Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Chennai Cultural Experience

Two weeks back I decided to go to Chennai. CC is leaving country soon and I felt the need to experience Chennai through his eyes. He loves Chennai like I love South Bombay and walking then becomes pretty much a pleasure then. He was organising photowalks for Madras Week and I decided to go enjoy the celebrations. Which I did tremendously I might add.

But first my flight to Chennai story. Friday night I had a 8.20 pm flight out of Mumbai. I called the Meru at 6.00. I always prefer to be early than late being my motto. At 7.25 I was at Dharavi. U can imagine my state. Was totally panicking. I even called a friend and asked him to find me alternative flights. It was that bad. Anyways got to the airport at 7.40 and actually made it to the flight. Closest call ever that was.

CC came and did pick up. Dropped me off at the hotel. Next morning was up bright n early at 5.40ish to make it for the first photowalk which was at this point called Ripon Building.

Its like the BMC of Chennai and equally grand I might add. CC poor chap, running around got permission to shoot the building from the outside. Which the 20 of us promptly did. Good fun eet was. Ripon the man is also here. Well, his statue is anyways :D Have a closer look at him too.

I hated the fact that they had painted the whole building white- destroying all the intricate stone carvings forever. All the embellishments on the facade were now completely covered with white paint. Utterly disgusting!

Atleast 30 minutes of shooting ensued here following which we went to Victoria Public Place. Dilapidated and I might add under litigation. I am shocked that there are people out there who want to destroy this building. What the heck is going on in cities man? Red brick, blue skies - all perfect setting for the photographers assembled to shoot the building down if required...

Next on the walk came Central Railway Station. My camera started to behave strangely at this point. I had charged the batteries but to no avail. I also knew we had one more building to go before the walk ended so I didn't shoot as much here. The light inside the station and my camera settings wouldnt allow any good photos in any case. So didnt bother much.

Went to call Dad and other friends whose budday was on 22nd :) Duty done, brekkie time. Saravana Bhavan is heaven for a foodie. Sambhar in Chennai tastes like ghar ka sambhar not the sweet red crap you get in Bumbai. Kapi is brilliant too. Sigh I miss filter kapi in Chennai....

We then lumbered out towards Southern Railway adminstrative HQ. This is an extraordinary building and I loved it. So ordinary from the outside and sooooooooo pretty pretty from the inside. I had a blast and here are some fotos from the last part of my walk.

Post this, went to the British Council office to meet A. She is a darling and it was lovely to see her. Could not hang out with her much but had a lovely time anyways. Lunch at Zaras followed. For those of you think Chennai is only about idli-sambhar, kanjivarams and filter kapi, Zaras is the right place to disillusion you. You enter Zaras and you could be in a chic Mumbai/Dilli bistro/ristorante. Food was decent but music and ambience was brill. Oh also the wine was seriously overwhelmingly fruity - almost destroyed my taste buds!

Zaras finished, went back to hotel for snooze time. Up by 5 went to attend an evening lecture at a lovely hotel called 'Rain Tree' by Chitra Madhavan. She is an archaeologist who loves the city which is very evident. She spoke about four temples in Chennai and showed the intently listening audience images and connected them quite humourously. Good fun and very obviously passionate about her heritage. At the end she got mobbed like a rock star! :D Chennai's glitterati attended this talk. I was telling Mom, the only difference b/w Page 3 Chennai and Bumbai is no one said, 'Hullo dahling' and did airkissing and oh yeah and everyone wore pretty saris..or else pretty much the same. :) :)

Met S, CC's friend after this. She is totally funee and her Mom is even more howlarious! Landed up at her house and had a very enjoyable evening which ended at 12 in the night. :) Next morning was going to go for a walk which was going to begin at 6 am but no scope. Really tried but just could not get up. Had to meet both CC and Smriti for lunch so ended up at Landmark before I met them. Landmark was highly disorganised. Don't know why but it was so. In a seriously tacky mall called Spencers...sigh...anyways deed done, met CC n we headed out towards GRT Grand in T Nagar.

Now GRT Grand has a restaurant which every self-respecting Lebanese food loving person should go to. Azuleah is brilliant. Ambience is pretty although the hostesses dressed in some kind of Lebanese head gear saying Marhaba is slightly OTT for me :) Food is brilliant - the bloddy best I have ever tasted. Kick ass food - the chef is Lebanese which showed in the quality of food. He gave us strawberry sorbet on the house - which was the yummiest thing ever...

It was time to leave Chennai which I did with heavy heart and heavier stomach for sure. My perceptions about Chennai have changed quite a lot. People's attitudes still suck but the face of the city has changed quite a lot for me. There is a lot to the city and I have opened my eyes to the fact :)


Shalini said...

What a trip! Sounds really great. Loved the photos, especially the close up of the dome.

Ravages/CC said...

Glad you liked Madras. :)
We should do one more Madras Week, although, I don't think that is possible for the next few years.

Anil P said...

Fun reading the account. The buildings, majestic. The white, bad. I see that happen in Goa as well.

This fascination with white!!!!