Glocalization In Your Backyard

The Chennai you think you knew is not the Chennai of today

Sai Ramachandran


Photo taken by the author

On a recent Chennai visit, I clicked a photo of the above Punjabi eatery from the cab window en route to my client site.

This photo tells a far more profound story than it would appear at first glance.

First, long time visitors to Chennai can tell you that finding North Indian food there was next to impossible. And yet, today, I could take a photo of a dhaba on a random side street in a not so busy part of the city. Clearly, Chennaiites are voting with their wallets. No amount of political noise-making about immigrants and linguistic pride can hide that fact.

Second, note the spelling of the restaurant name.

The “correct” spelling of the word for a Punjabi highway eatery is “Dhaba”. Either by accident or by design, this restaurant owner chose to call their restaurant “Dhabba” which literally means “stain” or “blemish”.

Interestingly, Chennaiites would find it easier to pronounce “dhabba” which makes you wonder if the choice of (mis)spelling was intentional.

If intentional, is this any less of a masterstroke than McDonalds launching a Maharaja burger in India to cater to Indian tastes?

Glocalization makes the world more liveable for everyone and while I myself didn’t get a chance to eat at Dhabba Express, I’m so excited for Chennaiites to embrace cuisines from across the country and the world.



Sai Ramachandran

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