London-based PhD student goes ‘nostalgic’ on Mylapore

Shruti Balaji, PhD student, LSE, London penned this ‘nostalgia’ piece —-

For as long as I can remember, I have always spent my summers and winters in Mylapore. Even though I grew up in various parts of India, my childhood visits to my grandparents’ homes in Mylapore had become something of a ritual I would look forward to.

Eating mangoes in the scorching heat, catching up with other children my age and playing all sorts of games (we mostly played them outdoors, then!), listening to the good-old stories narrated by my grandparents and other relatives, are memories that stand out.

Soon, I had begun to have distinct associations with Mylapore – the sweet scent of jasmine, the
alluring strong, morning coffee, visiting historical temples and watching street processions,
listening to street vendors selling flowers, fruits, and other such paraphernalia.

One such major association was the annual Sundaram Finance Mylapore Festival in Margazhi that I would look forward to during my winter vacation trips to Madras.

The festival brought with it – artistry, music, dance, competitions, and of course, food from all over Madras and more specifically, Mylapore. People would flock there and enjoy hot snacks whilst watching dance performances, music concerts, and stilt artistes’ shows.

The Kolam competition ( photo seen alongside) was another major thrill on North Mada Street, with intricate designs sprawling the streets leading up to Sri Kapali temple.

Soon the festival became one among my many Madras rituals, a fun and entertaining weekend that aimed to bring back many old art and dance forms, as well as traditional indoor games such as Pallankuzhi and Dayakattam.

Even as my trips to Madras became infrequent and I moved abroad for my higher
studies, I still cherish childhood memories of the Mylapore Festival, both as a bonding time with
my family as well as a rich cultural experience.

And now, Mylapore in ‘lockdown’ . . .

Now that Chennai, much like the rest of the globe faces the pervasive threat of the corona virus
and continuing lockdowns, Mylapore Times has become a space for me to stay connected to
‘Madras and Mylapore’. It has been awe-inspiring for me to see how the citizens of Mylapore
have been handling the pandemic and helping one another through it.

I find that the stories shared by Mylapore Times’ Facebook page, its website as well as the audio updates are filled with positivity.

What is striking to me is the human element of Mylapore Times’ reportage. I often get to listen to
stories of families just like mine in Mylapore. Sometimes, it is a story as simple as a person on a
walk, sometimes one of a doctor’s real-time account of treating COVID patients, or even a local
food vendor who continues to serve despite the challenges.

As I am far away from home and family, Mylapore Times’ stories have been a source of comfort and often brought a smile to my face at the end of a long and isolated day.

For instance, reading a story this Sunday about the ‘mikeless’ Sunday Kutcheris in Nageswara Park (report dated July 5), rewinding 5 and 10 years of the concert series brought back a host of memories of my visits to the park and listening to many such performances of young artists.

In a world filled with despair and uncertainty, it is comforting to know that
Mylapore Times delivers positive and hopeful stories, akin to the comforting feelings I associate
with Mylapore itself.

(Note/ Shruti Balaji is doing her P.hD. in International Relations from the London School of Economics. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music, cooking, and following cricket.

2 Comments on “London-based PhD student goes ‘nostalgic’ on Mylapore”

  1. Shruti Balaji has captured very beautifully the spirit of ecstasy of Mylapore or being a Mylaporean. Though she says she is a visitor during summer /winter seasons to Mylapore, the fact that she has spent good time with her grand parents, relatives show that entire essence of Mylapore has been bestowed on her, which is evident from the lively way the article has been written. Staying connected to Mylapore through Mylapore times, while pursuing studies in a far away land, shows how sincere her nostalgic moments are. Being a Mylaporean, I am proud that a PHD student from London finds time to share her joy of Mylapore with all of us! Great article!

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