It is my fourth month in Chennai and I hope that it deems me fit to write about Chennai or rather the incidents I’ve encountered here. I write as I sit with my t-shirt stuck to the skin from this heat. It is no wonder that Chennai is synonymous to heat with blatantly three kinds of weather: hot, hotter, hottest. You take a shower, return to the room only to find that “before-shower” and “after-shower” makes no difference apart from some aspects like odor, this that which emphatically is short lived. Which also explains why my friend has a ledge full of Axe, Nivea Deodorants and nameless other stuff with Boro Plus squirreled away at the back because, um, prestige. But dear friend, the Boro Plus is precisely why everyone around you has not sporadically swiveled down to unconsciousness. Thanks, boro.
This brings to me to my first MTC ride. Despite sage words of grown-up advice from my mother (who lived in Chennai for 9 years; that gave her a million reasons to appreciate Coimbatore and a million more to counsel me not travel by MTC) and a-good-for-nothing Harey Baaprey (a close friend of mine who underwent innocuous incineration from, yes you’re right, Chennai heat for the past 18 years). The one-lined advice she gave me when I moved here was: Most places you go will be air-conditioned but don’t take the MTC. She is a big fan of Kamal Haasan explains why she talks like that, no? No correlation only. So, given the sudden spurts of daredeviltry that is secreted (which I am pretty sure is more than my melatonin secretion), I decided to take 21G to Tambaram that is apparently 20 kms from my place.
A tiny little voice whispered, okay not like tiny little voice but more like Mani Rathnam movie normal voice that said: “hey, this is not Coimbatore, you better take an Uber or maybe even the local train.” But:
The bus was flooding, as I knew it would be but believed otherwise. I didn’t have to find a place to stand but the crowd crusaded me to my rightful one-foot property to hang on. And hang on, you have to otherwise you’ll be that Vadivelu who took flight from the centre of bus bursting through the glass for that one sudden break. Mind you, the buses here move forward on sudden breaks and expletives. The conductor sat in his single-seat asking everyone from all the extremities of the bus to pass on money for the ticket while hollering from his throne “ thallu ma, munnadi po, munnadi po ma” (Bad translation 1: move, lady. Go forward*2)
“yov, ticket eduthiya nee? Enga pora? Enna change illaya? Naan enna inga bank-ah vechikinna unkaandhirken?” (Bad translation 2: That man over there, did you buy the ticket yet? Where are you going? Don’t you have change? Do you think I’m sitting here running a bank?) He motioned his hands and squiggled his eyebrows weirdly at me. What was he doing? So the lady standing next to me said: “he is asking you where you’re going and to get the ticket.”
Oh. Sign language for conductors.
I said Tambaram West and passed on my 50 rupee note. It came back with a 27 rupee ticket and a 20 rupee note for the balance. 3 rupees gone.
The lady standing next to me, with a yellow cloth bag who unquestionably forgot her Boro Plus that day said, “ipdi dhan indha **** sambaadhikudhunga, bus vechirkadhu idhu, change konduvara vendiyadhu dhane. Namma uyira vaanga vendiyadhu.” (Bad translation 3: This is how these **** earn money by taking our balances. They are the ones running the bus, they should know to bring enough change. Taking our lives instead.) Meanwhile, her sans-Boro Plus existence was taking my life. I turned the other way and asked a middle-aged man how many stops until Tambaram, he replied with a scoff (clearly indicating that I have to suffer this heat while standing and that too next to that lady) that the ETA was at least an hour.
Some buses in Coimbatore used to play songs that you could you listen to as the sweet, cold breeze swept across the face. But nothing in these MTCs. Just external forces making an instrumental piece of its own with the horns, the metro rail whizzing above, an occasional drone of the airplanes and the conductor chirping in for a loud rap now and then. In a way, that is better I guess. Just imagine Kalayana Vayasu playing and the conductor yelling for tickets in the background
“Nekku ippo kalayana vayasu dhan vandhuduthu di-
-Ada thallu ma, vandhu maadu maadri
Meet pannava, illa wait pannava-
-Change illa. Guindy, Gunidy. Erangu
Ava Munnala Nikiran / Ava Kannala Sokkuran
Naan Thannala Sikkuren / Pinnala Suthuren
Unnala Savuren” (basically me in the Chennai heat but whatever)
You get what I am trying to put out here no?
2000 years later, one punyavaan told me he’d be getting down in a couple of stops but I can shift into his seat since he’d be getting up then. After a deep sigh from standing too much, I sat and wiped off the grease from holding to the support poles too hard and too long then I took out my bottle to have a sip of water. Who knew that’d be the last time I’d see my water bottle? A new boarder asked me if they could have a sip too and someone else behind them and someone else behind them and someone else… And in two minutes as we reached Meenambakam, I lost sight of my bottle. I told the conductor who came strutting after his respite that I’d misplaced my bottle in this bus.
He said “enna oorukku pudhusa?” and left. (Bad translation 4: New to this place?) —— (1)
Writing a letter to whomever the current CM of Tamil Nadu is, to implement a “Principles of Logic” class. Where is the logic in (1)? Why does what I ask and what they answer not correlate? Is it just me who cannot make out what they reply to me or is it them who cannot make out what I am saying to them? #WorldProblems.
After what seemed like a long ride through hell (weather-wise), I got down at Tambaram with a vow to never take an MTC again.
I called my aunt and said “I’ve reached Tambaram, what now?”
Aunt: Okay, now take 51T and 3 stops from there you’ll reach home.
Me: Please send uncle.