Madras is special to me not only because I was born there, but also because the city has given me bountiful memories to cherish for a lifetime. Last week, I ended A Sequel to the Navy Brat’s Memories at Kochi and a friend, Ms. S, asked why I had not mentioned Madras (probably because she plays a major role in my Madras diaries). I told her that the city required one or more posts of its own and would get its due soon. So, to keep the nostalgia going, I will go down memory lane and pick up from where I left off: the year 2000.
Though my relationship with Madras began at birth, my visits to the city were restricted to summer vacations until 2000. That was when my father retired and we moved to Madras to stay with my maternal grandparents. After having studied in co-ed schools all my life, I wasn’t too thrilled about joining Meenakshi College for Women. But, to my surprise, the next three years were super fun, thanks to all the lovely ladies I befriended. The college was just a 15-minute walk from home and I always left early to hang out with the girls before our classes started for the day. Though I tend to take time to make friends, I must say that I had an instant connection with a few girls in the class. The connection must have been really strong because we have stayed in touch for over two decades, thanks to social media and WhatsApp groups. A few months into the first semester, we formed a gang that hung out together all the time, outside of college hours (we were good girls who never bunked a single class, trust me). Our days were a mix of some super awesome lectures and others that would bore us into a deep slumber, visits to the canteen, birthday celebrations, and overall loads of fun.
Eventually, smaller groups cropped up within the gang, one of which comprised Ms. G, Ms. S and me (my galentines). We were pretty thick in those days, to a point where Ms. S would call Ms. G and me as soon as she reached home, after spending half a day with us (please note that while talking about this, Ms. G complained that the number of phone calls made to her was much lesser than the ones I received :-D). Our friendship grew stronger and we became like family (quite literally in the case of Ms. S, we’ll get to that later). As the years have passed, we have gone from frequent phone calls, sleepovers, and silly fights to getting married and living in three different places with thousands of miles between us. We may not be as close as before but we have managed to stay connected, probably because of the beautiful memories we created in college.
The final year at Meenakshi was one of the best; not only was the syllabus exhilarating but I also got to do a very interesting project with Ms. G. We had to do a paper on a heritage building of our choice and we chose an old Armenian church that had captured our hearts during a tour from college. The church, its structure, and the overall ambience had left such a deep impression on me that when an opportunity arose, I made sure that Mr. P and I visited the church during our last visit to Madras. It had been 15 years since I had seen the place, but the effect it had on me was as strong as ever. Ms. G had a Scooty (two-wheeler), which made it easy for us to visit the church, libraries, and other locations to gather information for our paper. We even loitered around the city (purely for research purposes), with the permission of our professors. I told you, we were really good girls. One such episode had us drive around looking for a very specific inscription at the Adyar bridge. We ended up going to the wrong bridge, and when we finally found the right one we couldn’t find the inscription. Why? Because it was hidden under layers of posters. Imagine this scene: two girls (completely frustrated, hot, and sweaty), scraping off dirty posters from a concrete structure. We must have made an amusing sight to the passers-by… we did succeed at the end. Read more about our Scooty travels in Filter Kaapi to Cappuccino: Madras’ Changing Food Scene.
The three years brushed past in a jiffy and soon it was time for our gang to split up, with some of us pursuing higher degrees, others finding jobs, and some settling into married life. Ms. G and I were fortunate enough to continue our education together, and that of course intensified our bond (Ms. G, can you even fathom that we have known each other for more than half our lives?). Life during our Master’s was very different from the previous three years. The shift from a girls’ college back into a co-ed environment was exciting; my grandmother was not too happy though because she was afraid that I would fall in love with some college dude. Little did she know that I had already set my eyes on a handsome hunk, outside the college. If you are expecting juicy details, I am sorry to disappoint you. All I can tell you is that you all know him as Mr. P :-D. This is where the ‘family’ bonding with Ms. S came in; she and Mr. P are cousins and though it all started a long long time ago, I am quite sure that she still agonizes over having me as a sister-in-law. I really don’t care at this point ;-).
My memories of the first few years of college will be incomplete without Ms. D, who is more a friend than a relative. We were mere acquaintances until I moved to Madras, but after that, we grew pretty close. We met almost every weekend and spent it together, either at my home or hers. Those weekends were filled with visits to the Spencer Plaza, midnight runs to a nearby ice cream parlor, some cooking experiments, and late-night gossip sessions. One of our favorite activities was to loiter around Pondy Bazar, a popular shopping area, known for the numerous street-side vendors selling jewelry, footwear, and clothes. One incident I remember to this day is Ms. D shopping for a pair of slippers. We walked up and down the pavements, trying on slippers from different vendors and finally, after at least 2-3 hours of walking and bargaining, she did NOT buy anything… and here Mr. P thinks I am the kanjoos (miser). The yummy chaat that we gobbled up at the end of a very unsuccessful shopping episode was probably the only thing that saved Ms. D from my wrath.
Compiling these memories has been very rewarding, but these only make up a part of my Madras memoirs. Like I said in the beginning, these wonderful memories cannot be contained in one post. So as I decide what to share next week, I would love to read about a city or cities that are close to your heart.
Until next time, cheers to a lovely weekend!