In 2008, I had to go to a tier 2 town in Eastern Tamilnadu for a friend’s wedding. I got off from the train in a city and traveled to this town in bus. I had a coffee as soon as I got down the bus in a tea shop. I was given a glass tumbler and the price was nominal. I always confuse my left with right. So following the directions given by my friend, I went exactly in the opposite direction. One kind gentleman in the locality corrected my course. I had to pass the same tea shop again. From the direction I was coming, when I ordered tea, the glass tumbler had become a flimsy plastic cup. I had walked to the tea shop from a colony, usually a place where the oppressed are pushed to stay.
This discrimination was always there but much more subtle in where I grew up. The tea shops was where we discussed, cricket, politics, cinema and books. We were aware that some people don’t occupy the bench to have tea. We were aware that when some people come to tea shop, the others get up and give the space in the bench and never sit till the said person finished his business and left. It is what it is, is what we thought.
Then I moved to Chennai. I won’t say there is no discrimination here. But one doesn’t have to fear about their life once they overstep the invisible line that is drawn. The tea shops are one of the democratic spaces. In a bustling city, where everybody is busy, there is no time for chit chat in tea shops and hence there is very little discrimination. The shopkeepers don’t allow anything to escalate because he is one of the people in the crowd, whose common goal is the same.
When someone moves from a Tier 2 or Tier 3 city it is just to make money. Nobody comes from Madurai to Chennai to see the heritage buildings. Nobody comes from Tanjavur or Tiruvarur to Chennai for its musical scene. Nobody comes from Tirunelveli or Kanyakumari for the beaches here. Whoever takes the bus as soon as they finish their degree is here to make money. This clarity, a collective one, makes people don’t care and the same time don’t hurt others directly.
Some might argue that they had come here for the higher studies or better colleges. That may be true but at the end of the journey is always a better pay, a better living condition or a better friends network which increases the status. When I came to Chennai fourteen years back, in no uncertain terms told me that if you have the will to live, I will take care of you. When the economy was good, the singular focus of everybody I moved with was only one thing. To make more money.
People quit their jobs in three months if they found a better company with better pay, irrespective of the stream change. People shifted house from one end to another extreme if they could save money in bus travel or rent or for a better work place. Whatever the decision people took, mostly it was for the money.
These are luxuries for the oppressed people in Tier 2 and Tier 3 towns can’t even think of. Even if one has land, he is untouchable. Even if one has PhD, they will always be branded as the hairdresser’s son, if that is the case. Whatever your achievements might be you will still be judged and treated for the caste you were born in and the place you come from. One couldn’t find a place to live in a better locality or even upgrade and bring roads or buses to the locality they live in, no matter how much money, education they have got. The institutionalized discrimination may just seem like a fancy word for some people, but its slap is really hard on the victims.
But when these people come to Chennai, they are measured with only one criteria. How much money can they make with their degrees or street smart thinking or their wealth? If the answer is satisfactory most of the people, who are also migrants from various parts of the state and also country embrace them. It is not like Chennai will not let you live if you don’t make money.
Let us take the example of dating. If a guy had to take a girl out on a date
If he could spend less than 20 rs, they could take a MRTS train to Perungudi station, sit there under the nice shade and talk till the last train comes. They can again get down at the Triplicane station, have some fun in the beach and get back to the station and call it a day.
If he could spend around 100 rs, he could take the girl in his bike to the SIET college lane, park his bike there, make the girl sit and buy her some ice cream. It is one of the beautiful stretch in the city and a magical time is guaranteed.
If he could spend around 500 rs, he could take the girl to any CCD.
If he could spend around 1000 Rs he could take the girl to any Starbucks in the city
If he could spend around 1500, he could take the girl to Amethyst/Anokhi.
If he could spend around 2500, he could take the girl to Gossip Bistro.
If he could spend around 5000 on a date, he could take the girl to ITC Grand Chozha
If he could spend around 15000 on a date, he could take to Intercontinental Chennai.
In none of these places, entry is restricted. Unless you are bat shit drunk they won’t refuse entry. I am not even considering the options like Cinema or Mall hopping because there wouldn’t be any privacy.
Now that I have written this, I have to take back what I said, people don’t come here for the money. People come here for the freedom. People come here because of the options the city offers. People come here because the city is inclusive.
Happy Birthday Madras!!