The heart stopping feeling of coming into Chennai by road, train or by air is a fantastic sensation. As adults it was a thanksgiving for coming home, a celebration of belonging and an expectation of great events that would happen in the next few days—weddings, birthdays and bonding with family and the city. As kids it was playing, eating, movies and the Marina Beach.
Whenever we travelled by train from Mumbai to Madras, as it was then called, we would eagerly look out of the window from Arakkonam onwards and identify all the stations one by one. This was the signal that we were one step closer to the Central Station where family would be waiting for us. Inevitably the train would grind to a halt just before Basin Bridge waiting for a signal and that was the most frustrating moment.
Many people would drag their innumerable pieces of luggage and bedding to the door convenient enough to get off first. This would create a huge corridor block as it were, and prevent any human being from budging out and also cause a lot of arguments and fights. Later on, when vestibule trains came into use, people with lighter pieces of luggage would go through the various coaches and reach the one next to the engine so that they would get out of the train closest to the exit of the platform. Once the whistle blew and the train began to move, we would eagerly look out for the platform and compete to be the first one to spot a familiar head of somebody who had come to receive us.
We were a family that got into a car and went off either to Pondicherry, Bangalore or deep south. Driving through the tunnel formed by tamarind trees was always a great pleasure. Sunguvarchatram, Eri kaatha Ramar, Chengelpet, Thirunindraoor were all plces that we looked forward to as it meant that we were soon going to be home. Today Sriperambadur is the spot where your nerves take over and you grit your teeth to navigate Porur! The never ending line of shops and more shops on the roads signal the fact that you have reached Chennai.
I have had the same feeling travelling on plane too. From the gradually descending plane, first comes the comforting thud of the wheels getting ready for landing and then you can spot Poonamalle and Porur lake. If the plane is coming from Anna Nagar side, other famous landmarks like the Cathedral and Raj Bhavan complex appear. I always crane my neck to catch a glimpse of my apartment complex, but it is not easy as all buildings look the same unless they are the huge glass ones. The city looks lovely especially at night with the blazing lights, huge posters and travelling traffic. When you come in from the sea, that is a great experience..a kind of false feeling that you are coming back to my city from alien places. The final landmark to be spotted is St Thomas Mount and then it is the runway. The touch down is accompanied with a flip of the stomach (not caused by the food) saying, ‘Home’