May in Madras
May 17, 2016 § Leave a comment
When it rains in mid-summer, Madras sighs, half in relief, half in wont reminiscences. This rain, let out like old alcohol bought in another season, to celebrate another joyous eve, first strikes with the smell, a petrichor, a de javu, of a November day- breezy and clay lamps which struggle to remain lit. And when you taste it, at the tip of the tongue, the air is no more languid, but fresh, vigorous, and resplendent. The harsh light is kept out by a curtain of clouds, and the shadows longer as if the sun was further South, and the tempers of precarious Bay, waiting to blow out.
This is May, in Madras. You can call it Chennai if you want, but the ring of the word, without the harsh Che is more of this city- not the incessant cacophony of horns, but the amorous sea-breeze than reminds you of shores on which Occidental flags fluttered and gyrated to the tolling of ancient bells, and the braying of donkeys, diligently carrying laundry.
This city, in this month, when tempers flare, and you perspire without effort- as if you are born into success; and the smoke of camphor and agarbatti prevail in the narrow lanes, brings upon a languid hope. That tired, strained hope, which some find in a heavy meal after religious excesses. That wish after noon, for the school day to get over, or at best for the Maths teacher to disappear.
The waves in the beach of Madras, diligently crash, again and again- the troughs and tides, make their own pace, unhurried by the liners, or excited children, angry parents, hidden lovers, or drunk men caught in the nets of boats they may not own. The crests, shoved away, by the over-crowded port on which a canny English man once found a place to stretch his leg, and measured an empire that never set- creep in, year by year, till a time they shall swallow with a tumultuous crash, the old fort, and Santome.
The simmering heat is a memoir of those days- of history, and childhood, of myths, and veritable veshti-clad old-age. And year, on year, it comes again, and the thirst just becomes more, and more. Till an insatiable day, when nothing can be quenched, except the land that is the city, and her people, their boisterous pride and nine yards of contemptuous vanity.