I am one of those 30-year-olds who believes that things were better when I was growing up. I have a romanticized interpretation of the good old days. Like many, I want to remember the past for the lessons it taught me, not the scars it gave me. It adds more credibility to the life I lead, and the decisions I continue to take.
Many of the memories I recollect comprise mushy dribble. A tacky sequence of events that made no sense back then. In hindsight, it was as though the past had been engineered just to make me a wiser person. It’s a bunch of nonsense. A game of Russian roulette without any bullets.
But some of it feels warm and genuine. Unbroken and unedited. The month of December in the city of Chennai during the Nineties is one of those things.
It was when the city looked its finest. Every morning, like some Indian blue jay, it appeared to have taken a quick dip in running water. A lilac sun emerged to lovingly blow-dry its heart. The streets were quieter too. Distinct smells snaked through their veins, accompanied by soft music and known faces. Familiarity wasn’t a curse. It was a reward.
The city stayed half-awake until the last evening bus left its busiest nooks. Then, it turned pale and dreamy, awash with wood smoke – once again a sleepy damsel.
I was smitten. I was hers for the hair-combing – one streak of dying light at a time.
Chennai has changed over the years. A lot more than many of us, who were born, bred and fed in the city, want to deal with. We complain about it, at times. Whenever a new building pops up in the neighborhood. Or a fancy chain of stores decides to park its posterior here.
Still, every now and then – we see the beauty it once bore during the end of the year.
Every December, I wait for it.
Come back, ma chérie. My winter cherry.
wet mongrel would,
with his nose
his stray lover’s
(Photographs: Chennai – December 2014)