I have lived in T Nagar all my life. I have lived in two homes. One was thata’s independent house on Bazlullah Road and for the last six years in appa’s third floor flat on Boag Road.
I think that the world is divided into two parts – T Nagar and Rest of T Nagar. I cannot imagine living anywhere else in the world.
It is the only place which can be called the heart of the city. The best part about T Nagar is not Panagal Park, Nalli 100 or Kasi Arcade. It is in the people who make up the place. T Nagar is for the hard-working class of the city. It is the place where traders of all shapes and sizes thrive. It is about old money people. It is also not overwhelming Brahminical, after all, being named after a person who was instrumental in starting the Dravidian Movement counts, doesn’t it?
The best part about T Nagar is that it does not come with all the problems that many other areas come with. An Asal Tamizh Penn won’t fit in most of the other areas.
Take the celebrated and over-hyped Mylapore for example. I COMPLETELY dislike all things Mylapore. I even hate the 5B bus. I find Mylapore to be insular and the people pompous. The Madisar Maamis walking along Kolatangarai are begging for attention. As a child at least, when amma insisted on dragging me to Kapaleeswarar Kovil my favorite task was to determine which of these women were Iyers and which Iyengaars. As I grew older, the game ceased to be fun and therefore the temple visits became fewer. But Mylaporeans think that they are the upholders of all that is traditional and Tamizh. What else can explain something as idiotic as heritage walks in the area? The congested and narrow roads are not overflowing with tradition as much as garbage, just pay a visit to Palathope (across the Mylai Station) and you will see what I mean. And what does one say about a place that names its most prominent landmark (Nageswar Rao Park) after someone whose claim to fame was pain balms that he manufactured. The biggest problem with Mylapore is the time wrap that it is caught in. Everything is deliberately exotic, including the Adai-Avial at Karpagambal Mess.
Other areas in the city, are not even in the contention. Adyar’s only claim to fame was the Grand Sweets, but now even that with multiple branches is losing its sheen. Besant Nagar is good if one is going off on a vacation and Valmiki Nagar has too many Bengalis and those North Indian chaps who have made Madras their homes. Anna Nagar is too modern and both the physical and the emotional distance from the spirit of Tamizhness exists. Velachery is infested with people who work for TCS and CTS, which is not terribly fun, unless one is holding shares of these companies. Vadaplani is allright, mostly because it has 12B, the main Saravana Bhavan and most critically is its proximity to T Nagar.
So, anyway that one looks at it, T Nagar is THE place to be in Madras. And nope I am not nitpicking or being unfairly critical of other places in the city. If a place is superior, it is. Non T Nagarvaasis however, do come up with some excpetions about the place.
1. It is not a musical and cultural enough place.
Well, we have Vani Mahal and Bharath Kalachar. We are also home to Ilayaraja and A R Rahman. What more to say?
2. We don’t have enough of a temple culture like in some other areas?
We have another city itself in the area, with the Tirumalai Tirupati Devasthana. Who can beat that?
3. We don’t have any modern format stores and malls?
Not that one needs them. But just in case, you need the free AC, we have the 6000 sq feet Crossword Bookstore at Venkatnarayana Road. Even the boring (but often visited) Gangotree at Boag Road.
4. It is easy to get lost in T Nagar.
That is entirely your problem. And if you ever get lost, just ask anybody on the road, Sivaji Veedu Enga? Who does not know our Nadippu Chakravarthy?
5. It is not as cosmopolitan as other areas?
Firstly, Madras itself is not cosmopolitan. Secondly, who wants to be cosmopolitan. Thirdly, what is cosmopolitan? Having North Indians? Having people who speak Hindi? In that case, T Nagar must be the most cosmopolitan part of the city, why else would the Hindi Prachar Sabha be located here huh?
However, the most important reason why T Nagar rocks, are the Kalyana Mandapams – they are all seeped in history and has been witness to large number of Gothram Migration. All Asal Tamizh people have, will and must only get married in T Nagar.
Which is why, it is very upsetting, when T Anna, wants to invest in a property that is located on GST Road. While I am happy that my country is earning some valuable foreign exchange, I am unhappy that T Anna is eroding his intrinsic Tamizhness.
Though in all fairness, I love Madras. I love all of Tamizhland. And one needs Mylapore to appreciate T Nagar. Just like one needs non Tamizh things to appreciate everything Tamizh.