February 19, 2020
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One Word For A Year-II

Chennai sucks, it’s stuck in its own illusory cultural sophistication

One Word For A Year-II
Reuters (From Outlook 1 September 2014)
One Word For A Year-II

My biggest peeve about Chennai is the fact that it often seems to be on an exploratory mission up its own culturally superior posterior. Yes, it has terrible weather and rank filmi politici­ans and many other ills that put it in the list of bad Indian cities, but that is infrastructure and we Indians know deep in our heart that only a Chin­ese-style suspension of democracy will fix that problem so why even bother discussing it? It is this ill­usion of cultural superiority that I am speaking of. I mean, here is a city that prides itself on ble­nding traditional and modern when, in reality, beyond the paneer rubber masala next to the sambar rice served at Tamil weddings now, there isn’t much blending going on. The real, honest way to render this ‘old meets new’ trope is that the anachronisms stay—even as they use FB and Wha­tsapp to aid in sustaining regressive social values in a spiffy modern way. The city still does the kind of moral policing that could earn consulting revenue doing training sessions for Saudi Ara­bia. The cops still dem­and to see marriage certificates of couples sharing a moment on Marina beach. The city still thinks that beer must be sold only at dens of state-run corruption and—unless silk saris, overrated veg food and formulaic Carnatic boredom is your thing—has no music scene. Yes, the city of Ilayaraja and A.R. Rahman is far too busy in a pointless mul­tiplayer online death match over who is the better one when, truth be told, the creativity and innovation in indie Bolly music far outstrips the mind-numbing electro pop cringe­fests that play out on local radio all day. Heck, forget Bol­ly­wood and its large wallets, music from some of the newer films in Mal­ayalam show more imagination in a single song than entire discograph­ies from here. Yes, we are the ‘knowledgable’ Che­n­nai crowd, the one that applauded a visiting Pak team for its historic win in the last Ice Age, but alas the only thing we don’t seem to be knowledgable about is that we’re stuck in the stagnant morass of our own illusory cultural sophistication. The day we get an inkling of that, I'll say we finally have a chance.

Krish is a techie, blogger, Madras liker and crow lover

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