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Trip to Madras

Stepping down from the AC coach
on to the railway platform
A hot wave of salty moist air 
drenches me
On my customary visit
to this city I'm tethered to
by my memories..
She coyly calls herself Chennai
like a new bride renamed
in her husband's home
At heart though she is still Madras
and to the likes of me ;
It's a relief to slip into my mother tongue
to bargain with the auto walla
after mouthing words for months together
in an alien tongue..
We slice through the dense traffic
As I nod distractedly
to the driver's political soliloquy
While my eyes search for familiar landmarks
that were part of my youth
Moore  market
Poppat Jamal
Saphire theatre
Gemini flyover;
the city rushes by 
a phantasmagoria of urban scenes
until the fragrance of panneer roses
attack my nostrils
as I watch flower sellers
deftly spinning silver threads
around thick rose garlands...
The milling crowd at Pondy Bazaar
with women shopping tirelessly
for jewels, sarees and utensils..
Saravana bhavan coming to the rescue
of their cravings
for sambhar vada or bhelpuri....
I quickly make a mental list
of goods to take back when I return--
Coffee powder
baby mangoes
mor milagai
ambika appalam
not to forget 
a visit to the Naidu Hall..
The bottle neck at Panagal park
a hub for matrimonial shopping
slows down my journey,
then a familiar slide down
the doraiswamy subway
and a furlong along the railway tracks
I alight in mambalam
where my mother awaits with open arms;
A week's time for me
to imbibe the city's moods..
to gaze at cawing ravens on neem trees
to discuss the story line of soaps on TV
to inhale the simple aromas of brahmin meals
Before I bid farewell to it temporarily

Copyright © Latha Mohan

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