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  Opinion   Columnists  26 Aug 2023  Krishna Shastri Devulapalli | About how proud I was last week

Krishna Shastri Devulapalli | About how proud I was last week

Krishna Shastri Devulapalli is a humour writer, novelist, columnist and screenwriter
Published : Aug 27, 2023, 12:21 am IST
Updated : Aug 27, 2023, 12:21 am IST

Curious as to what ‘Madras’ cuisine they would be serving, we went with the idea.

Madras Week has become a thing over the last decade and has been creating an exponential increase in the Pride of Madrasis. (Photo: Facebook)
 Madras Week has become a thing over the last decade and has been creating an exponential increase in the Pride of Madrasis. (Photo: Facebook)

Last week, a dear friend whom we hadn’t met in a while invited us out for lunch. He thought going to a restaurant that was serving a special buffet to celebrate Madras Week would be a good idea. Madras Week has become a thing over the last decade and has been creating an exponential increase in the Pride of Madrasis. Curious as to what ‘Madras’ cuisine they would be serving, we went with the idea. Here are some of the items they had at the buffet: Periamet Pizza, Besant Nagar Baclava, Sowcarpet Sushi, and, above all, at the counter that had the largest queue, Rajinikanth Rasam. The last item lived up to its promise, I must say. It made me go once but it felt like I had gone a hundred times. I have recovered though, thanks to an Electral drip, and an archana done in my name by Roja Bai our cook at the Mariamman Koil.

Which brings me to the idea of Madras Week. (Or, for that matter, Mysore Month, Faridabad Fortnight or Bangalore Biennial.) And our Pride. And our need to celebrate everything. Mostly by eating. Incessantly. And before I forget, our Pride.

Yes, yes, we are all proud of Madras (or Delhi, Bombay or Prayag Raj). And we are all Proud Madrasis. And never mind that some of us currently live in Palo Alto, and our patriotic son has his lawn manicured by a Hispanic guy called Javier, Madras will always be home. And we will celebrate it… Proudly.

I, too, am a Proud Madrasi, mind you. Of the five books with my name on them, three are all about Madras. One has the word ‘Madras’ in the freaking title. So where is my award, dammit? Can’t you guys see the selfless service I’ve done for Madras? And doesn’t this obvious Pride entitle me to a garish zari shawl from some officious fool which I will gracefully accept at a felicitation ceremony where other Proud Madras Mamas and Mamis have a fight unto death over the bondas being served?

Here’s the thing. I wrote about Madras not because Madras Mata appeared in my dreams and told me “Son, I appoint you my chronicler because no one is more qualified than you. Go forth and sing my praises and cover yourself in glory”, but because I’d lived here all my life and the city organically became the setting for my stories.

I stayed back in the city of Madras and it became my permanent home not because I refused Cameron Diaz’s marriage proposal in the late ’90s because that would mean moving to LA, nor did I turn down the post of UN secretary-general because that would mean doing without my weekly visit to Mount Road to stand outside where Safire Theatre used to be, and sob uncontrollably as I looked at the uncleared rubble.

I stayed because I didn’t really attempt to leave. I stayed because fabulous non-Madras opportunities didn’t present themselves to me. I stayed because I wasn’t adventurous enough to leave. I stayed because I was a tiny bit of a coward. Most people who’ve remained where they are, whether it’s Madras, Pune or Bobbarlanka, do so for roughly the same reasons. Especially the ones who claim to be Proud Madrasis, Nellorites or Gurugramvasis.

What Pride are you talking about when your sole effort was remaining immobile?

Let’s take the other lot: the ones who scoot at the first given opportunity, not that there is a thing wrong with that. And come back at specific times to their ‘beloved city’ like they are doing it a massive favour — purely to buy saris and jewellery, take part in some tired old festival, or to send off vestigial parents from assisted-living facilities — claiming Madras will always be home. And how Proud they are of it.

How the heck is it your home? You left, remember? And, to my knowledge, no one made you leave.

For both types of Proud Madrasis, before you get all sentimental and orgasmic about your ‘hometown’, it might be good to ask yourselves what you’ve done for the city, whose lives in the city you’ve quietly improved and what you have genuinely given up to remain here.

The irony being that such folk — and they do exist — don’t usually feel the need to speak of homes, hearts and Pride.

I did get a tiny bit of revenge a couple of years ago though on some Proud NRIs. I was visiting a cousin from, where else, the Bay Area. And he dragged me to the kind of party that I wouldn’t have gone to back at home had I been roofied and taken unconscious in a JCB. The selling point, apparently, was that there would be a bunch of Mamas who were all Proud (insert school’s name)-ites, and I had gone to the same school, too.

My antecedents were declared loudly by my cousin as soon as we entered so his buddies would know the interloper had sound bona fides. Fourteen Mamas of various sizes, bursting with Pride and the good life, surrounded me to see how much Pride I had for studying in this particular school. Which year? Who was princi? Which batch? Do you remember Simran Bhalla? The questions came fast and thick.

“I hated the ****ing school,” I said. “May I now have a whisky?”

Tags: madras week, madrasi