A City in Slumber

   I have recently developed this routine of roaming around the city after the stroke of midnight or just before it. We would take our scooters and coast through places, where at day time would be hellish traffic infested roads. The joy you will get from doing that is quite unbelievable. I’ve marked down a ride at Ranganathan street as a “thing I should do before I die”. You can hardly walk there at day time. But then there would be too many cops at night.

  On contrary to many people's belief, Chennai does have a nightlife, a nightlife of a different kind. Chennai’s night is made up of those tea vendors, ice cream vendors, cops and more cops.

This was first time we did the whole “roam at night” thing. We were filling petrol at kodambakkam. That was where we met our first characters of the night, “Danger guys”. Four guys with a funk and two Yamaha bikes. They were seemingly hiding the booze to save it from the policemen and were having an argument over something which seemed important from far away. I eavesdropped into their conversation. One of the “danger guys” was saying “Machaan ara(half) packet chips vechikinu enna da panna mudiyum” and the other guy said “porum machaan, nalla sarakku dhane? Smell varakkoodadhu”. “The Ara packet chips” What a title would that make? I couldn’t help but laugh. They then drove off with the usual *boom vroom vroom zoom* shtick.

   We then headed towards the Kodambakkam bridge. Few policemen were standing few meters before the bridge. They asked us for the papers of the vehicle, frisked us and then let us off.  A few kilometers later we were frisked again near Semmozhi poonga. Dude! It’s written in our face! We are agmark Pazhams. You can make panjamirtham out of us. Let me give you an example of a good policeman. The other day, we were coming back from the R.T.O beach in Thiruvamyur this and a Cop stopped us, saw our face and said “Go”. Now that is good judgment, isn’t it?

  We went off to Greams road, had some tea, then to marina, viewed the beach from the road, drove back home via West Mambalam and stopped near Pothys to have something. There was a guy selling ice cream. I absolutely wondered how many people other than ourselves would have bought it at that time. He must have had high hopes or must be in a desperate situation to sell stuff at such a time. This was how my first night ride panned out. There are a lot of subtle things about these nights with lots of stories.

   I was talking to one of my friends that I wanted to write something about “Night life” in Chennai. Immediately he asked “Hey! Are you going to write about pubs, booze and stuff like that?” That was the highlight. The very mention of the word nightlife and voila! Such things ring up people's minds. It is absolutely normal.

  The Other day we stopped at Ashok Pillar to have some tea and groundnuts. The person who sold the tea seemed 60-70 years old. It was 1am, mind you. The groundnut vendor looked old too. He puts up shop at 11th avenue Ashok Nagar at evenings and moves over to Ashok pillar at late nights. He doesn’t leave for home until he sells off all that he had that day. Imagine the plight of these two people. When people their age are in deep slumber they are wake to ensure that their family sleeps well.

   R.T.O beach at Thiruvamyur is quite unique. People stay there till 12 during weekdays and even much late than that during Saturdays, unlike other prominent beaches like Marina and Elliot’s. You can sit there and watch the waves hit the shore, let the feeling sink in and have warm talks with friends. Policemen are lodged there to guard that area. There is this picture in our mind that cops take bribes and often are unscrupulous, that is not totally true. The policemen patrolling that place surely must be in their 20’s, fresh from the vigorous training they have undergone at camps. Most of the cops at night are the young guys. They stay up all night! All these vendors and cops work their soul out and are hardly well paid.

  At the national conference organized by ICAI which was held recently, lunch was provided from "Hotel Saravana Bhavan". A person of North-East origin was taking the plates the students ate off of, dumped the leftover and washed the plates. He was assigned of this dirty job, poor soul. So much food was wasted. Why do people take food in their plate if they wouldn't be able to eat it? They were chasing away poor kids who were trying to sneak in during lunch.

  Someone at the end of the day has to do the dirty job and yet we fail to recognize whatever contribution they make.  I found these things very disturbing! This is the ugly part of the night life that most people fail to recognize. If you can, take that scooter/bike of yours, call up some friends and roam your city. See the people who work behind the scenes. A little “Tea nalla irukku na” compliment would give them that much more pleasure. All they need is a pat on the back. Try it.


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