Blog post by Apoorva Vinjamur
When one thinks of Madras as a city, different images pop up in one’s head. Some think we’re a bunch of extremely conservative beings who frown upon one who is not clad in a madisaar holding a cup of hot, steaming filter coffee. Others (read Bollywood) picture us as dark skinned, uncivilized people who speak the English language with an accent as undecipherable as Donald Trump’s sense of logic. Another bunch thinks we survive on thayir saadham and idly sambaar and know not of any other variety of culinary goodness.
I am here to tell you that all of them are right, in a way. You will definitely see a Mylapore maami in a madisaar holding her cup of filter coffee in the morning, reading the Hindu in the comfort of her aathu vaasal while listening to the strains of MS Subbalakshmi’s suprabatham. But you will also see the same maami rocking an LBD that evening at a posh city club with a pint of beer in hand.
Yes, we do refer to everyone as machaan or, worse, machi, and yes, a few of us do end up saying the YouYesYay, but it is a fact that we are the ones responsible for the prevalence of the English language in our country today, being at the forefront of the Anti-Hindi agitations all those years ago. If we, as a country, have an edge over China, it is because we all have a working knowledge of the English language, and for that, India, you’re welcome! Also, I cannot recall a single instance where the Superstar EVER said ‘mind it’ in any of his films. Thank you, Bollywood, for the stereotype. (NOT).
With respect to the food, thayir saadham FOR THE WIN! But, I wouldn’t mind a nice large pizza or a big bowl of mac n cheese. That being said, I will always, ALWAYS need thayir saadham to round off the meal. The variety of foods you find here will blow your mind, idly being the tip of the iceberg, albeit a delicious one.
Image Courtesy: www.buzzintown.com
All of that aside, let me now take the time to introduce you to the unique blend I have personally christened The Madras Cocktail- a culmination of life goals and experiences of yours truly, and a taste of everything that is Madras. The Madras Cocktail is, in essence, the experience derived from a day in the life of a young Mylapore Iyengar girl, as she tries bringing the underlying beauty of the city of Madras to the fore- a blend of the old and the new, the traditional and the modern, the culture and the madness.
The ideal setting for the Cocktail is a typical Margazhi Saturday (or any other holiday) morning, (for those unaccustomed to these terms, Margazhi is the 9th month of the Tamil calendar, coinciding with the English months of December and January), and the music season is on in full swing. Our Cocktail aficionado, wakes up early, being the traditional Iyengar girl she is, to bathe and dutifully recite the paasuram for the day. (The month of Margazhi has hymns assigned for each day, which are to be recited in every Iyengar household early in the morning).
After a breakfast of venn pongal, the staple Iyengar breakfast during Margazhi she settles down with her steaming dabra and tumbler of filter coffee and the Hindu mobile app, to glance through the headlines for the day. She then heads to the Parthasarathy temple, adorned in a dhaavani (half saree) for the morning archanai (Pooja) and prasadham.
Next stop, lunch, at one of the many canteens that pop up throughout the city in the various sabhas during the season. Today she opts for the traditional yelai saapadu at Narada Gana Sabha. She then heads home for a change of attire, opting for a comfortable pair of denim shorts and a tee, complete with sunglasses and a handbag. She then begins to coordinate with the rest of her group of friends before heading out to Satyam cinemas for a matinee show of the latest blockbuster to hit the screens. Another round of coffee is advisable at this point, at the Starbucks in the mall outside the multiplex.
It’s evening by now and our girl hits the Music Academy with her buddies for that TM Krishna concert she had to stand in lengthy queues to obtain passes for. The kutcheri is on in full swing while she is seen enjoying herself and softly humming along to the melody and nodding her head in appreciation, clad in a Kanchivaram pattu saree and traditional diamond earrings: a stark contrast to the previous week when she was head banging to the sound of the bass at a rock concert in her black tee and ripped jeans.
Post kutcheri, it is now time for her to head home and change into that dress she picked up a few days ago on one of her many shopping sprees, and to head out to the nearest nightclub to let her hair down, partying into the early hours of Sunday with her friends and her most trusted pint (or five) of cold, refreshing beer.
To me, this is Madras in a nutshell – a place where you will see youngsters hitting up kutcheris and clubs with equal gusto and interest, where the tradition has failed to give way to the modern and has complemented it beautifully instead, where there is a little bit for everyone out there. As someone who has tasted it, and loved it, I do strongly recommend the Madras Cocktail to anyone reading this. What is even better than the Cocktail itself is the aftertaste of memories it leaves you with. Give it a try. Trust me, you will not be disappointed!
For more TamBrahm-ness, visit our Facebook Page