Friday, February 12, 2016

Accidental Chennai trip || My first impression about Chennai city

Technically, this was my first time Chennai.  Matter of factly, this was the farthest I had got in South India. I've been to Kerala a couple of times, but never to Tamil Nadu. So the connecting bus from Chennai to Pondicherry became a perfect time to immerse in the mad-rush of the Chennai city.

Chennai has never been on the list of to-visit cities in India. Trust me, I love metropolitan cities, but Chennai never seemed interesting. But I was happy that I accidentally reached here and got to spend a few hours here until I take a bus to Pondicherry. 

Chennai was a city whose language I didn’t knew and whose food I couldn't eat. Yes. You read it right. Even though I love food and experiment a lot with food, my experiments with South Indian food has led me to believe that I can never enjoy it.

It so happened, we missed our train from Mangalore to Chennai. So after a good five hour wait at the station and wasting time at #45 cafe, we got on the night train to Chennai. (wish it was called Chennai Express. Being a Bollywood movie junkie I've always wanted to travel in Chennai Express ever since I saw the movie). 

The journey was rather relaxed since we managed to book seats in the sleeper boogie and I had a peaceful sleep all night. So the entire morning I sat and watched the views outside the window and talked to the Tamilian couple who were there in our compartment. We spoke for hours, and even though they were old they had really interesting things to share about Chennai. 

The arid landscapes, dry hillocks and withered trees I saw outside saddened me. We are so used to greenery all around when we travel. When we look outside the window while traveling in the Konkan region we are greeted by lush green forests, tall mountains, palm trees at the horizon, paddy fields and everything else that's green. And the number of rivers, lakes and other waterbodies we cross are countless. But traveling in Tamil Nadu just made me realise how I take all this for granted, just because I travel Goa-Mangalore twice a month.

By the time we reached Chennai, it was well past noon. Buildings, vehicles and noise welcomed me. Seeing the local trains there reminded me of my favourite Mumbai locals. Even though I was too eager to ride in one of those, we chose to take a bus. The moment I stepped foot in Chennai I was surrounded by South Indians. People complain they are stereotyped in movies, but what I saw confirmed my belief that the Madrasis are typically what we see in movies. The way they dressed, talked, behaved - everything was the same. So we wandered around for a bit with our backpacks until we got on our bus which would take us to some bus stand (whose name I can't pronounce), from where we were supposed to take a bus to Pondicherry.

We decided to have lunch at a local place after walking for a while. Since I am very fond of trying the traditional food of each place, especially the thali, I ordered the Tamilian fish thali. Just to be on the safer side I also got a plate of chicken since I knew I wouldn't be able to swallow the rice with the assorted curries, sambhar and rasam that I'd get. And as predicted the Tamilian thali was served on a beautiful banana leaf. I didn't mind the curd though. I tasted a bit of everything just for the heck of it and absolutely loved the fish curry. It's made of coconut and thicker than what we make here in Goa.

The hour long bus ride to the bus stand took me through the various sights in Chennai. I got lost in the crowded Chennai city and people speaking loud Tamilian from all directions. None seemed to know English or Hindi when we asked them for directions. Varshitha seemed to know a few words of Tamil and we managed to get on the right bus. The one hour bus journey took an hour and half owing to the heavy traffic, but it did not disappoint me since I was engrossed watching the busy streets and observing the activities around. We also crossed the huge IIT Madras campus. I loved the British architecture in some places in Chennai, or should I say -  Madras! I don't know if I'll go back to the place, but this little time I spent in Chennai made me realise that I don't have an affinity towards the place, but towards the people.


Text and Photographs: Flexcia D'souza || Blogger GOA

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