Simply South – A dawn in Chennai

I stumbled across this nice travelogue about Chennai 🙂 . Its entertaining and funny.

Monday morning I walked to the sea. Down Radhakrishna Salai to the crossing with Kamarajar Marg. Along the way, more weird glass fronts than a protest mob could throw stones at (ooohhh the lovely music of breaking panes). Obviously this is not the right part of town for heritage buildings. One forlorn house with louvred windows (is this why Cal reminds some people of Madras?) cowered in a corner of a school compound. A large energetic gent in a mundu and check shirt bustled past in a super-walk, occasionally jumping in the air and pumping a fist.

A trim 70-ish gent with Col. Blimp moustaches asked me why I was taking pictures. I resisted the urge to go “Sir, sorry sir” and drawled “Oh, it’s a survey of public urination commissioned by the World Bank.” He was not amused. Afterwards, I felt sorry. But by then he was long gone.

In Chennai, there are no peremptory signs that say “No parking here”. Instead, the signs read “Please do not park in front of this gate”. Such courtesy is charming. I could like this place. One sign on a government building (naturally) warns “Trespasser will be prosecuted”. They know who you are, son, don’t try it again. (One has this mental picture of their waking up to rude graffiti on the front door … the Trespasser strikes again!)

Under the fly-over, past the TTK office, the TTK auditorium, more offices, crossings where the traffic lights change for their own pleasure because nobody pays them any heed at six in the morning, the road is wide, clean*. It’s nowhere near as muggy as I’d expected, there’s a fitful breeze off the sea. A sprightly old man in a spotless white shirt and mundu marches in front of me. His pleasantly dumpy wife trundles along behind her lord and master, swathed in a silk sari (at this hour?); they both have sandal-paste lines on their foreheads. When they reach the next crossing, L&M solicitously waits for his wife to catch up, then takes her hand and hurries her across the road. Softie! (I like.)

Every hundred yards or so I have to hold my breath and speed up to get away from the stench of urine. Not a random pee, but specific points where the pavement is pitted from ammoniacal attacks. With the heat and the humidity fermenting the stuff, it’s like a chlorine attack. Not a single public toilet in sight. Why can’t Sulabh get their act together in this city?

But there are also the smells of incense and of jasmine flowers. A girl emerges from a side road in a chic top and denim skirt; very hip, but her hair is loose and down to her waist and is adorned with a huge bunch of flowers. I sniff appreciatively as she crosses my path. A few steps down, a man is selling green coconuts off a barrow. The scent of a bunch of incense sticks reminds me of childhood and grandmothers. A small shrine takes up the entire pavement at one point. Beside it, more green coconuts and a lady selling flowers. And bananas. A weird combination until you take the shrine into account. Then it fits. I dig out the loose change in my pocket. Using sign language, I get a two-foot length of threaded flowers. Lovely. Lacking hair, I wind it round the strap of my camera bag. Now it’ll smell good for the rest of the day.

Right at the corner, a large walled estate with a few decrepit buildings. Only the government can so under-utilise prime property. Across the road, some kind of para-military headquarters (no signage), a squad lined up in front of the steps in khaki shorts and sweat-damp vests, an officer or instructor bellowing incomprehensible commands in the manner of uniformed drill anywhere in the world. “AAAAarrrhhhh baaarrrrhhh HROOO HRUP!!” Translation – my piles are killing me so I’ll be damned if I’ll give YOU lot any joy!

The beach is … flat. No sand dunes to mark high tide. Hardly any noise of breakers. No sea-tang in the air. There’s an orderly crowd half-way between the road and the water-line. A passing policeman, his little finger delicately linked with a friend’s, informs me that it’s “yo-u-gaH, sairrrr”. But they seem to be waving and bowing rather than doing any yogasana I know. Morning walkers hunker down on the sidewalk. Obviously the morning chat is as important as the exercise. Out in the sticks, the morning dump provides both exercise (since nobody will dump in the vicinity of their own home) and social interaction. In the cities, the ritual remains but the dump has been eliminated. Sanitised version.

On the way back I stopped for a kaapi at a hole-in-the-wall. Right next to another glass-front (blue on brown. Jesus wept!), the Hotel Manhattan. Complete with the “Brooklyn Coffee Bar and Diner”. Next door, four men sat on newspapers spread across the pavement. They weren’t playing cards or even talking, just sitting there watching the morning. Or perhaps they were waiting for somebody. I got good coffee, service with a smile and free advice on whether to take an auto back to the hotel (now that the sun is up). Come to think of it, everybody who’s been of service to me in Chennai has smiled. Wide, brilliant smiles. I’m beginning to like Chennai.

[ Read original post ]

Advertisements
  1. #1 by J. Alfred Prufrock on March 19, 2007 - 1:19 am

    I’m honoured that you liked my account. Thank you.

    At the same time, when you copy-paste, it would be nice if you put an accreditation note somewhere .

    J.A.P.

  2. #2 by udayms on March 19, 2007 - 5:35 am

    Hi Alfred,
    Actually, if you check towards the end of the post, you will find that I have included a link to the original post. 🙂 …. If I just put in a link, most of my readers do not care to check it out. So, I take an excerpt from the original post and paste it in my blog just to give the reader an idea of what the whole topic is about and then link to the original post. 🙂

  3. #3 by John Adams on March 24, 2007 - 6:29 am

    WHAT CHENNAI NEEDS NOW:

    MCDONALDS, TGIF, RUBY TUESDAY, PAPA JOHNS,TO GIVE THE CITY MORE EXCITING,VIBRANT RESTAURANT AND DINING EXPERIENCE.

    ATLEAST A FEW BIG MODERN MALLS WITH WORLD CLASS MULTIPLEXES LIKE FORUM IN BANGALORE OR INORBIT IN MUMBAI ARE NEEDED IN THIS HUGE CITY.

    BETTER MODERN FACILITIES AND BETTER-DESIGNED AMMENTIES LIKE WELL PLANNED WELL MAINTAINED FOOD COURTS AND ENTERTAINMENT HUTS,KIDS FUN CENTRE ON ITS MAIN BEACH FRONTS LIKE IN THE MARINA AND ELLIOTS BEACH.

    A COMPLETED IT EXPRESSWAY TILL MAHABALIPURAM, WHICH SHOULD BE A SHOWPIECE FOR CHENNAI.

    PUBLIC TRANSPORT LIKE CHENNAI METRO RAIL IS A MUST TO MEET THE LONG TERM TRAFFIC REQUIREMENT OF THE CITY.

    ROADS NEED TO BE BROADEDNED AND IMPROVED,TO BE MARKED,LINES DRAWN,PAVEMENTS FOR PEDESTRIAN IN ALL ROADS TO BE MADE AND CLEANLINESS MAINTAINED IN ALL.

    PUBLIC TOILETS ARE A MUST AND SHOULD BE BUILT AND MAINTAINED ON EVERY MAIN ROAD. USABLE POSSIBLY AT A NOMINAL FEE.THIS CAN BE USED FOR MAINTAINCE.

    A COUPLE OF LARGE WELL PLANNED PARKS LIKE CENTRAL PARK IN THE HEART OF THE CITY TO HELP THE CITY BREATHE FROM ALL THE POLLUTION AND HEAT.THEY ARE LIKE THE LUNGS OF THE CITY.TODAY ITS CHOCKING WITH POLLUTION DUE TO THE HEAVY RISE IN CARS AND BIKES.

    LIQUER OR AT THE LEAST AT THE MINIMIUM BEER AND WINE SHOULD BE DEFINIETLY ALLOWED TO BE SERVED IN GOOD QUALITY STAND ALONE RESTAURANTS AND CAFES PROVIDED THEY MEET A SET OF STRINGENT AND WELL LAID OUT CLAUSES LIKE PARKING.IN ALL METROS IN INDIA LIQUER IS AVAILABE IN STAND ALONE RESTAURANTS.ITS ONLY IN CHENNAI THERE IS THIS INSANE UNEXPLAINABLE RESTRICTION EVEN IN THIS DAY AND AGE IN 2007.THIS CANNOT HOLD FOR TOO LONG FOR SURE WHAT WITH THE CITY ATTRACTING SOO MANY VISITORS AND NRI’S INVESTMENTS AND THE FACE OF THE ENTIRE CITY CHANGING TO BECOME GLOBAL LEADER.

    BAR AND LOUNGE TIMING IN HOTELS MUST BE RELAXED AND EXTENTED TO ATLEAST MIN 12:30AM. THE 11 PM 11:30 PM DEADLINE IS MOST CONSERVATIVE IN THIS AGE AND RESTRICTIVE TO THE CITY’S FUTURE ACCEPTANCE AND OUTLOOK FROM ALL THE MAJOR WORLD LEADING COMPANIES COMING IN TO THE CITY AND SET UP SHOP AND ENJOY A VIBRANT CORPORATE AND ENRICHING LIFESTYLE.

    PRICE CAPS ON MULTIPLEXES MUST BE REMOVED. AS THERE ARE GUIDLINES TO BE MEET FOR THE 120 CLASS.THERE MUST BE A BROADER SET OF GUIDELINES TO BE MEET FOR SAY RS 150 OR 180 CLASS AND FOR RS 300 GOLD CLASS MOST OF ALL.ALL METROS IN INDIA HAVE GOLD CLASS CINEMAS EXCEPT CHENNAI.THERE CAN SURELY BE A SET OF GUIDLINES TOO FOR OTHER LOWER CLASSES LIKE 50,85 ETC FOR BUDGET MULTIPLEXES.A SEPERATE MULTIPLEX POLICY IS REQUIRED TO BE FORMULATED FOR TAMIL NADU STATE.IT MUST ENCOURAGE THE MULTIPLEX INDUSTRY AND EXCEMPT THEM FROM PAYING ENTERTAINMENT TAX FOR ATLEAST 3 YEARS.MULTIPLEXES ARE THE 21ST CENTURY CINEMAS AND THE STATE MUST FORMULATE A SEPERATE MULTIPLEX POLICY TO ENCOURAGE CINEMAS OF ALL CLASSES IN CHENNAI AND TAMIL NADU.THE 10 RUPEE TICKET MUST HAVE TO GO AND SHOULD BE SOON REMOVED FROM MULTIPLEXES.THEY FIND NO PLACE ATALL.NOWHERE IN INDIA IS THERE SUCH AN ABSURD RULE EXCEPT IN TN WHICH IS CONSIDERED ONE OF THE MOST PROGRESSIVE STATES IN INDIA. AS IT IS CINEMA TICKET PRICES SHOULD BE DETERMINED BY THE MARKET FORCES AND NOT BY GOVERNMENT.

    I DO HOPE TO SEE MY CHENNAI GROW RAPIDLY AND BECOME NUMBER ONE THE BEST MOST DEVELOPED,MODERN, MOST VIBRANT CITY IN INDIA.COME ON ALL YOU CHENNIATES LETS GET TIS MESSAGE FORWARD AND MOVE THIS CITY AHEAD TO GREAT HEIGHTS AND RIGHTFULLY GET A CITY WE DESERVE AND A CITY WE ARE PROUD TO LIVE IN AND SHOW TO THE REST INDIA AND THE WHOLE THE WORLD WHAT CAN BE DONE.

  4. #4 by beach hotels on January 17, 2010 - 9:11 pm

    I am looking for some summer job in a nice beach hotel. working around all day, and partying at the beach each night. Care to join me to gather a group?

  5. #5 by Willard Dean on May 31, 2010 - 4:45 pm

    Hehe am I literally the first comment to this awesome read?!?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: