There are controversies on celebrating 22 Aug as Madras day, as it is associated with colonialism. But people who belong to the city are aware of its history, which goes far beyond the three hundred plus years that mark this anniversary. The day is just an occasion to reaffirm love for the city which so many of us, irrespective of where we happen to live, will always call home.
Here is a short excerpt from The Reengineers, which begins with a love letter to the city.
“Aside, which called itself ‘The Magazine of Madras’, is now as much a memory as the city’s old name. Yet, the vibes of my city remain unchanged. The vibes that you get from the old Leo coffee ad in which a woman serves filter coffee in a steel davara-tumbler to a man against the backdrop of a butter-Krishna Tanjore painting, suggesting a typical Madras home where kolams of rice flour bloomed in the courtyard at dawn and the warm morning air carried the strains of the Venkatesa Suprabhatam.
The feeling of home still pervades my city, despite the impersonal flyovers that now criss-cross above the old familiar roads, the acres of shining skyscrapers that buzz with the sounds of the software cities teeming within them, and the gleaming malls that may soon outnumber the tiny Ganesha shrines on each street, all of which make the Chennai of today such a different world from the Madras of 1991, where this story first begins, and then begins anew.”
The Reengineers, p.3-4
Excerpt with permission from HarperCollins Publishers India from The Reengineers by Indu Muralidharan
This is the old Leo coffee ad mentioned in the paragraph. I was a child when this ad used to be aired on television. But every time I watch it, it makes me timesick for the sweetness and simplicity of Madras of the nineties.