It will soon be 3 years since I have moved to Bombay. I must admit that I love many things about this city, but there are many other things that I miss about the city I love most, the city where I grew up, the city that fills me with so much happiness simply at the mention of it’s name – Chennai!
This rainy, gloomyday I miss my City a lot more. As, life comes to a standstill in Chennai when the rains happen unlike Bombay and I am okay with the spirit of the city being less and all that jazz, but that is topic for another blog. Below are few of the things I miss about Chennai in Mumbai. It of course goes without saying that family and friends are on top of that list and today is going to be about little things, silly things and not emotional things.
1. Good Sambhaar
When you grow up in Chennai, you are used to good Sambhaar, everywhere. Bad Sambhaar would be an exception. You ate idlis in most places without mortal fear of bad Sambhaar. Sometimes you had exceptional Sambhaar at home, at someone’s wedding or at ID, but I don’t remember every having the horrific Sambhaar one gets in Mumbai.
When I landed in Mumbai, just to feel at home I ordered Idli Sambhaar and found out that Sambhaar can be bad too. The only time I had, a similar experience was in Bangalore. I decided to give the city a few more chances and discovered that there was only Matunga and that too Arya Bhavan where Sambhaar is tolerable.
The argument is that it in Mumbai Sambhaar is influenced by Udipi Sambhaar because Kannadigas run the restaurants, but Woodlands Drive in and Palm Grove in Chennai were also Udupi restaurants and the Sambhaar was different and tasty and not what you eat in most places in Mumbai.
Now I rely on Arya Bhavan, or erstwhile Surekha, my cook who graciously noted the recipe taught by my Mother -in – Law and many a craving is satiated with her cooking. Her skills also extend to Rasam, Mor Kozhambu, Paruppu Usuli, Variety Rice, Thenga Thoghaiyal. Yes I am lucky and I know it 😀
Amethyst & Eco Cafe.
I think 60% of at least 6 years of my life may have been spent in Amethyst and I miss the place terribly. The service, the food, the open space. When it moved from Jeypore Mahal I was sceptical and thought it would not be the same. But I love the new Amethyst as well. Two years my office was less than 500 metres from there. Bliss was me. I wondered whether it would be as lush as the earlier one, and I must confess that it has not dissapointed me.
I miss Eco Cafe, and I’m not that excited about the new one, though it looks impeccable like an English Lady’s boudoir. I miss the open space, and the verandah from the older one. Husband dearest of course hated the place because of the mosquitoes.
I miss the space, I miss the greenery, the ambience of no pretense and the sheer joy of hanging out aimlessly. Many a Sunday has been spent with my favorite book and food. There were others like me who would be there and all we shared was the acknowledgement. These places were also my window to gourmet food and world cuisine. Back in 2004, who knew what a galette was, leave alone order it, or brie or goat’s cheese. Even today, it is obvious their food stays as remarkable and exotic. Below is a picture of A quinoa & mango smoothie and a Blue Cheese Salad. I have not seen such generous helpings of blue cheese in any salad ever!!!
3. Wedding, Arangetram and Kutcheri invites.
In Mumbai, one never gets any of these invites, which is oh so common when you are in Chennai. A lot of these I took for granted and may have wrinkled my nose to attend them. Of course all of this is followed by food or at least snacks which is the obvious highlight. But I equally enjoy the process of dressing up for these occassions. I love wearing my sarees and nodding my head and people watching. I love the rustle of Kanjivarams and all the maamis talking about someone who I don’t know but it is neverthelss interesting
Recently I saw a board for Anvees Arangetram and I said sorry to God for all those Arangetrams I did not go to and prayed that I get invited to one soon. Anything that has Saapaad. I think I miss ogling at all those lovely sarees and graceful women with flowers in their hair. Mumbai has some of the worst sarees I have seen, unless of course you are shopping for designer wear. Even then the dismal Net Saree is ruling the roost.
4. Tamil Films & Songs
You cannot escape a Vijay or Surya film that releases in the city, you know it is coming, you will make plans to go and watch it, You know the popular songs as they are on high rotation on radio and there is so much buzz around . Now here, I have to make an effort to keep track. It is not coming to me, I have to go find it.
You don’t have the luxury of stumbling on an 80s Ilayaraja song in the afternoon, which makes you so happy and evokes happy memories in you. Watching Tamil Movies becomes an expedition in this city. There are just one or two shows and they run in theatres that are really far. I know it is probably smart, because those are tamilian pockets, but then it is such an effort that while I started off very enthusiastically I lost steam in the last few months. Now, I make peace with some marathon Sun TV watching sessions!
5. No Blouse pieces
I have saree blouses in every colour, thanks to the tradition of receiving blouse pieces them when you visit homes, during an auspicious occassion. As a lady you are always given kumkum, haldi a blouse piece, and vethalai pakku along with a fruit. I never thought that I would miss not getting this.
A ritual that would seem pretty alien, I gather in any other part of the country. But I was told once that, the thought behind it is that all women are goddesses, and in earlier more prosperous times, they would give sarees to women, but today the gesture of a blouse piece is also considered all right. My collection of blouses are not complaining and I don’t mind being perceived a goddess either.
7. The accent
So I am often judged for the phrases ” Just come off ya” or “Do it off”. Sometimes I may say – “You saw that-unh? , You heard – unh? . While I do know it is not right English, in Chennai it is perfectly cool to speak like that. In fact the hep girls talk like that. It is a Chennai phenomenon, and after not being judged for about 30 years on that, it is a great unlearning that I must undergo, and I hate that I have to do that! I just want to “Ignore it off ya” !
8. Rose Milk
Everytime I crave rose milk, I am told that it is simply Rooh Afza mixed in Milk. But it is not! I firmly believe that Rose milk’s Rose Essence is some different concoction. I dont know what it is, but it is definitely magical.
These little things are silly, and I will find them if I look hard and long enough in Mumbai. However, it’s not the same in this city, as it is in mine. All of the above are things that I took for granted and probably mocked or scorned in my own time. But when I say I miss Chennai, I miss all of these little things. The list is definitely incomplete and longer, but that’s it folks for today. For now, I am craving Bina’s Home Made Rose Ice Cream, which one gets in Dakshinayan in Juhu. This is the only item that comes close to tasting like Rose Milk.