Chennai is a city, Madras is an emotion. Or so goes the popular refrain. But what does it mean? How does a significant geographical area of 8 million diverse people goes from a city to an emotion? It is not for me—an outsider—to define what Madras is (if at all that is possible), but by virtue of having lived here for years I think I have come to recognize certain moments when Madras reveals itself.
October 14, 2017. 1530 hrs. R Ashwin is getting ready to bowl in the final session of Day 1 against Tripura at Chepauk. Ashwin had been languishing at mid off thus far while Washington Sundar was on fire after Tea break getting two wickets. Ashwin bowls a quick one first up and the batsman defends.
It is Saturday and the entry is free to the ground. The weather is perfect too with the sun staying behind the clouds for the most part. Only about 500 people (not in picture) watch the proceedings, but those who watch have invested much in the game; the kind that is responsible for the adage #KnowledgeableChennaiCrowd. No one is happy with the ease with which Tripura batsmen have played Ashwin so far. There are lots of uneasy shuffling in the crowd. When the food guy tries to sell vegetable biriyani to one of the unhappy men in the crowd, he politely refuses. ‘Innaikku purattasi sanikkezhamai,’ he says. And the food guy immediately understands that the unhappy man is fasting and moves on.
There we go. A Madras Moment.
A Madras Moment is not something that will not happen anywhere else, it is merely something that feels appropriate in a Madras setting.
Ashwin’s next ball is wide of off stump. The batsman easily pushes it to deep cover and runs a quick single. More uneasy shuffling in the crowd.