(Welcome people 😉) So I slipped into a bit of my regional language as today’s musing is going to all about my place, or rather a part of it. I am not even sure if I should just call it a place or an emotion, for the number of memories associated with it. Let me now stop with the primer and just get into the topic. So, anybody who is quite familiar with Chennai, India would know about T.Nagar. For those who have been there, the name would flash images of shops, crowd, food, clothing, accessories and what not. While all that hold true, to me it flashes memories from different stages of life.
T.Nagar is believed to be one of the first planned urban neighborhood in Chennai. Conceived in a European style, resembling a few concepts from Paris, although built as a residential neighborhood, it grew into a well know shopping district and is now considered the largest shopping district in India by revenue (source:Wikipedia)
T.Nagar encompasses the famous Ranganathan Street, Panagal Park and Pondy Bazaar.
We resided very close to this place during my childhood and in a month, mom and I easily made at least 2 trips to this place. Sometimes we also joked saying that if we don’t pay a visit, we start missing the place. At this stage of life, it is not the shopping that excited me, but the fact that I got to eat the Rs.5/- softy ice cream which was sold exactly at the entrance of Ranganathan Street when approached from the West Mambalam Railway station. The flavours depended on what was available that day and if you were lucky enough, you had the opportunity to eat half-n-half flavours.
If I look back today after two decades, I can see that my memories at this stage were filled with memories with my Amma (mother). Also, that my life was defined by 5 rupees 😉 While our shopping trips started with the softy ice, we wrapped it up with some 5-rupee stuff like earrings or anything else for me that were sold by the street. This purely depended on how well I behaved in that trip without throwing a tantrum 😛 These were predominantly plastic stuff and Amma always fumed inside, as (un)fortunately she worked for the Pollution Control Board and I was polluting the house with plastic according to her 😀 Nevertheless, I enjoyed it and loved carrying all those loaded bags for her and walk back home.
Back to school shopping was always exciting with the purchase of new bags from Kanchi plaza in Pondy Bazaar. Also, a fun fact is, I religiously purchased a new pencil box every school year and stored them safely. It didn’t matter whether the previous year’s broke or not, but the latest model pencil box just brought so much joy to me. From Noddy to Harry Potter, whatever was featured found a place in my shelf and I preserved them well too, I guess until my marriage. (Amma ensured they go out along with me!) When I joined college, the excitement of ‘no more uniforms’ were duly fueled by the shopping saga in T.Nagar with my sister.
If you have been to T.Nagar, you wouldn’t have missed seeing Saravana Stores (SS). It is India’s largest family-owned retail store chain. I remember Amma telling how they targeted the lower and middle class families and offered them products at a great price point. It was also after the advent of SS, all other shops started operating on Sundays. Yes, previously T.Nagar used to be almost deserted on Sundays compared to the jam packed roads that we see today. While SS tapped the ‘Fortune at the bottom of the pyramid’ in a B-school term, it had highly unethical employment practices. It was during my college that the Tamil movie ‘Angadi Theru’ was released which brought out these grim realities. The movie had a major impact on us, however, sadly I do not think much has changed in terms of those practices even now.
As life moved on, I moved states and countries, of course, needless to say the shopping experience at this place was always the best. It was just a one stop shopping center. Even if one wants to shop for a wedding, it can be easily done here in one shot. Now, although I live in Chennai, I live pretty far from this place, but then, Chennai’s bus connectivity is something that has always amazed me and it definitely provides easy accessibility in this case too. After my move back to India, I have visited T.Nagar 2-3 times with my most recent one being post lockdown.
As I walked through the lanes, I walked through my memories too. I realized a lot has changed, the main one being the absence of road side shops in Pondy bazaar which sold the best earrings and were always a loot for an earring lover like me! Yes, the shops are still there in a complex but the experience isn’t the same. If you plan to shop in T.Nagar, here are a few tips:
- Try starting your shopping by 10 a.m. to avoid crowd peaking up
- If you happen to be free on a Tuesday, it can be your lucky day as not many people here do major shopping on Tuesday and thus, the crowd is less
- Ranganathan street offers you highly affordable products with a slight compromise on quality while Pondy bazaar balances both
- Best shops for Silk here: Pothys, RMKV, Nalli; Gold/Diamond: Saravana, GRT
- Clothing shopping depends on what you want to buy. Kairasi, Colours choice offer good variety too for comfortable Indian/Indo-Western wear compared to the big ones.
- If you’re a non-vegetarian, please do not miss Anjappar in Pondy Bazaar 🙂 Ok vegetarians, may you head to A2B and Balajee Bhavan
Even if you do not have an intention to shop, just walk through this area and you will shop 😉 I hope this musing plays a role in that 😛