Saturday, October 17, 2009

Life in a Metro

The cell phone beside my pillow goes beep..beep..beep. It’s 6:40 am and I roll myself out of bed and glance at the bathroom door. My roommate was still enjoying her one hour bath. She steps out at 6:55, ten minutes late of her allotted time slot. I am out in 15 mins and another of my sleepy roommates slouch in to claim her turn. I am ready for office by 7:30 and go downstairs where breakfast stands ready in tall steel utensils. It’s the pongal day and I groan as I open the lid of a vessel containing the gooey white dish. In no mood for heroism, I conveniently skip breakfast and settle for tea alone. Soon I am headed towards the bus stop where I am joined by several serious looking people. It is not hard to spot an IT employee in Chennai. They invariably look nonchalant, with tags around their necks, Tupperware lunch bags in their hands and earphones plugged in all the time. A huge bus transports it’s “precious cargo” to the far flung offices in the suburbs of Chennai. Nine hours roll by, punctuated with breaks and trips to the washroom. At the end of the day I find myself in another bus which takes me back to the hostel where my primary duties are taking a bath, doing the laundry, eating and ringing up my folks.

I still remember alighting at Chennai central last September. The huge crowd swept my parents and me towards the main exit and out of the grand building of the railway station that features in almost all Malayalam movies based in Chennai. An A1 bus took us to Thiruvanmiyur where we could see the neon lights of Tidel Park which marked the beginning of the Old Mahabalipuram Road a.k.a the IT corridor.

After three days of induction we were transported to Siruseri in the outskirts of the city for the soft skill training. A week later we found ourselves reporting at ASV Suntech Park where we spent almost 2 months in training. The independent stage of life revolved round ASV and the hostel in Adayar.

Being away from home for the first time in life I was bound to be homesick. I was lucky to find myself amidst people from my home state in hostel. When our tastebuds revolted against the insipid hostel food we find refuge in the Malayali restaurants like Kumarakom, Tharavad or Naalukettu where the avial, buttermilk, sambhar, and thenga chammanthi and the Kerala special red rice tasted like ambrosia.

Hearing the familiar sound of one’s mother tongue in a strange land is something anyone would enjoy. Such is my joy when I come across one of the many on-exile-for-IT’s sake Malayali on the bus, at office, at the supermarket or at church. This is exactly why my favorite place in Chennai happens to be the SanThome Cathedral Basilica in Mylapore.

The 10:30 Mass every Sunday creates a small Kerala in Chennai. Young men and women from my home state gather for worship and social interaction. Infact the buses headed to SanThome at that hour would invariably have guys and girls chattering rapidly in all the dialects right from the Kannur to Thiruvananthapuram. One can find shopping bags with names of places like Adimali and Kuravilangad printed in Malayalam which certifies that you are in the company of a Malayali. The FM radios in Chennai fail to cater to homesick Malayalis so the Malayalam Mass at Santhome Church is a musical treat. Apart from these reasons the church is just the place where one can be at peace and reflect on the otherwise mundane life.

Twelve months as an earning individual and the above said is pretty much my routine. Except for the pleasurable refilling of my savings account at the end of every month, life has lost its vitality. During our training lessons we learned the basics of writing technically and missed out several important details in our assignments. Our eccentric trainer, after ripping our heads off, consoled us with “Don’t worry, people, you all are here because you love writing”. True, I thought, I sure love writing. It is something that comes to me without an effort. Little did I realize that learning to write technically would block the kind of writing I used to do. One year into the job, my Bower looks like a deserted shack. I have been using it as a window to watch my gifted friends in the blogosphere and then wallow in self pity of being left behind.

This post is a deliberate attempt to overcome the writer’s block that has fettered me for the past one year. Hope to break the chains and be back in full swing.