Born and raised in Chennai as I am, I have always looked down a bit on other cities, especially what we may call Tier 2 cities within the state. The only exceptions to this rule were Mumbai and Delhi by virtue of being the biggest metros in the country. Even Kolkata, while being somewhat bigger than Chennai, still retained the characteristics of a small town and was a city I didn’t really consider on par with my beloved Chennai.
Growing up into adolescence, I often wondered why affluent uncles returning to India from,overseas chose to invest in property in Coimbatore as opposed to Chennai, which would have the obvious, and perhaps only choice for me had I been in their place. In my ignorance, I remember asking my mother if Coimbatore had restaurants and places to see that way Chennai did.
This image of Coimbatore as a small town lingered on in my memory into adulthood despite several short-duration visits to visit assorted relatives. When I met S, I realised that I was going to have to adopt Coimbatore as a hometown sooner or later. So attached was he to the place of his birth and childhood that he harboured (still harbours) dreams of going back to Coimbatore in a few years and settling down there.
As our courtship matured into marriage, I began to hear more and more about Coimbatore. During our visits, he would drive around the city showing me all these places he associated with his childhood. The schools in which he studied, PSGCAS, the ubiquitous Annapoorna, the parks, the roads and the roadside bhel puri shop became part of my life too. I slowly, but surely warmed to the idea of Coimbatore and began to consider it a second home. Second. To Chennai.
Circumstances forced me to spend 17 days of August in Coimbatore. Although I found it hard to adjust initially, I began to enjoy the feel of living in the city. I rediscovered the joys of living in an independent house, one that I had forgotten since we moved out of my grandparents’ home in 2002. I enjoyed the morning chores and the chirping of birds. I relished the possibility of picking fresh curry leaves from the plant for my rasam, and picking guavas off the tree for a snack.
In these three week, I find that I am no longer averse to the idea of settling down in Coimbatore. What seemed like a punishment when S first mentioned it two years ago now seems a pleasant thought. Is this what discovering a new city feels like?