(Neck-deep in the real world, I’d been ignoring this blog for some time. Now, to get back into the swing of things, let’s try today’s [yesterday’s now] Daily Prompt: Impression.)
I did not visit Chennai until I was already an adult—we in the Kongu region are secretly Coimbatore supremacists—and when I finally did, the first impression was a sight to behold. I’m not kidding.
I was in an MTC bus on the Gemini Bridge, and below us in the Nungambakkam High Road there was a commotion. Traffic couldn’t move forward for who-knows-what reason, and within minutes, there was a huge traffic jam with cars and bikes and autos and buses choking up the road even as more and more vehicles continue to join from behind. The cacophony of exasperated horns that rise up in the air, on that weekday morning, sounded like curses. Sure enough it was just another traffic jam, except I was fresh in from a godforsaken village in Tiruppur district and I was struck by the sight utterly. Who are all these people? Where are they going? I had read Chennai is home to eight million human beings, of course, and tried to wrap my head around the fact that nearly 30000 people coexist here in a square kilometer land. But intellectual comprehension is one thing, witnessing it for real is quite another. (The population density of our village where I come from is a 1000 times lesser than that of Chennai.)
As India industrializes, the rural population migrates to urban areas for education and employment opportunities. It is obvious that this migration is not merely a shifting of living spaces by the people but a move from a traditional agrarian economy where feudal systems wield considerable authority to a modern industrial economy where the individual depends on democratic institutions to work well. And Tamil Nadu is rapidly urbanizing even outside the metropolis of Chennai—it may not be long before we had a larger urban population than the rural one in Tamil Nadu—but that doesn’t stop Chennai from attracting so many young people from the remotest corners of the state. Often they are the best of their generation. Often they leave behind a certain stability of the rural life. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that the future of our republic itself depends on these young men and women honking in frustration in the Nungambakkam High Road and what they do with their lives individually and collectively.
Finally the blockade that held up the traffic seemed to have been cleared and the sea of vehicles started to move slowly. Watching it from the above, it was like a giant wave advancing towards the coast picking up speed. It was hard not to fall for Chennai right then.