“It’s not necessary to go far and wide. I mean, you can really find exciting and inspiring things within your hometown.”
Chennai 600017. Thyagaraya Nagar.
A part of the Mambalam village (no, I am serious. That is how it is described in official documents of the Chennai Corporation) this is the ultimate shopping destination and a place filled with energetic bustling shoppers, irate commoners and busy shopkeepers – that is how most people think of Thyagaraya Nagar.
I am not going to deny the above but I have something more to add.
Before I began this post, I asked a few friends to name the top five things that came to their mind when they thought of T. Nagar. I have collated their answers and given the most popular set here.
Top five things that come to your mind when you think of T. Nagar
- Ranganathan Street and the shopping centres located in and around it.
- The famous TTD temple on Venkatnarayana Road
- North Usman Road and the flyover. (This really was an option. Beats me, though!)
- The various parks (two of the top contenders being Panagal Park and Natesan Park) and eateries ranging from five star restaurants to ‘chat food’ shops to bustling roadside stalls
- Sir Thayagaraya Road
Omitting the brand / name specific options that people came up with, these are the places many associated with the area called T. Nagar. But the T. Nagar I know is all this and more. I have always been a Chennaite, and I have not called any other place ‘home’. Having lived in and around the connecting point between Chennai 600017 and 600033 (West Mambalam), I have never looked at T. Nagar the way outsiders would do.
Being this close to one of the major shopping hubs of the city has not made me like shopping, but I have grown to learn about the days when I can shop relatively easier than I would in the other days. Growing up near the major junction that sees heavier traffic than other areas mostly from inside and sometimes outside the city, I have grown to like the Tuesdays that promise a slower, duller day and freer roads.
I have used the subways by foot more than by vehicles, (Yes, I am talking about Duraiswamy Subway – the lifeline connector between T.Nagar and areas like West Mambalam and Ashok Nagar. I really have walked down it almost double the times I have actually ridden in it), I have rarely hopped onto buses in their rightful place in the huge terminus and I use Natesan Street (yeah the poor, overshadowed cousin, ahem, parallel street to Ranganathan Street) more than I would use the shopping Mecca of Chennai.
I would probably be the worst person to be chosen to write a pamphlet for advertising T. Nagar – not because I don’t find things to talk about, but because I like a lot of things about it. T. Nagar is not just any area. It is a lifeline, an emotion, a place where I am calm amidst the chaos, strong against the torrential crowd (on an aside, I really need to be – have you ever tried walking in the Diwali shopping crowds of Ranganathan Street? Then you will redefine the phrase ‘I have been swept off my feet’. Never judge the girls from T.Nagar when we say we have been swept off our feet too many times to count. It is a livelihood issue you know, and not even remotely connected to anything romantic).
There is no single strong memory, there are plenty, most of them good, but all of them surely fun and in retrospection, have helped in moulding me into the person I am right now. Well, that sounded clichéd, but like all life experiences, those that this place has given me have also altered at least parts of my being in some ways.
But no matter how much I fondly complain about Chennai 17, the sibling like relationship I share with it ensures that I would never take anyone else complaining about it lightly. Most of my memories so far are centred on this place and the many unique things it has to offer. It caters to all my needs and it is the only place I will truly ever be comfortable in.
When outsiders are busy visiting the famous TTD, I stand and watch the crowds from the calmer, lesser known Sringeri Mutt. When others are busy trying to find parking space close to Ranganathan Street, I mostly walk from home or know one of the many side streets, the residential areas where parking is an option. When many others limit themselves to the hustling part of T. Nagar, I have grown up enjoying the tree lined shady avenues that would give other popular ‘calm areas’ of the city a run for their money.
T. Nagar was shoppers’ paradise before the other malls became cool. T. Nagar was the hub of inter city and interstate buses before other pit stops cropped up as per convenience. It is the perfect blend of the high and mighty to the in and happening and everything in between.
Of the many things I admire it for, Chennai – 600017 will stand out for one thing predominantly. T.Nagar has an almost equal ratio of floating and permanent residents. Very few other areas have such an eclectic mix of cultures and people. Most of its people are those who have come here (from as far as Bihar and Assam – sometimes even other countries) for their jobs, existing side by side with people who have been here for generations and who probably had the streets here named after their forefathers.
Enriching my love saga on T.Nagar with five lesser known (okay, okay, not really ‘lesser known’ if you have the patience to open Wikipedia) facts about my favourite area!
- T. Nagar was constructed between 1923 and 1925 by the Madras Presidency government of the Raja of Panagal as a part of town planning activities initiated according to the Madras Town Planning Act of 1920. The town was named after Justice Party leader Sir P. Theagaraya Chetty. The streets, parks and localities in the new neighbourhood were named after important officials in the provincial government.
- T. Nagar is the Commercial Capital of the City pushing back Parrys Corner, the centre of the city. Pondy Bazaar serves as the Satellite commercial hub for T. Nagar located around the Thyagaraya Road.
- It also houses one of the oldest private lending libraries in the city, ‘Raviraj Lending Library’ on Usman Road.
- The first bank of the locality was opened in 1935, followed by a second one, the Indian Bank, in 1937.
- The reason behind the naming of Pondy Bazaar still remains controversial. According to one version, Devaraj Mudaliar of Pondicherry opened 10 shops on Sir Thyagaraya Road and started calling it Pondy Bazaar. Madras historian S. Muthiah, in his book Madras Rediscovered, claims that the area was originally known as Soundarapandia Bazaar, which the government retained without changing
All being said and done, (the melancholic ‘life may take me anywhere’ lament apart) would I recommend living in T. Nagar? Yes, only if you could learn to appreciate its finer qualities instead of constantly cribbing about all the factors that irritate you. And there are an alarming number of people who do this.
Would I really grow to love any other place in the city as much as I love this place? Probably never, since the love hate relationship I share with this area is so deep and ingrained in every iota of my being, (which is a considerable eyeful).
Would I appreciate T.Nagar in its entirety? Not to mention the fact that I am not completely blinded and delusional, I will be the person who finds faults with it and yet justifies every fault I really do come up with. After all, if that isn’t love, what is? *cue a dramatic sigh, rapid batting eyelids and ARR BGM*
*strike that* *90’s ARR BGM*
*sniffs and wipes away imaginary tear*
I feel like this is the best essay I have ever written under the title ‘My Home’ (Adha thaan title la suzhichu suzhichu Latin la ezhudirukken – and statistics say an interesting title will bring visitors who click the link, only to open, read the first line of the content and vow never to return. Statistics published side by side say that using a language you know nothing about can never result in anything good and may even lead to one being termed as ‘scene party’ and ‘Peteru’ among other unflattering names). But I have risked both these only to talk about my love of T.Nagar!
“How strange it is to view a town you grew up in, not in wonderment through the eyes of youth, but with the eyes of a historian on the way things were.”
― Marvin Allan Williams
Enga ooru madras… Adhula en veedu T.Nagar! Sorgame Endraalum…