Cosmo City?


[Caution: Potential heated discussions ahead. No personal attacks please. As always, let us share our views in a civilised manner :-)]

So I was having a very interesting argument with Mochachilo the other day. It started with his post describing his recent trip to Chennai. My ears perked up the moment I heard the word ‘Chennai’! Now, like all cities, Chennai is unique in its own way. Unfortunately, it did not meet the author’s expectations, for reasons that were valid to him.

The die-hard-Chennai-ite that I am, I obviously took up the gauntlet and challenged some of the sweeping generalizations made against the city, which I felt were incorrect and biased.

Please note: I am certainly not here to attack my friend Kartikay 🙂 AND I am not here to defend Chennai by arrogant (and ignorant!) claims that it is heaven on earth.

I am merely going to state facts – from MY limited experience.

I love Chennai for its unique culture, the manageable pace of life, the distinctly gorgeous old-world-charm that is still preserved in places like Mylapore Tank.

I love all that just as much as I hate the muggy weather, the conniving auto drivers and politicians, and the pollution.

So there! I do not aspire to call Chennai the best city in the world or anything of the sort. Like my darling sister always says, ‘That-that person, that-that favourite city’!!

The crux of this blog post is this: Kartikay stated that considering it is a metro city, Chennai is not cosmopolitan.

This is what he says:

I was disappointed that Chennai, as a top-tier metropolitan city, has not exemplified itself as an example of cosmopolitanism. It’s not a melting pot of diverse sets of people, and cities which do have a knack of incubating diverse views, opinions and unconventional arts and sub-cultures.

Fair enough!

However, as someone who has lived most of her life in Chennai, I would like to throw some light on the place that I lived in, and still do.

This is a quiet residential area. In this typically old-fashioned and ‘non happening’ part of town, there is a famous Temple, a Church of historical significance, and a popular mosque, all within exactly 10 minutes walking distance from each other. Infact, right opposite the mosque is a temple.

Believe it or not, we wake up to the call of prayer from the mosque, and also hear the evening aarti at the temple. There has never been a religious problem – ever! Touch wood!

People understand Tamil, English and a bit of Hindi too. You don’t necessarily need to know Tamil to speak to auto-drivers. They are a bunch of thieves, and they fleece everyone irrespective of caste/colour or language!!

Yummy Chinese!!

Cinema theatres air all sorts of movies (some of the posters can make one cringe :roll:!).

Restaurants offer a wide variety of cuisine! You name it, you can find it!! From super-soft idlis and golden crisp masala dosai to dal makhani and gobi manchurian, its there for the asking!

We love both Sheela and Dhoni 😉

You walk into a shopping mall or even a roadside shop – and find people dressed in all sorts of clothes – ranging from saris, salwar-kameezes, skirts, shorts, jeans and tees, shopping, eating and making merry.

Amidst the excited chatter, one gets to hear not just Tamil, but also lots of Hindi and English.

There are shopping malls, libraries, architectural wonders, and more. There is a steady influx of Oriya students pursuing higher studies. Our dear Marwadi brethren have set up flourishing businesses (clothes, diamonds, etc) in the city. I have a Punjabi friend, whose entire family has been settled in Chennai for the last 2 generations, and plan to continue to do so! I have so many Mallu friends, who form a lovely part of my life!

(Edited to add:After reading LR’s comment)

And hey, we even built a damn temple for Khusboo!! 🙄

To quote LR: ‘Temple for Khusboo… Temple for Namita. Now we are more accommodating than any one could imagine 😆 :lol:’

I can go on and on, about what a melange Chennai is (rather, has always been). But that might be a biased picture too. So I will just stop with: Every city has its fair share of pros and cons. To focus only on the negatives and brand a city as ‘dull and boring’ is simply not correct.

One does not go to a city known for its temples and music seasons and focus only on the seeming lack of nightlife!!

This is like visiting Egypt and whining about ‘broken down buildings and the lack of a disco!’

So a statement that Chennai is ‘not happening’ or ‘not cosmopolitan’ – to me – sounds pretty loaded with prejudice, and to a small extent, arrogance too!

Chennai, like any other city, is famous for certain attributes. One learns to appreciate those, and not slam a culturally-rich city for lacking in nightclubs and not conversing in a language familiar to ‘you’!

Now, coming to the moot point here: Mochachilo’s statement that Chennai is NOT cosmopolitan and someone entering the city does not feel ‘at home’.
.
He has infact given a really wonderful definition of ‘cosmopolitan’.

If a city can make diverse sets of people ‘comfortable, almost as if they’re at home’, then that city is cosmopolitan. We can possibly extend this to ‘most people don’t feel marginalized’

Lovely!

Now, Going by that definition, I can say, while (I innocently assume!) ‘MOST’ people in Chennai DO NOT feel marginalised , I am not certain that ANY Indian city is truly cosmopolitan.

Friends and acquaintances of mine, who usually claim that Chennai is ‘not happening’ are usually looking for:
(1) Nightlife
(2) Booze
(3) Hindi being spoken commonly
(4) People wearing modern outfits.
.
But, my friends, Nightlife, booze and Hindi do not make a city cosmopolitan!!! There is much, much more!

So, what counts for being cosmopolitan? What makes one feel at home?

* Known language?

* Weather?

* Familiar attire?

* Familiar food?

* Friendliness of people?

Let’s take a look at what we claim to be cosmopolitan cities.

Our so-called uber-cool metro cities – for example – Delhi / Bangalore / Mumbai – WHY do we think they are so cosmopolitan and a ‘melting-pot of cultures’?

How much of South Indian culture do we see in a North Indian city?

How much Tamil can one hear in Delhi? If any, at all, for that matter!

Does most of Mumbai celebrate Onam in a huge way?

Do people enjoy Telugu movies and songs (er, the non-rain-non-gyrating-ones)?)in your city?

You might even think it sounds ridiculous! Yet, you consider your city to be cosmopolitan! This is like an old joke on America (I cannot remember the exact thing, for the life of me!), where America cannot look beyond itself, and thinks they ARE the world!

Despite our top tier metro cities being so straight-jacketed (unsure if that is the right word!), we proudly state that they are ‘cosmopolitan’.

However, any other city with the exact same characteristics (local dialect, unique weather, city-specific attire) or similar characteristics is NOT cosmopolitan?

Is that correct??

Or have we all become so self-obsessed that we think OUR city’s culture is THE culture of the whole of India, and the cities that do not ‘conform’ to our city are actually not cosmopolitan?!!

Those of us who CLAIM to live in a cosmopolitan city, let us think it over. Does our city really reflect a blend of cultures ACROSS India? If one thinks his/her city is a melting pot of cultures, I think it is time to think again!!!

As for Chennai, I do not claim that it is entirely cosmopolitan. I appreciate that a non-Tamil-speaking person might find it difficult at first (exactly the same way that a Tamilian who cannot understand Hindi, is bound to struggle in Mumbai or Delhi, until the time he/she learns the local language or finds people who speak English!).

If you asked me, India is simply too vast for any city to be truly cosmopolitan. Even the most ‘modern’ metro cities are steeped in a culture of their own. There is no way it is reflective of the COUNTRY.

I am not sure if a Tamilian who enters Karnataka or Delhi for the first time, feels ‘at home’ in that cosmopolitan city. Or is made to feel at home by friendly locals or any initiatives by the local government?!!

I am not certain that a Keralite visiting Calcutta (a metro city) would feel at home if he/she did not understand Bengali!

IMHO, Mumbai might score a notch above other metro cities, for sheer number of immigrants. However, we do have a Thackeray who defeat good intentions there!!

Therefore, I cannot confidently say that ANY Indian city scores high on being cosmopolitan.

It is up to the visitor/immigrant to fit into the place by learning the local language and adjusting to the local weather/attire/culture.

At the risk of sounding biased – I’d just say in Indian cities, it is immigrants/visitors who put in efforts to blend into the local culture. The local people do not necessarily take efforts or facilitate such blending. One just takes baby steps to try to fit in.

On the contrary, take a look at a city like London, for example. To be fair, I’d say THIS is a city that is cosmopolitan. You have people of diverse cultures living under the same roof, aka sky. They speak their own distinct language. ALL the major festivals of EVERY community are celebrated with pomp. If people celebrate Christmas, they also equally enjoy Chinese New Year and Diwali. People love croissants, sushi AND curry. There are churches and temples, functioning smoothly ALL the time. Everybody is eligible to vote. Believe it or not, some council offices even have a full-time Bengali translator for the non-English speaking immigrants. Touch wood. You find people of every race and colour walking about the streets.

Yes, there are problems. But absolutely nothing like the ones we find within India!!

So, dear readers, what do you think of your city? Is it truly cosmopolitan? Or do you think any particular Indian city is really cosmopolitan?

Is there any such city in our country where an ‘immigrant’ (I am not referring to the upper strata of society or people like expats) feels completely ‘at home’ and ‘not marginalised’?

Please share your views on an Indian city that you think is truly cosmopolitan?

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51 thoughts on “Cosmo City?

  1. Can I say that I hear this post and agree 100% to everything you say.
    🙂
    Will come back later to comment properly and in detail.
    Please do, Smitha! I would love to hear your viewpoints on this topic.

  2. hmmm Pal.. you got me thinking now and to add some more rumour and gossip.. 🙂 I did not see a gurudwara there he he he so me being punjabi wont like it there .. ok ok now that you are ready to kill me .. It was a joke .. jsut a joke
    Ha ha ha!!!! Which place does not have a Gurudwara? London or Chennai? Either way, I think if there were more Sikhs around, a Gurudwara will be built in no time. We do have beautiful Jain temples in Chennai 🙂
    Seriously now.. I dont think any of the cities in india can be called one as none of them have the so called diversity
    My thoughts exactly!!
    When i went ot chennai I felt hostile Obviously i had a Big turban and I was a proper sikh and I hated when i was called OYE SARDAR.. and it was not jsut in chennai the same happened in Delhi and Mumbai too.
    Understandable. That is not a nice feeling, but yes, sadly, it is common!
    All this diversity depends on what sort of company you are in, I got some lovely south indian friends when i was with them I could not hear any such sardar etc …
    True, it does depend a lot on the social circle one has too.
    So you are quite right, Though i am not sure whats the definition for a cosmopolitan! city, what all does it need to be to qualify for that badge.

    End of the day Its what one is comfortable with, to me chandigarh is much better then Chennai or Delhi and it is more happening , but thats because I know where to go and what to do .. If someone from outside visits the city they will find it boring.
    Ha ha. I think the same way about Chennai. Give me any other city with malls, pubs and stuff. I would run all the way back , because to me, Chennai is ‘home’!
    I have spent lots of time in Delhi and Mumbai and after the first 2 or 3 days We were finding problems of how to spend time it sounds weird but yes We got bored.. there is only so many times one can go to a night club during there stay etc ..
    Really? Wow, that is refreshing to hear 🙂
    Chennai too I was thoroughly bored as I did not have many friends at that time.
    Hmmm… I guess in a place like London, it is truly a visitor’s paradise. You don’t really NEED friends to show you the best parts of the city. Places like Chennai however, you do tend to get bored if you don’t have a proper guide.

      1. 🙂 he he he well they do say that you can find AAALLOO (Potatoe) and a SIKH anywhere and everywehre in the world…
        LOL!!
        Thanks LR next time i visit chennai i will make sure ot visit it ..
        Ha ha. LR should show you around the city 😉

  3. I’ve never lived in Chennai but had several extended trips there and I love that city – it’s got character and the people are warm and real!
    Awww thank you Corinne, that made me feel so happy 🙂

  4. I am a Chennai person! Though I lived out of the city for 12 years, I am back here now, from 1989!
    Same-pinch-no-back-pinch 😉 to the ‘Chennai person’ 🙂
    Yes, this city is unique. You can manage anything with just English words! Even the subziwala can speak some!
    Yes, Sandhya, I think so too.
    After the IT boom here, we see many Hindi speaking people and they are slowly blending with the local crowd, though they take their own time!
    Absolutely right. Chennai has certainly changed over the last decade. And yes, if people take more effort into ‘blending in’ with any new city, it gets easier.
    A sardar who comes for walking with us, is here for the past 5 years and just bought a flat last week, because he has started loving this city and feels comfortable now, even his children!
    Oh too much!!
    Your example of London is very right, we can never be like that! That that person, that that city…very right word, your sister’s!
    Bingo, Sandhya, we can never be like that. Sadly true. He he he, I will convey this to my sis 🙂
    Though I love Bangalore too, the feeling stays in my mind just for 3-4 days, then I want to come back to my Chennai!
    Though I felt the hostility when I visited Bangalore about 10 years ago, I am really eager to re-visit the city sometime, to meet all my blog-buddies 🙂 I think Blr is a lovely city.

  5. I can talk for myself, I dont visit a city to feel at home, Pals, really. The only place I feel at home is home and Delhi is where I consider my home is because thats where I grew up and thats where I spent about 30years of my life. So before heading out on a holiday or even zeroing in on a place one of the first things I check is what that city’s speciality is or what it will have to offer in terms of sightseeing and things like that and of course now after becoming a mother I check how kid-friendly it is. If I find what the city has to offer then I choose to go there.
    Hmmm… that is a nice way of looking at things. Sort of detached, yet involved!
    If its about moving into a new city then again I cant claim to feel at home on the very first day. I moved to the Gulf about 7 years back and it took me a long long time to settle down and make the place my domain. It takes time to adjust, accept and learn a city’s ways and set in. Now of course the place has grown on me and I’m pretty comfortable here.
    Yes, it does take time. Quite often, a long time!
    “It is up to the visitor/immigrant to fit into the place by learning the local language and adjusting to the local weather/attire/culture.” Exactly!
    Thanks, Deeps.
    As for me considering Delhi a cosmo city, I’d like to say it is cosmopolitan as it has people from every strata, every religion, every caste, every culture living here but it has its downside too like every other city. So liek you rightly said no city is truly cosmopolitan.
    I would have to disagree here, Deeps. We think Delhi is cosmopolitan because all the people who move into the city adapt by learning to converse in the local language and doing things that locals do. I doubt if the city embraces other cultures? I have only visited twice, and they were both flying visits. And I can tell you that I did not feel at home. I could not speak Hindi then, and I did find people being hostile. If I were to visit now, for example, I think I am more confident about my Hindi (despite all the uski-s and uska-s 😉 and i think it might be easier on me now. Plus, I have you 😉 (and other friends too) to help me around! So I think it really has to do more with ‘me’ or the ‘visitor’ taking efforts than the city taking efforts to make one feel ‘at home’.
    In fact I’ll just echo what you said beautifully- “India is simply too vast for any city to be truly cosmopolitan.”
    Amen to that!
    Dont know how relevant I have been to your post, just kept typing as the words flew 😀
    Aww, you’ve been very relevant, Deeps. You always are. A very sensible woman, you know that 🙂
    Have to say I just loved loved the post! Your love and passion for your city comes out crystal clear in the post 🙂
    Danke danke 🙂 Its not until moments like these that we actually realise how much we value our city 🙂

  6. It was surely an interesting and eye-opening conversation with you. Of course I hope we have more in the future!
    Ditto, Kartikay. Interesting would be an understatement 😉 I would love to hear what people have to say about Chennai and other Indian cities. It would certainly be an eye-opener to all of us. And a Huge THANK YOU, for shaking me out of my blogging-slumber!! And for taking all the criticism in the right spirit. Not many people can do that with the grace that you have displayed!!!

  7. Loved your post! very rational and your points are very valid !
    Thank you, Pix!
    On my first visit to the city in the late 1990s, I didn’t like it – maybe because we were there in peak summer!
    Chennai has evolved over the years, Pix. If you visit now, you would find it very different to what it was say, a decade ago.
    But, this time, my brief visit for my Visa, I liked what I saw and enjoyed myself as well!
    I’m happy to hear that 🙂
    Diversity is what we thrive on and with that in mind, Chennai is a beautiful city with lots of culture and fun as well! 🙂
    ‘Diversity is what we thrive on’ – Brilliantly said, Pix. Our country is so diverse, and that is what brings on the charm!!

  8. Back to comment, Pals.
    Hee hee, you came back 🙂
    As you say, most cities in India are not truly cosmopolitan. It takes a city like London to teach you how cosmo it can get.
    True, Smitha. I guess we are just a little lucky to have experienced a different way of life, from what we normally see in India.
    ‘But, my friends, Nightlife, booze and Hindi do not make a city cosmopolitan!!! There is much, much more!’ – Absolutely! There are so many factors that add to that ‘feel at home’ factor. For me, it is the friends, the general atmosphere, etc that makes me feel at home.
    Absolutely. Social circle does play a significant part. If we had more known or familiar people around, we do settle in easier!
    People expect cities to be exactly the place that they want it to be. Yes, Chennai is not Delhi, so it is stupid if we try to look for the same attributes or features in Chennai.
    Couldn’t agree more!
    And also, every city can be our own if we approach it with an open mind.
    I would say so too, Smitha. Having said that, I have to confess that I am quite biased against some Indian cities that I find way too harsh and fast-paced. But in time, I will have to learn to set aside my prejudices!!
    Loved loved this post, Pals.
    Aww thank you, Smith!

  9. I agree to whatever you said in the post, I have had some awesome time in Chennai http://prats.co.in/21/
    🙂
    But given my experience, I have lived in almost all major tier 1 cities in India. But however, I will also mention that when it comes to outsiders blending into the life Chennai is the most difficult or hostile. The language barrier is more difficult to bridge here than Bangalore Hyderabad or Mumbai.
    Sorry to hear that, Prats. I guess the language is more difficult simply because it is not similar to Hindi. Yet, I think I wouldn’t call Chennai ‘Hostile’. A Chennai-ite who moves to Delhi or Mumbai for example, will have to adapt to converse in Hindi, in order to settle in. So shouldn’t the same logic apply to people who come into Chennai? But yes, I appreciate that a ‘visitor’ might still feel an ‘outsider’ due to various reasons, one of them also being a well-informed social circle 😉
    I would call Chennai a culturally rich and happening city, a city with booming economy, a city with great infrastructure but its not a city where an outsider (even non-Indian, non-english speaker) can easily blend and and feel the part & belonging with it.
    Based on your personal experience, I think that is a rational analysis and judgement. I see where you are coming from. A Bff of mine came to Chennai post-marriage and she hated the place. While many others loved it. So yes, I guess it also varies from one individual to another!

    1. I don’t think the proximity of language to Hindi is a factor here… Telugu or Kannada are equally difficult or different from hindi but still its easier to adopt in bangalore or hyderabad… The reasons might be people the culture or history… its a tad more difficult to do in Chennai
      Ah! I think we’ll have to agree, to disagree here. Peace 🙂

  10. Nice points. Since I was witness to the debate at Kartikay’s so have not much to share here. Except the fact that the points have been out out well and rationally. Thoroughly enjoyable debate I must say.
    Thx Mr.Leopard! I’m eagerly looking forward to more people sharing their views on this!

  11. It is the people who has to embrace the city not the other way coz people makes the city. Most of them who crib that Chennai does not embrace them due to their own shortcomings:

    1. They are not ready to come out of their comfort zone.
    2. They have a rigid pre-conceived notion of what makes a city “happening” (the ones you have listed)
    3. Not looking beyond their conventional approach to life.
    4. Not making the “effort” to reach out.

    For those who are not aware Chennai Music Season, an event hosted every December–January is one of the world’s largest cultural events. Yes, read it right worlds largest cultural event.

    You will find Muslims speaking in Tamil why? Am talking about the original urdu speakers of the community. They embraced the cultural soul of the city.

    You will find Malayalis, Telugus blended well into the city that you won’t differentiate them from the Tamilians. You will find sardars, marwaris making an attempt to speak and blend.

    Ofcourse, there are cribbers who would want to the city to “adust” rather than them embracing the city.

    Each city has its own character , that makes the city vibrant and exclusive. In that way, Chennai has retained its character and it is for the visitors to understand it and make the first step to read it.

    On a lighter vein, hey we have even welcomed a Hindi speaking likes of Khushboo and branded an Idly in her name 😛 😉

    1. LOL! LR, we even built a damn temple for her 😉 LOL!
      Loved your comment, LR. Very rational and sensible. It really depends on how willing and open a person is, to embrace the local culture.
      I guess, that a potential immigrant will be more adjusting than a short-term-visitor.

    2. Comfort zones are for expensive mattresses!
      Absolutely 🙂
      Life is for finding adventures and accumulating stories. Have an open mind and a relaxed attitude and there is always fun to be had and things to be learned.
      So true, Posky. I’ve learned that rather late in life, but better late than never huh 🙂

  12. I am a Hyderabadi living in Delhi for 20 yrs. A place where South Indians stick together and support each other, before someone teases us about “idli-sambhar”.
    Lol 🙂
    But to be fair, I think things are changing a lot nowadays. With efforts such as SPIC MACAY, listening to a nice Carnatic concert in a park in Delhi is no longer a rarity. I enjoy the fact that when I force my friends to try out lunch at Andhra Bhavan, they actually come out smiling and satisfied.
    That is really nice to hear, Preeti!!
    I know, Chennai has not got its due. And having been to the city, I can vouch for its charm. But there’s small PR issue there I think. Especially the Music concert month in Chennai? I wish it got more popularity. Similarly, the language part of it. Most North Indians feel they cant live there because its all Tamil. Actually, its not that tough. Bad PR, like I said!
    You are absolutely right, Preeti. It certainly has got to do with utter lack of PR. We really should learn from cities like Kerala, who do an excellent job of promoting their positives.
    I LOVED your post, by the way. 🙂

  13. Pal , I feel the same about Kochi as you about Chennai . And I think people who doesn’t know Malayalam also manage some how with English , Tamil and Hindi . But I don’t think it is the same in the North Indian states . You really have to know hindi or English .
    I completely agree!!
    Once during the early days of marriage when we went to Delhi our suitcase was stolen in the train. hubby’s clothes were in it and we got down with Hubby in his Lungi . You should have seen how the rickshaw vale followed us 😀 😀
    Awww poor you 😦
    Banglore is really a cosmo . isn’t it ? I haven been to Hydrebad 😦
    I’ve heard so, Ash, but again, my cousins used to live there, and those days, there was some hostility to people from Tamil Nadu.

  14. I have never been to Chennai but have read a lot of posts from a Chennai lover and it just reminded me of all those posts…. Coming to this post… Its is absolutely wrong to comment on any city without knowing about it properly…
    I agree, Tan, but I guess we are all guilty of doing it at some point in time 🙂
    Also when we move to a new city its really important to be open and try and gel up with the people and cope up with the surroundings…
    That is very important. The more willing we are to adapt, the easier it becomes. But like Kartikay rightly said, a cosmopolitan city should make a visitor/immigrant feel at home. Sadly, most of our Indian cities fall behind.

  15. Good description. I have been there and I did not really like but I was there for just one day. I had difficulty even with English.
    Oh no!! I do hope you are more comfortable the next time you visit. Chennai has evolved a lot over the years, so I think you will see a marked difference.

  16. Loveee loveee loveee this post Pal! U hv said it all so beautifully and somebody’s remark on Blr sometime back made me write such a post abt Blr too 🙂
    Danke Swar! Have I read your post? Cd u pls send the link?

    All I know and live by is that every city has its own pros and cons, and only when we start accepting it and loving it for what it is, will we be able to live there happily!
    Very true, Swar. And in that respect, I think when we have a ‘long term’ or even ‘medium term’ plan to live in the city, then we are more willing to adjust. If its only a short visit, then it doesn’t matter too much, so we are probably more critical of the place.
    And for all the complaints I had about Hyderabad when we first landed here, it is so much my home away from home now 🙂
    Aww 🙂 My friends and relatives LOOOOVE Hyderabad. All we hear in the news is the Telangana debate, but the reviews I’ve heard from everyone I know (who has shifted to Hyd) are fantastic!!!

  17. We went to Chennai years and years back (when it was Madras) and had a real bad experience. Yeah we did not know Tamil and no matter how we tried people would not reply back when we spoke in English. Maybe as you said auto-drivers are just evil but they would laugh after they did not respond to us and then as we walked on talk to someone in English just to let us know that knew the language.
    As I said, those were bad couple of days.
    I loved the beaches though.

    1. Comfy, sorry to hear that.

      Chennai auto-drivers are a bunch of thieves and criminals. They treat everyone like sh!t. Not just you, even the locals have a tough time with auto-fellows. They spoil the image of the city!!!

      And like Preeti said above, the city unfortunately lacks from good PR!!

  18. Interesting …and yes i don’t think we can have a really cosmopolitan city in our country with so many filthy minds around….every city is known for fleecing the travelers …be it taxi n auto walas or otherwise .
    Thank you, Sangeeta. True, each city fleeces its visitors. Sadly.
    I visited Chennai recently and hated the posters , the politicians and the pollution , loved the food because i love south Indian cuisine . But i seriously felt the other cuisines are tempered a lot with curry patta n coconut as we found these suspects in rogan josh served in a fancy place:)
    Oh yes , I hate the posters too. Just too loud for my liking. LOL @ the ‘suspects in rogan josh’.
    I hated the crowd at T Nagar but loved the variety of things on display …so for me it is just like any other metro city in our country . Also , i do not go to a place to feel at home .
    Ditto, Sangeeta. I think one has to choose a non-peak time to visit places like T Nagar, so you don’t get jostled by the crowd. And yes, its the same as going to Linking road in Mumbai, at a really crowded time. One would hate (and love) both places equally!!

  19. I think homogenisation is what is mistakenly referred to as cosmpolitan these days – if we see Starbucks/Cafe Coffee Day around the block, youngsters clad in tight jeans and tees, people conversing in what is considered “cool” language, talking/texting on mobiles all the time… we feel “at home”.
    Very very true, Arundhati. What we ‘think’ is ‘cool’ is not really being ‘cosmopolitan’.
    Every city, not just in India but anywhere in the world, has something unique to offer. Paris, London, Rome, Venice, Zurich, Brussels, Sydney, Melbourne, SFO, Bombay, Madras, Delhi, Hyderabad – each is unique and beautiful. As one who loves to travel and take in the local culture, I love ALL of them.
    Absolutely!! Each city is unique and beautiful. I hate to say this, but we Indians are so racist. We criticize our other Indian cities much more than we would, a foreign city.

  20. oh there is a lot I have to say about this post….shall I write a post or comment considering I am doing a nablopomo I should write a post right 😉
    Lol! by the time I could reply to your comment, your Nablopomo post 1 has already been published 🙂
    will come back
    Will wait for you 🙂

  21. If I wore a hat, I’d take it off and say “Bravo!”.
    Thank you, thank you, Lakshmi!
    I was born and brought up in Chennai and there is no other place that I’d call home.
    Ditto 🙂
    Chennai has evolved into too cosmopolitan a city for my comfort.
    Hmmm.. now that is another aspect I’d never considered!!
    The only thing that makes it bearable is that the city also holds on tight to its heritage and cultural diversity- so you have December seasons AND rock shows, Sangamam AND Girish Karnard dramas, Cafe Coffee day and Nayar tea kadai.
    Isn’t that just lovely!!!!
    OK, booze does not flow freely here as in Hyderabad and Bengalooru, or so I hear, but I like that.
    Me too, me too. I’m sure we’d be called ‘old fashioned’ for that. 🙄
    Chennai grows on you with time. One way or the other. To some who want to find fault, it grows into loath. For others who want to like it, it becomes paradise.
    Absolutely, Laksh!
    To me, the latter.
    Can I simply say, me three 🙂

  22. Have never been to Chennai so enjoyed your post a lot 🙂
    I hope whenever you visit, you have a good time. I wouldn’t say ‘great’ as that would raise expectations 😉
    I love Bombay!
    Actually, I liked Bombay too, but felt it was just too fast-paced for me.
    Have been to London and totally agree with your points there. I was really surprised to see street signs in Bengali in some parts of the city. I wish all cities were accomodating that way.
    Seriously!!! Infact I would go to say, a Delhi-ite would feel more at home in London, than in Chennai. And similarly for a Chennai-ite, he/she would feel more comfortable and accepted in London than in Delhi. So much for ‘being cosmopolitan’ Ha ha ha 🙂

  23. ummmm…. stirred an hornet’s nest haven’t you?:)
    Well, I hope not 🙂
    chennai is as good or as bad as any other ‘cosmopolitan’ city. lack of disco nights or booze doesn’t make it any less glamorous..
    Exactly, Vidya. Chennai is just as good or bad as any other metro city!

  24. Exactly why I got all defensive when Vimmuuu posted on Trivandrum; to spite him, i did bad mouth chennai, for he kept comparing the both, but i think its each to his own fav city.
    Absolutely, Priya, each person has his/her fav city and it not fair on another city to be slammed because of the individual’s preferences.
    And I guess we much accept a place for what its known for, and not what you want it to be known for 😉
    Brilliantly said, Priya 🙂

    AWESOME article. I wish blogadda would pick this up! 🙂
    Ha ha, thank you, Priya. All credit goes to Kartikay for starting this topic and shaking me out of my slumber!!

    1. Grrrr….except for a teeny weeny mention of traffic, there isnt anything in my post comparing Trivandrum and Chennai!!!! Im staying away from commenting, but its difficult to control when such allegations are made ! Hmmpphhh !!!

  25. One cannot call Kolkata a metro even!! comparing with the development of Delhi/ Mumbai 🙂 And I am saying this being a Bong. As far cities go, I love Pune! and mostly because it is somewhere between metro and traditional small city.

  26. I have been waiting for somebody to write a full fledged post on Chennai !!! You made my day; no, weekend ! I miss Chennai so badly that, and Im not making this up, I had tears in my eyes when I watched the Semmozhi song recently.
    Awww… Vimmu, I get tears too, some songs just take us right back ‘HOME’ 😦
    Btw, I just googled your song and it was absolutely ‘stunning’…only did not like the ‘rap’ bit, I thought that was jarring.

    It might take me another two years; but I am definitely settling down in Chennai. I finally have my own flat there 😀 😀 😀
    Yay!!! Great!!! You have a flat there? Where? Let’s be neighbours 🙄
    “Uppitta thamizh mannae naan marakkamaatten” !!
    🙂 🙂

  27. Have been to Chennai once when I was only 17 years old. So don’t remember much except the fact that a lot of people don’t speak hindi. Of course, things would’ve changed a lot I’m assuming.
    Hmmm… things have changed a lot and every city has evolved – quite dramatically in some case – in the last decade.
    But I guess, being cosmopolitan doesn’t necessarily mean that all Indian languages would be heard, neither that all Indian festivals would be celebrated.
    Well, not ‘ALL’ languages/festivals, but the community should be open to encouraging things like that. If it is a closed group, unwilling to participate in other people’s festivals/etc then even if the city is fluent in Hindi and English (common languages), then I would not call it cosmo.
    Just that English and Hindi would be the most widely used language so that any visitor, Indian or foreign finds it comfortable enough.
    Quite true.
    On that front, I suppose Chennai does score low while Bombay of course scores very highly.
    Agreed, Rakesh. I have a longer reply in mind, will come back to write it 🙂

  28. Your love for Chennai truly comes out in this post. Many years ago I used to love Chennai – I had plans to study and settle down in that city, and even began to learn Tamil (the process involved watching a lot of Tamil movies!). But life had other plans for me and life in Chennai never materialised.
    Aww thank u, Ramya. You wanted to settle in Chennai? Wow!!
    But I think Bangalore is one place where one feel easily at home. I don’t want to call it cosmopolitan, but its a city where you can certainly feel at home. Most people (autowallahs, taxi drivers, shopkeepers etc) understand not only English, Hindi and Kannada, but sometimes, even Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.
    I’ve been to BLR once and loved it, but I guess settling down in a city takes a lot more effort. But yes, it really seems like BLR is a cosmopolitan city, and I am really happy to hear that 🙂
    You can watch movies in English, Hindi, all four south Indian languages, and sometimes even Marathi, apart from foreign language films. Every cuisine is available here – South Indian, North Indian, Continental, American, Asian – you name it, you’re likely to find it (my friends even discovered an exclusive Bihari restaurant!).
    Wow 🙂
    You see people wearing all sorts of cothes – ethnic wear as well as western wear, and being comfortable in it. Whether you walk around in a lungi or in shorts, you’re not going to feel out of place.
    Except women being in bars 😉 Just kidding!!!
    I also see lots of non-Kannada festivals being celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm here – Onam, Vishu, Holi, Dussera etc. And it has interesting stuff happening all the time – festivals/habbas on various occasions, book fairs, plays, music and dance festivals (with music and dance from across the country and the world), rock concerts, art exhibitions etc.
    That is EXACTLY what I mean by a city being cosmopolitan. That the city makes the effort to sort of absorb elements of its immigrants!!! BLR sounds like a fab place, Ramya!!!!
    And for those into that scene, it has very interesting pubs and clubs (though they shut way too early for my liking) and booze is freely available. Finally, its difficult to not like a city with that kind of weather.
    Sigh! I’ve heard so much about BLR weather 🙂
    Of course, Bangalore has its downsides too. I’ve had Tamil friends complaining of hostility every time the Kaveri issue comes up.
    I’ve heard of that from friends!!
    To be fair, Kannada friends have complained of the same when in Chennai.
    I bet!!
    So no city is perfect, really. It is just whatever works for each one. You sister couldn’t have put it better.
    Hee hee, thank you 🙂 I will definitely convey this to her 🙂
    P.S: So sorry about the super-long comment!
    Ramya, thank you for your ‘super long’ comment. This is exactly what I was looking for when I wrote the post. I wanted to know which Indian city one can truly call ‘cosmopolitan’ and where any stranger has a better chance of feeling at home. So it does seem like BLR is a great place to live in 🙂 Can’t wait to visit it myself.

  29. Wowww kalakkiteenga ponga 🙂 ..amazing write up and a very unassuming and nuetral view on Chennai.
    Romba danks 🙂

    Naanum pakka Chennaite at heart so I too feel very cheated when some people from North can only see the negatives of Chennai. There are soo many positives here which I feel one will learn as they start settling in. So I find it very unfair when people who have never lived here or even have friends/relatives here whom they visit make such degrading statements about Chennai.
    I completely agree. I feel bad too, when people are biased. When I hear ‘FACTS’ like how terrible our Auto-drivers are, then I don’t mind at all. That is the truth!!! But I don’t take prejudiced statements lying down 🙂
    While most of them are very nice and civilised when they talk to me abt Chennai (eventhough they dont like Chennai) they are some idiots who just needs to be retorted to rudely. There was this guy from Delhi who was so shocked to hear that I was from Chennai and said that(I quote here) “wow all people from Chennai are dark right. How can you be from Chennai when you are so fair”. If this is not a downright racist statement then I dont know what is!
    That is definitely racist. Like I always maintain, we Indians are one of the MOST racist people in the world!!! I have heard this comment very often too, about a couple of my relatives who are very ‘fair’. People are surprised that the ‘fair’ folks are from South India. That is not just racist, but utterly stupid.
    My motto is the same as your sister..Everyone has their own fav city..and its ok to not like my city or even hate it..But let’s all try to act in a civilised way when we atleast talk to a person who loves that city!!
    LOL, I’m going to tell her how popular her sentence is now 🙂
    Kudos for this post! Very well written 🙂
    Thank you SO much Harini!!!! And welcome to my blog 🙂

  30. I haven’t been to Chennai yet, but I have lived in quite a few cities in India. If one makes an effort to know the place and the people, then alllizzz weelll. otherwise nothing is well 😛
    Definitely, Supps. One makes an effort to find positives about the place. Negatives are more prominent 🙄

  31. I did my primary schooling in Chennai. Hindi was my second language in school. There were 2 kinds of music classes- western and Indian. Except chaat, I had eaten all kinds of food possible. I have watched non-Tamil movies there too.

    After I moved to Mumbai, I came to know that my cousins in Chennai started having a nightlife before me. They introduced me to late night partying and chatting in those days. They all had an active normal youth life full of friendships, relationships, parties and fun.

    Speaking Tamil is not cosmopolitan? Maybe. But at least the goons don’t beat you up for not speaking Tamil. People don’t reply that’s all. Why is that unfriendly?
    Love what you have said, CR. Absolutely love it.
    About London- this city has helped me grow in so many levels! Love it to bits!
    Can I just say ‘same pinch’ 🙂

  32. Chennai does have some rowdy elements who disturb law and order but still Chennai is better than Mumbai and Delhi, in terms of safety and ease of local language understanding.
    Absolutely, thank you for that, Blognostic 🙂 and welcome to my blog!

  33. hmm my friend who has recently shifted to Chennai said the same thing. She said it was like a “village”. You hardly see a girl wearing something other than Salwar. I havent been to Chennai many times but when I visited I noticed that I was like the only “species” wearing jeans. I could not spot a single girl who did look a bit modern.
    I have many friends from Chennai and most of them watch only Tamil.
    Maybe staying there for sometime might help us in seeing other aspects like the ones you mentioned.
    Sorry, Avada, that is quite a stereotyped image of Chennai. Or perhaps it was the locality in which you lived? Things have changed quite a bit, and you will be surprised whenever you next visit.

    1. Food was a major problem to us. You dont get rice for dinner? You have to manage with idli-dosa for dinner. There are not many choices available. You dont have street food or restaurants at every nook and corner of the city, like you do in other metropolitan cities.
      That is definitely not the case, Avada. Perhaps it was a stroke of bad luck. But most people in Chennai do eat rice at dinner. Or rotis. The street food that you see, isn’t really popular here. There are a couple of kaiyendhi bhavans 😉 (street stalls) that serve the MOST delicious hot bajjis. One in Adyar and the other in T.Nagar. I hope they are still around. The next time I am in Chennai, will certainly pay a visit. And I hope you do, too 🙂

  34. I have been warned against Chennai …even by chenanites ..have heard stories about auto walls .
    Autowallahs are terrible…cannot say ANYTHING in their favour 😦 However, about being ‘warned’ I have to say that we Indians always tend to put ourselves down in front of other people. We are the first ones to ‘warn’ foreigners about being fleeced. I don’t understand why we don’t take more pride in our country and ourselves….
    I am from Jammu and now living in bangalore from last 5 years ..was in pune for 2 years and hyd for 6 months … been to delhi and mumbai many times …so practically seen many aspects of all these cities .. and yes I do love London for its truely cosmo life ..
    Oh interesting..thats a lot of cities 🙂
    I like Bangalore for i can dress the way i like , walk around and live alone , even grab a beer at a pub alone , talk to strangers on the street without getting harrassed ..and no other indian city offfers that .
    really! From the comments on this post, seems like BLR scores much higher on being cosmopolitan than do other cities…
    Delhi and mumbai are least favourites for being too loud and fast paced.
    Ditto…
    Yes I would have loved to party till morning , but will that decide my choice of city i love to stay ..nopes. I still dont know Kanada ..and i still i can manage .
    Ha ha 🙂
    I dont discriminate people , but I was given biased (prefrential at time ) traetment in hydrabad because of being fair . and on that I would love to come to chennai some day ..
    That is quite ‘unfair’ (pun unintended), don’t you think? We have this Indian stigma attached to being ‘dark’!! Foreigners pay through their nose to get tanned 😉
    To all the people who want to be at home ..stay at home .. why go to chennai and expect something like Delhi there ..Visit DElhi to feel like being in Delhi ..
    Completely agree!!
    All those people who say chennai is hostile havenot seen north indian calling every south indian (or drk skinned ) MAdrasi / idli -sambhar /kaliya … You cannot make them realise that they are crossing the boundries of decency by such remarks .
    Absolutely, SATC! Absolutely. Very well said.

  35. Believe it or not, we wake up to the call of prayer from the mosque, and also hear the evening aarti at the temple. There has never been a religious problem – ever! Touch wood!
    Where in chennai was this??????

  36. Believe it or not, we wake up to the call of prayer from the mosque, and also hear the evening aarti at the temple. There has never been a religious problem – ever! Touch wood!

    Where was this in chennai?????

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