Chiming Chennai


The soft chant of the Suprabatham in the beautiful voice of MS Subbalakshmi awakens the city. In some neighbourhoods the peal of church bells and the call of the Muezzin wafts through the air.

Religion is a living breathing, integral part of this city. When there is a festival from Pongal to Varusha Pirappu, Thai Poosam and Adi Fridays, Krishna Janmashtami, Navaratri and the cold mornings of Margazhi, music too is a vital part of all these festivals.

DabaraChennai’s chimes begin with the clink of the dabbara tumbler–the two receptaclesin which coffee is served. The scraping sound of the long iron ladle on a deep iron wok placed on a iron stove and carted around in a push cart as the vendor roasts peanuts is a distinctive sound.


peanut seller





Another ting, ting, ting announces the presence of the Son papdi seller on his cart and cycle who plays a tune on the big glass jar in which he stores the precious white sweet sugar candy.son papdi seller


Music is a great integrating factor. Chennai is also the arena where the best performers—Carnatic and Hindustani classical music, popular numbers, folk arts, Western ensembles and quartets—all congregate from November to February.cutcheri A performance in one of the leading sabhas is the stamp of excellence on any performer. The sabhas and auditoriums, resound to the various notes, beats and rhythms of classical music.

English, French and German plays are staged regularly. The Tamizh drama scene is dominated by comedy. Serious drama in Tamizh is restricted to a handful of performers. The stalwarts of drama have all migrated to cinema and Kodambakkam-Vadapalani is the background for the most number of cinemas to be produced in India. Animation is a fledgling industry and along with IT is a great means of expressing creativity.

Chennai is the home of Bharathnatyam with Kalakshetra and many other excellent teachers with their schools imparting dance education and qualifying world class dancers. dancersA you walk on the streets of Mylapore or Gopalapuran, T Nagar or Adyar, you can hear the beat of the dance teachers stick as she does the Nattuvangam and the dancing bells of students going thaiyya thai! Dance is in the very graceful sway of the women of Chennai. Most of the girls from students, to vegetable sellers, housewives to IT pros wear the silver anklets on their feet and the tinkle of these bells add a great deal of life and colour to the streets of the city.

Religious discourses, study of Vedas and Sanskrit flourishes in this city giving it the spiritual ambience.taalam The sound of the cymbals accompanying the bhajan groups are an important part of the early morning scene in December. The drum beats accompany any procession be it political, weddings, ritual temple events and funerals.

The many radio, FM and TV channels reiterates how important the visual medium is in this city. There is a record number of newspapers and magazines in the regional and English language in the country.

Culture in this capital Chennai, is the very raison d’ etre of every citizen. The pulse of the people keeps perfect beat to the rhythm of life, of music, of tradition and modernity. Heritage is a respected word and even the cadences of the spoken language flow with a basic musical note.

The sound of reversing vehicles adds to the chimes of the city as do the double horns of taxi drivers and the pom pom of the klaxon by auto drivers. auto hornHorns can be deceptive for a deep bass sounding horn or a raucous blast can be from a teeny weeny two wheeler while the peep of a sophisticated horn could be a BMW! The sirens of ambulances punctuate the atmosphere day and night especially if you are in and around hospitals!

This is Chennai the city that chimes with different sounds!

About padmum

You could call me Dame Quixote! I tilt at windmills. I have an opinion on most matters. What I don't have, my husband Raju has in plenty. Writer and story teller, columnist and contributer of articles, blogs, poems, travelogues and essays to Chennai newspapers, national magazines and websites, I review and edit books for publishers and have specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. My other major interest used to be acting on Tamil and English stage, Indian cinema and TV. I am a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff and write about India's heritage, culture and traditions. I am interested in Vedanta nowadays. I am now an Armchair traveller/opinionator/busybody!
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6 Responses to Chiming Chennai

  1. Grannymar says:

    Sounds like a lively noisy place. Is Chennai ever silent?


  2. rummuser says:

    Having just spent a few days among and visiting dear ones there and having been driven around the metropolis I went down so many memory lanes that the kids wanted me to take a long vacation and park myself in Chennai for a few months. I may do just that come December.


  3. Vignesh Eswar says:

    Padmini, this is a lovely way to remember my hometown…:-)
    In hot and too sultry to stir afternoons, as street dogs lie defeated under parked cars and in deep Neem tree shade, their tongues lolling and rib sticking bellies panting in time to the pulse of the Sun, their ears twitch to the cry of the recycler calling out “Buddiii, Paepaaaar, paaalkavar” as he slowly pedals through the hushed neighborhood, asking for old bottles, newspapers, empty plastic milk satches and anything else that you may want to throw away but dont, knowing he will pay to take it away. His crusty sun blackened face contrasts the stark white of his veshti, now doubled up and tucked into his waist to allow for ventilation and unfrettered pedaling. His cry, effortlessly cutting through the silence, is rough, rusty like the scrap iron he often deals in, waking the lady of the house from her post parandial snooze.


    • padmum says:

      Awwww…that old man is gone…it is now boozing buddies on the ubiquitous fish cart…and no buddies or bottles please ….they are already on the buddy! Tthe rag picker does this job! But I loved the description especially of the dogs.


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