As was mentioned in the earlier post, I was on a week long visit to Chennai. Part 2 of the same being recounted here.
Chennai seems to be in the midst of hectic activity. The policemen seemed extra alert, the work on the roads seemed more urgent. One wondered whether the govt. machinery here is perennially alert (a good thing) or something huge was coming up which had led to the big bosses cracking the whip (a “what is so new about this” thing). Turned out that the latter is true. Chennai is hosting a “World Tamil Conference” from the 23rd. Thank God, the trip was to end before this meeting, expected to draw a million participants started. Or else there would have been some real logistical problems.
Day 1 was pretty uneventful. Except for a seemingly routine fire drill which led us and the other occupants of the building out. Or so we thought. Later we came to know that there was a bomb scare due to which we were evacuated. Let me repeat, a bomb scare. And no one cared to tell us till the middle of the damn week.
As I had said in the earlier post and which was further elaborated in one of the comments, I had a not so great experience of Chennai the last time I had been here. It had started badly. I had to deal with a really shady and immoral jackass of a landlord. Then there were those blasted rickshaw drivers (Any traveler’s first perception of a city is formed with his dealings with the first chap he encounters after landing up there. In most cases it is the person manning his/her transport. Considering the lovely ways of the Chennai rick drivers, one can see why Chennai gets a bad name.). Add to that, the fact that I was away from home. Again (This was immediately after my two year MBA course in lovely Kozhikode. Which is really away from aamchi Mumbai).
However this time, things are a little different. I am now older and definitely wiser (not that being wiser than the 23 year old me is a difficult task). There was no jackass landlord to deal with. And unlike last time, there is certainty that I was going to be back in Mumbai in a week. This made me a little more open while appraising the city. And yes, I can say with certainty that it is not a bad place afterall.
For one, the food here is extremely good. Provided you go to the right places. We frequented some really nice places like Cream Centre, Eden Harrisons, etc. The food was great and quantity really good. Heck even the takeout food was serviceable. Chennaiites seem to like their food considering the turnout even during odd hours. That is a positive sign in my book.
The malls are awesome. Spencer Plaza is a really nice place with everything available. Then there is Landmark. Unfortunately I could not go there due to too much work. However there will be a next time. The place also has some historical buildings (The Museum Theatre and Connemara Library complex, The St. George Fort, etc.) which is nice if you are a history buff like me. Again, due to the work, could not check them out. But, again, there will be a next time.
If one goes beyond the language barrier, the people here are nice. Not that they were not 5 years ago. However as said earlier, perceptions once formed (esp. in an immature man’s mind) cannot be changed. Only thing is, do not even think about talking in Hindi here. It is an old issue here what with Hindi becoming the symbol of Aryan – Dravidian conflict that had virtually exploded here post independence when Hindi was proposed as the national language. The debate is complicated with both sides having their arguments. Best thing to do is to respect the point of the people and not act like dolts and confirm the typical North Indian stereotypes that they have in their minds.
I landed in Mumbai on Friday night. The supposedly super efficient Mumbai rickshaw drivers were asking for 300 bucks for a 8 km. ride home. The subsequent haggling made me wonder what would a non Mumbaikar would think of my beloved city if he were to encounter these idiots. This reinforced the point that one should not base your view of a particular place and its people based on a few kamineys. Especially the rickshaw drivers. Sorry Chennai!!!