Mambalam – The word that conjures up the image of a frenzied shopping area for many, while to me, it is home engulfing me in a warm fuzzy blanket. A home I initially hated. Now, I dread the prospect of relocating. Some tremendous shift in perspective isn’t it? That shift happened unknowingly.
I spent a good part of my childhood in Besant Nagar and Adyar till my parents decided to buy a house in West Mambalam. Having grown up amidst wide roads with lush green canopy and a beautiful beach nearby, Mambalam seemed like a desert to me. The goodbye was so painful that I had become numb and mechanized for a good 6 months. Try saying goodbye to your best friends who knew you from kindergarten! Try saying good bye to loving neighbors who treated you as their own children! It was one difficult time for a child all of 10. Given that we planned to shift in the middle of a term, my parents found it difficult to secure an admission in any school in that area. I sincerely hoped their attempts failed so that I could continue being with my friends at school. Sadly, fate had different plans. I secured an admission in this all girls school which was located over Duraiswamy subway. We relocated from MG road to West Mambalam.
Life became difficult for me. I was surrounded just by girls who spoke a weird language – Marwari. The new school was run by a Jain trust, so the Marwari population. There were enough kids who did speak Tamil but it took me close to 6 months to get acquainted with them. I was looked upon like an alien as I predominantly spoke in English. Given that my bench mates from my previous school were from South Africa and Mumbai, I had become accustomed to speaking in English. Adding to the agony was the travel to school – narrow dusty roads filled with little shops. It was just shops shops shops everywhere.
As time passed I adapted. I made friends who made life bearable. The pain of being relocated and out of your comfort zone faded. In fact, thanks to these very friends – Dhivya & Lakshmi, I started loving the crowded streets of West Mambalam. I started loving the warm people I encountered every day. I started loving the eateries which served everything from the perfect filter Kaapi to delicious chaat items. I started loving the temples filled with Tam-Brahm population.
Bakya fast food, Vinayaka Chat, Satyanrayana temple, Bus stand pillayar temple, Venkatasewara Boli stall – all regular haunts became deary to me. I had started to love the very place I hate with all the might a 10 year old could muster. Mambalam had finally become my home.
Yes, the roads are crowded with shops and people alike, but that is what defines this area. The warmth of the people, ease of access to food & clothing shops, defined connectivity to other parts of the city – yes, we have it all.
In the mood for some authentic South India Milaga Bajji? We have Venkateshwara Boli stall. Try your luck racing the maamas and maamis of our area to eat Bajji in the evening. In the mood for delectable chaat items? Bakya and OSB it is! In fact Bakya fast food holds so much happy memories than my own house!
Want to listen to good Carnatic music? Try getting yourself a space to stand to watch Unnikrishnan/Sudha Ragunathan/ Kadri Gopalnath/Sikkil Gurucharan and many other established singers perform at Ayodhya Manpadam during the Raama Navami season.
Going abroad for a project? Shop for yummy Vadaams, Pickles, Rasam Paste/powder,Sambar paste/powder, all properly packed for your sojourn abroad.
Travelling to other part of the city? town? state? Ashok nagar bus stand, T Nagar bus stand, Ashok Nagar metro, Mambalam railway station – we have it all at the distance of a stone’s throw.
Shopping for wedding and festivals? Pothys, Nalli, Kumaran – I don’t even need to elaborate!
Medical emergency? We have a doctor in just about every street and SRM hospital is there as well.
I could go on and on writing about why my area is the best in spite of all shortcomings. Such has been the impact of the place, its culture and its warm inhabitants on me!
16 years since I made this place my home and now I don’t regret moving at all.
Note : Written based on CBC’s writing prompt!
PS. Given that I very much enjoyed writing this post, I’m now considering writing a second post on this very topic tracing the history of the area and elaborating the above discussed aspects.