After being laughed at, after receiving sarcastic ‘best wishes’ (ya, people actually do that), after being told that “this is the ultimate punishment for all the sins/crimes you have committed”, I finally landed in Chennai, at 3a.m. on 8th April. But this place is not all that bad. People really know how to enjoy and entertain themselves. Like, people on Chennai central (including ‘Coolies’) enjoyed the sight of a thin guy carrying 4 bags at 3 a.m. in the morning. For any question, the answer was a pointed finger towards helpdesk which was vacant. So I too decided to enjoy myself and spent next 2 hours watching ads about railway thieves. Don’t know why after each ad people were staring at me. At 5:15, I finally decided to part ways with the lovely station and helpful people.
The auto rickshaw guy, true to the unwritten rule followed all over India of looting outsiders, charged me double the usual price (so I was told later). As I have specialised in doing useless things at wrong time, instead of arguing with him on price, I was playing a game with myself of guessing the vehicle code for Chennai, but was disappointed as the first 6 auto rickshaw I spotted had codes TN-01, TN-02, TN-03, TN-05,TN-07, TN-09. Driver of the auto rickshaw that I had hired was probably Michael Schumacher’s long lost 3rd brother. But thankfully I reached guest house safely. Even here there was no reprieve (reprieve from fun that is). I was asked to fill a form with check-in time etc. I did some rough calculations on when I left station, how quickly Schumi bro drove etc and wrote 5:45 a.m. I was duly scolded. It was 5:39 a.m.!!! How can I write 5:45 when the time is 5:39? So typical Indian of me.
But the city is really good. The roads especially are very well planned and structured. Every care has been taken to ensure that it is humanly impossible for pedestrians to cross the road without risking their lives. But I have 3 yrs experience on traffic skills in another lovely city, Pune. I used the skills to fullest to run diagonally between two moving cars, buses etc. Food is really good here. But basically in restaurants, it is ‘eat as much as you can’ competition, where each person is given a big plateful of rice, which should suffice 4 people, along with 10-15 curries, vegetables etc in small tiny bowls. The first day was especially funny when I walked in a restaurant named ‘Mathsya’ hoping that, as the name suggests, they might have good fish dishes. It turned out to be a veggie restaurant. The Madrasi thali I ate is amongst the best meals I ever had. Guessing what exactly is there in each ‘katori’ was like playing minesweeper. It was fun.
There are lots and lots of film posters, banners on roads which are really brain-storming because it is tough to guess who is hero and who is villain. The loyalty in people is unbelievable because no matter in which language you ask question, the answer is always in Tamil. Bus conductors auto-drivers really want outsiders to explore the city and drop them to some unknown places and finding your destination becomes a game of treasure hunt. People really go out of their way to help. Couple of friends of mine asked ‘where is old mahabalipuram’ and got the answer ‘somewhere’. That really helps. It has been fantastic few days here. I am loving it. About Kashmir it was said, “If there is a heaven on earth, it is here only’. Same applies for Chennai, with couple of words here and there of course.