When I first moved to Chennai, to say that I hated the city is like saying I dislike milk. Now, we all know I don't just dislike milk. Oh, no. If you want to get real technical, I detest milk in a let's-invent-a-time-capsule-so-that-I-can-slowly-dismember-the-parts-of-the-man-who-first-looked-at-a-cow-and-thought-let's-milk-that-and-drink-whatever-comes-out-of-it way. Now, ditto that to Chennai.
I detested every single thing about it. The atrocious auto-mafia; the average Chennaites idea of good food, the no-season-but-hell weather; the monolingualism, the omniscient odours; the non-inclusive locals; the number of Mc Ds and Subways versus the number of Sarvana Bhavans; the vulgar waste of space, power and size of every showroom in T Nagar; the meagre three multiplexes; the general height and sub-zero lookability quotient of the men; the three miles it takes to walk into Marina before you see the water, well, you get the idea, no?
So, in the beginning, I would come back home as often as Tharoor got into a tweet controversy. But then something happened. What was home changed. With my room, my wall, my friends; my life had somehow moved to Chennai. Hyd became a place I visited to meet the folks, eat at 10D, bathe in clean water, watch T.V and sleep.
That way, whatever J was or was not, it was definitely survival boot camp. I learned to live in the middle of nowhere, next to a swamp, in a room with three females; go weeks without drinking water, bathe in stinky brown muck, eat raw maggi, be eaten by mosquitoes and get stalked by horny midgets every night.
And the lecture hall, the open-book exams, the assignments, the crazy night talks, the lecturers, the class mates, the room-mates, the birthday parties, the walks on the beach, the movies, the booze, the ladies nights, the trips, the night-outs, the friends, the hostel, the canteen. To put it simply, it's the place I'll tell my kids about the way my Dad tells me about his days at IIM.
I guess, in the end, my resentment of the city became irrelevant because of J. It all just ceased to matter, you know? Because for me, J was it. It was where I sat in class and listened. Like really, really, listened. And learned. And thought. And worked. Harder than I think, I ever did. It's where I fell in love. Found my hero. And, discovered my calling.
J! *Sob* *Sob*.
Oh, I know, this is my city. My favourite place in the world. But then I look around and see him. He has a job, a car, a home and a girl here. His life is here. Not mine. I need to leave. Start again elsewhere.
Are you listening, God?