For a lot of reasons, I’ve spent the better part of the last 2 months in Madras. Its been just brilliant. I think I’ve done just about everything but shout from my rooftop and proclaim my love for this city. With a lot of time on my hands, I’ve re-acquitanted myself with this place.
December, is by far the best time to be in Madras. For one, the sun is not out in its full vigor everyday! Surprisingly, this year, the temperature is low enough to even put Madras on the radar of places that truly have a winter 🙂 For another, the music season has kickstarted. With the number of sabhas and performers increasing by leaps and bounds, the choice one has is tremendous. Madras is at its cultural best at this time of the year.
I’m not a die-hard fan of carnatic music. But I can enjoy a 3 hour concert without feeling lost or stumped. I have a few artists that I follow or rather know that I like for whatever reasons. What really draws me to a concert is not just the music but also the crowd and the ambience. I can sit in one of the sabhas and watch people around me all day. This is where the quintessential Tam Brahm crowd meets. The Ambi maamas and the Raajam maamis talk about everything ranging from weather to the latest soap to the performer’s ensemble to what raaga they think must be sung that day to the pallavi and neraval at the previous day’s concert to which artist they think has the most potential to which would the hottest kutcheri of the season!
Another hot favorite is the tiffin menu in various sabhas! The keera vadas and carrot halwas get as much publicity as the performers themselves. When I was too young to attend kutcheris, my grandfather would still take to me to Music Academy at least once every season to snack at the canteen!! I’ve actually seen happening social gatherings at sabha canteens that run their own show irrespective of the artist playing! Its not just the food that draws people to these canteens, its also the ambience. I’ve always associated these places with pipping hot coffee and vada and dosa and bare-chested waiters in worn out, yellowing veshtis and poonal. They always yell their orders to the kitchen and call any man “maama” and any woman “maami.” The girls are always referred to as “endi ma, kozhandha” and the boys, very predictably, “ambi.” More recently, the waiters have uniforms, and the canteens look more hygienic, but the feel remains untouched.
This is again one of those things that only Madras can offer to you!
PS: the inspiration for this post came from the vazhapoo vada and carrot halwa I had at Vani Mahal today!