By K. Srilata

Very briefly then,
I am middle class
and very Madras.

Born and raised in
West Mambalam –
the other side of the railway tracks
where fabled mosquitoes turn people into

Went to college in
Khushboo sarees stripped
right off the absurdly voluptuous mannequins at
Saravana stores T.Nagar Chennai 17.

To weddings I wore,
in deference to my mother,
silk kanjeevarams with temple borders.
Every other girl
was a designer-sequined shimmer.

I thought nothing of
throwing away
my dreaming hours on
MTC’s 47 A,
sitting beside women who ruined my

leaning casually across to
spit or
through the grime of windows
spinach stems they didn’t fancy
in their evening Kuzambu,
hurling motherly advice at
young men who dared death by
from other women’s windows.

My idea of a holiday
was rolling down the hillsides
of Ooty,
dressed in white
like Sridevi.

Objects of love-hate:
the auto annas.

And of course it is coffee that defines
the limits of my imagination.
I never could think of it as
cappuccino or mocha or
anything other than
decoction coffee,
deep brown like my own Dravidian skin.

10.30 sharp: sambhar rasam curry

5 sharp: idli dosa vada

My idea of arctic winter:
twenty-six degree centigrade.

And so on and so forth
as they don’t say in Tamil.

Never mind this new upstart Chennai.
Madras, my dear, here I come!
About me, rest assured,
there is
no Bombay, no Delhi, no London
and certainly no New York.
I am all yours,
Madras, my dear,
wrap and filling!


"Bionote" by K. Srilata, Arriving Shortly (Kolkata: Writers Workshop, 2011).