post has enlightenment value :).. Its true many nairs who r new to chennai dont understand the chaaya kadai jokes/comments on them and trust me one fo the star hotels near thousand lights is owned by a nair :)

Sindhu :) said...

:)))) at two things - one was the bowl of porridge fying out the window & second was the plastic pandu story..

hehehe :D :D

The Muslim lingo was funny...! Pretty much what we can hear in Hyderabad too - its all a mixture of Hindi, Urdu & Telugu!

But seriously - never read anything as nice about Madras..! I miss it so much :(

Nautankey said...

Thanks for dropping in..err..swinging in..seeing that snap of urs :)

Yup i too have heard the hyderabadi muslim slang.. pretty unique..and dont miss chennai too much its just 14hours away :)

Arpita said...

Hey that was a real funny and informative post. I never knew such ppl lived in the 1000 lights area!

Nautankey said...

Thank yous.Such people still live in thousand lights :),and yours truly would have become one of them if I had stayed there for more years..probly you wud be reading the case history of a goonda called notorious nautankey :P

Sindhu :) said...

Notorious Nautankey doesn't sound enough 'thousand-lights'-ish, going by the names you mentioned there :D

Nautankey said...

OK will think of nasty nautanki then :P

Rauf said...

deeah o deeah !
been in thousand lights for over 50years now in a place which i doubt you have ever heard. Other side of Thousand lights actually, Whites road. Have you heard of OLL THOTTAM ?? (ask Sharon's mom she'll tell you that i mean HALL's GARDEN) Your side is a place called MAKKY THOTTAM (Macky's garden) probably Sharon lived there.

Well well well, 50 years is a long time. we moved in here in 1958. Since then and till now, total and absolute communal harmony. You are absolutely right about it.
i was in 7th. predominantly an Anglo Indian Area. We used to play cricket across whites road on week days, Sundays it was completely deserted. Now it takes five minutes for me to cross the same road. My mom and sisters wouldn't step out after 6 in the evening. Not a mother's soul on the road. We had cricket matches with Makky thottam boys and Aziz mulk street boys. Most of them have moved out. And nearly all of my Anglo friends have migrated to Austrlia. No TVS petrol bunk No sathyam theatre. I'll be kicked if i hit the ball inside sathyam compound. It was like a forest. All were scared to go there, there was a big kolam and a ghost of some body hanging out there. What stories !! Sathyam theater haunted by a ghost ?? No one dared to peep in.
oh ! its getting too long
perhaps next time.
Your post opened the flood gates.
i hardly write about my city.

Aaarti said...

Nice.. i've heard of all that you've written about in your post.. but 1st time seeing someone who's actualy lived there write about it!!!

thanks for dropping by
and well, i got a flask with my TOi subscription.. guess they gave this for a kinda of subscription and the bag for the other.. forgot the duration i've subscribed for... :D

u still live in chennai?

Nautankey said...

heyyy cool to see a fellow thousand lights resident :). yup do remember the oll thottam and not heard abt the ghost stories of satyam but heard abt the ghosts from sacred heart graveyard visiting our area at nites..infact there were some famous ghosts, ghost haunts and ghost busters..probly can write a separate post on them :).

Thanks for dropping by and nice to see the floodgates open :)

Nautankey said...

Thanks for the visit :)...so it was a flask for u.I remember mine was for a year.Still very much in chennai but not in 1000lights.. missing it a llot

Anonymous said...

Mallu tea shop owner = nair, even if they belonged to different religion..so we had Jacob nair , mohammad nair and also a nizzim nair. A jew who was a nair.

U made me laugh aloud and make myself look like a fool at office wen all around me were (pretending to) working seriously!

Nautankey said...

Open some work related document and pretend you laughed at it :)

Ordinary Guy said...

:) beautiful message in this LOL-fying post!!! :)

Liked the "Nair" tea story... :) but it is true... :)