How do I introduce myself? I was born to a Sikh mother and a Punjabi father in Delhi. But I spent 20 years of my life in Chennai, a city 2,210 km away from my hometown and a stark cultural contrast. Is it normal for me to have a cultural crisis? Because I most definitely did. For the longest time, I didn't know which city I belonged to. The South Indians considered me a fair skinned Northie and my North Indian family fondly called me Madrasan. Which one of them was more racist? I'd never know. At 3, Chennai accepted me with open arms and it was the only home I ever knew. But to others, I was a skinny Punjabi kid who didn't belong in this environment. Hence began my journey of finding a home between the two cities I knew.
Everyone at home speaks in Hindi or Punjabi, but the rest of your world does not! Though English works literally everywhere, learning the local language is an invariable task that needs to be done. And it is for the greater good! Best embrace the city, because it surely does embrace you.
Everybody in your house still loves butter chicken and sarsoon ka saag, but the culture slowly makes its way into your life. You know you're officially a part of the city when you start having idli and vada for breakfast almost every day. The inner Tamilian needs to fester.
As much as I love my heritage, Punjabis can be a little... loud. South Indians on the other hand, despite what Bollywood movies would like you to believe are extremely quiet and reserved. Imagine my plight when I began attending Punjabi weddings, the music made my foot tap but my brain couldn't process why!
Hands down the best coffee you'll ever have! Filter coffee is a way of life and nothing can fix a broken heart, sour throat or an incurable bad mood better. Also, the process of mixing the coffee is extremely relaxing.
The Tamilian accent has been overused and ridiculed over and over again in movies, TV shows and that's frustrating! A city down South is so much more than what stereotypes make it out to be. I'll agree that I did at one point of my life receive reverse racism but then I grew up and realized no matter where I come from, this city's culture has become a part of my existence and there is nowhere else I'd rather be. And I'll always celebrate Pongal, regardless of which part of the world I am in. Because Chennai is a city, but Madras is an emotion.
I don't mean to be generic but when you grow up in Chennai, your priorities when it comes to 'chilling' are completely different. You'd rather go to house parties or host one, clubs and loud obnoxious places can never be a part of your daily routine.
I haven't ever denied it, but when I moved away, I realized that a part of me will always be a South Indian. The heart will crave filter coffee on rainy days, curd rice on sick night ins and I will always be homesick for freshly made banana chips. Also, I still use macha and anna way too often.
You embrace the fact that you will never see winters and honestly they scare the shit out of you, the monsoon is the closest you get to decent weather and even those days are sticky as hell! Summer is your middle name, all your white t-shirts get ruined instantaneously and nothing good comes out of hoarding cute sweaters.
The simplicity of South Indian cities becomes the norm so when you actually do end up visiting your hometown, you don't know how to deck up and look ostentatious anymore! 'Why can't you put on more make-up?' Because I think I look just fine.
Nothing can replace the serenity of sitting by sea and having warm bhajji, the thought still makes my mouth water. But if there is one thing I wish I could bring with me from Chennai, the sea would be it.