Chennai, colloquially known as Madras is a city I hated the most and surprisingly ended up 'missing' badly..
Moreover, it is the biggest, strongest and fastest metropolitan city in the universe! Why? Because superstar Rajnikanth resides here! ;)
While the city goes all crazy over the exuberant Kollywood, the place also holds importance for cultural events like classical dance & Carnatic music, strong political groups, variety of food, temples, beaches, fly overs and malls!
An emotional bond to this city, was beyond my expectations! I remember, the Trivandrum-Chennai express had dropped me off at the station. Believe me, anyone coming out of Chennai Central station shall receive the 'warmest' welcome by the auto-walas. The autos don't have meters and the rate always starts from Rs. 100 & above irrespective of the destination. Someone who doesn't speak Tamil should start bargaining and this is the best way to learn it.
Recently after moving into another city, made me realize the worth of the place I had lived for almost 3 years. I believe every place on earth has different stories to tell us, some of them do influence while some others go unnoticed.
As it is for many of us, the first impression of Chennai is definitely not good and you might feel miserable being in the crowd. But trust me, this is not the end of it! There are places worth visiting and numerous activities to do in this hot city! I had known the best and worst sides - be it enjoying the beautiful ambience at the garden cafe "Amethyst" or walking (almost swimming) home in a flood of brown colored water (rain water mixed with drainage water I guess)! The scorching heat and dust all around had made me go bonkers many a times! Interestingly, none of the natives used umbrellas, they just seem to be unaffected by the heat.
The first thing I like about Chennai, is its culture. I don't know much about the suburban areas, but staying in the city is quite safe for women. The only worry about traveling in a bus or train is pick-pocketing. In the Tamil culture, the women are treated with high respect and people always address them as 'amma' which means 'mother'. Apart from this, there are temples in every nook and corner, which means that people are indeed very religious. Staying near the 'Kapaleeshwar' temple in Mylapore was a wonderful experience. The architecture of the temple is so impressive with stone carvings and a large pond outside facing the temple (locally called as Mylapore tank). According to me, the sight of the main shrine (Shiv Ling) itself evokes fear of God. The temple allows even foreigners to enter the premises. There are small roadside shops all around the temple selling fancy accessories, clothes, vegetables, fruits and also there is Saravana Bhavan hotel for the hungry :).
Read more here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kapaleeshwarar_Temple
From Mylapore, it is hardly 2 kilometers to a white magnificent abode of Jesus Christ - the Santhome church. It is probably the first and best churches I have ever visited. If you really want to sit in peace and pray with a full heart, this is the place. This church was built in the 16th century over the tomb of St Thomas. A staircase behind the church leads you to the tomb and prayer hall. I found this place so divine and powerful. Some of my friends used to attend the Malayalam service on Sunday mornings. As you walk out through the back gate of the church, there is a not-so-crowded beach which is an extension of the Marina beach. If you are ready for a walk, you could take a stroll from the church to the Marina beach itself. Make sure you see the longest natural beach in India and second longest in the world! During night the street lights along the sidewalk looks like a long necklace which extends till Fort St George. The INOX mall is located just close to the beach if you want to have a meal or watch a movie.
As I moved from Mylapore to Adyar and further to Besant Nagar, it made a big difference. I noticed, the people who come to Besant nagar beach are rich and trendy. The Besant Nagar (Elliot's beach) is the extension of Marina towards the South. Near the beach, there are plenty of hang out places like Barista, open air restaurants and ice cream parlors. One could also visit Murugan Idli shop to have South Indian delights. Besant Nagar is full of variety eat-outs and it was very tough to decide where to go on weekends! A few good places in my opinion are - Sri Krishna sweets, Nandanam (amazing Kerala food), The Cascade (for Chinese), Cake walk (for pastries), Jelly Belly (desserts) and many more to experiment. Towards the Adyar side, there is Zaitoon (best for Chinese), Grand sweets (excellent dosa), Rainforest (good quantity and forest ambience) and Adyar Ananda Bhavan (for sweets and snacks). The Ashtalakshmi temple in Besant Nagar is a different kind of temple with windings steps to the top. As you walk upstairs you come across the 8 (Ashta) different forms of the Goddess Lakshmi. The view from the top is of that of the beach.
The Theosophical society in Adyar is a truly serene location in the midst of the city. It was a surprise for me and my friends to find a place with lot of natural vegetation just near to where we stayed. The entry to the place is free but however there is fixed timings for entry. A long walk inside the forest like location on a Sunday was refreshing! The main intention to get inside the society was to see the 450-year old Adyar aal maram (Banyan tree).
|Big Banyan Tree, Theosophical Society, Adyar|
It is unfair if I try to include the many other interesting places in just one post. I would rather write elaborately about those in the coming days. After all I have missed many places such as the St Thomas Mount (a church located on a hill), the Guindy national park, IIT campus, ECR Road and Mahabalipuram.
For shopping freaks here is a list of places to go -
For the girls, if you wish to 'buy more but spend less', take a walk from Pondy bazaar to T-Nagar preferably not on weekends. You will find street shops selling dresses, trendy footwear, accessories, bags, flowers and many more. As you reach below the fly over in T-nagar the rush keeps building up. This is the prime shopping location of Chennai - spot the famous Saree shops like Nalli, RMKV, Pothys, etc. On the opposite side is the famous Saravana Stores standing tall. It is a lifetime experience shopping here in jam packed crowd ;). However the variety is remarkable and the prices are quite reasonable than other shops. If you are interested in going to malls, there is the new Express Avenue and the big old Spencer Plaza. If you are crazy about movies (any language) and games (like bowling, PS, Nintendo, etc) Sathyam Theatre is the right place!
|A Deer in IIT Chennai Campus|