Shouting at a wall. Listening to echo. Looking at a mirror.

Chennai Life

May 22nd 2007 in Life, The days that were

Ever since I went to Chennai, I constantly faced questions about my relocation – How is the place, how hot is the weather, how is the crowd, how am I able to manage the language problem, how are the people.

In the beginning, I was almost unable to give good answers. Then I made a habit of looking for these things so that I could answer better. So to some at least I could give interesting answers. But frankly, I wasn’t quite comfortable answering these questions. Because none of these bothered me in the first place.

Since I am also asked about my experiences in the city, let me club both in this post itself.

How is the place – I did not see anything that should have made me give a straight answer (talking of straight answers, I now realize this lack of ability to answer descriptively any question that does not have a straight answer, must have cost me marks in the exams. But it is surprising now that I can write a post on most silliest of events as if that event has been the best thing to have happened. May be I should have started blogging earlier – like in school days!).

However after making some specific observations, I noted these : Public transport buses were inexpensive but terribly crowded for short distances or during office hours. They were crowded in some cases even if they were frequent. The less said the better about the infamous auto-wallah’s pricing strategy or the bargaining power that is required to achieve a fair deal. The number of vehicles on road is not any less than expected for a metro, but thanks to the broad, well maintained roads, there is no great congestion at many places. However exceptions are there. Also, Chennai was blessed with some great forethought planning, otherwise how do I explain the construction of Grant Road which connects most of the city. Another notable example is that of the Gemini flyover which must have been constructed ages ago. Though the city is also connected with local trains, it is not that well connected and used as it is in Mumbai.(Or may be this is just my observation).

I noted that city has many restaurant chains – Saravana, Sangeetha, etc. The prices at middle-class (and above) were generally expensive. The service was below expectation/satisfaction at most of the places. Of these hotels Saravana was the most interesting. Its pricing strategy depends on its locations too. And the one near thousand lights will be dear to my memory as it had this extensive buffet for Rs120 – the very ideal one for treats. I with a visitor friend once spent close to 4 hours there just to use the A/c and to avoid the heat outside. Saravana Bhavan is present in international locations like Dubai, London etc. The number of outlets is equal to the number of years in service – 23. The price, though is higher than others, is not complained about because of the cleanliness and taste. I also noted that it is not present in Bangalore and how I wish I take up that franchise ;-). Among the other restaurants I ate at, Kumarkaum (again a chain) gave me some memorable moments. The food was tasty and got to eat in Kerala cuisine style. There were more options if I were non-veg. A passionate singer who sings melodious Malayalam-Hindi songs (over the karaoke music) adds to create an experience of an otherwise mundane eating event.

Among my other noted observations, people just throng the shopping outlets – mostly of dresses – in the weekends. During festival times sales, which is during most times, the shops in TNagar would be as crowded as a Mumbai suburban central railway compartment during peak hours. And even otherwise, it is only slightly better. The price and quality of cloth is marginally better than Bangalore (this is a very random personal observation/opinion made on a very small sample and also considering my vision for such issues). Rightly so, the advertisements during intervals in halls were mostly of only two things – one of sari, another r of jewelery – and both used the theme of marriages.
If the graph is drawn as to where my time was spent these would come in the order, roughly. Office, house, traveling (b/n SBC,MAS), hotels, movie halls.

So how can I not mention about my probably most missed thing about Chennai – Satyam theater. It was my favorite for many reasons. Firstly it was very close to my earlier location of the office and to my house. The tickets were not sold in black – so there was very good chance of getting one if planned properly. And since it was a multiplex, if preferred one was not available there was always possible to watch another good one. Then comes good sound effects, seating and snacks. And when it comes to innovation, Satyam are probably the front runners. They have a good website to book tickets online and initially (2 yrs ago itself) it just took a proof of credit card to get the tickets at the special counters meant for this. Seat selection (at a cost) was then introduced in the online ticket booking process followed by buying the snacks online too – snacks were served to our seats 10 min before the interval. Damn convenient. They also introduced their own rechargeable “fuel” card for those who do not have credit cards (Some concession for using these cards would have been a very good idea). On the lines of irctc, they then made it possible for the printing of tickets by overselves. Also was introduced a blind-date sort of show where audience will not know the movie before its start, screened on Thursday nights. (Of course, only good classics were screened but am not sure if it became a success or not).

One related experience that deserves a mention is that the city is quite safe I felt. I roamed around alone in the nights – 1am or 2am and not once did I fear getting robbed or anything like that.

Beach is a major attraction for me whenever I tour, but while I was in Chennai, I hardly visited. Only a couple of visits that too when I had visitors. Talking of visits, a visit to Parthasarathy temple stands out in the memory. Though it was very near I had reserved it for a special day and thus have made it memorable. The one reason I liked the place was because it was spacious.

About weather – the “hot” weather was not much of an issue to me at all. Because the day time in weekdays were spent in office and evenings were manageable with a fan. Summer weekends was only a bother and during that I was either in office or in Blore or at theaters. Also my house was not very hot.

Language. I was irritated many times when even the technical talk happened in the local language but I never had to face “problem” because of the language. I hardly went shopping, had my vehicle for commute, ordering in hotel was easy and thus I hardly interacted with local people – apart from those at office.

And people at office, apart from minor irritants, were very good. I had a cordial relationship with everyone because my professional interactions were only with US counterparts only, mostly.

One thing I regret very much was not having joined the Kannada Sangha which was quite near to my place. Joining would have given me more friends and some good activities for weekends.

Thanks to Kiruba, I attended a bloggers meet and a proto.in. I also saw few movies and Sudhish kamath in Chennai Film Fest.

That pretty much sums up my observation and about my experiences in the city. Some events like visiting a 24 hour coffee shop at midnight, several other night-out plans, weekend picnics to places like DakshinaChitra etc never worked out.

Overall, I liked my stay there and did not have any major complaints. :)

2 comments to...
“Chennai Life”

Chennai had the good fortune of being under politicians who developed the city in spite of having mutual squabbles…!

silk sarees/jewellery…Irrespective of the language of the movie that is being screened, these were being shown…both the movies we saw were English…!
What would Satyam do without these ads…the images of those models dancing showing off their bangles and necklaces is still *vivid*… ;)

One concept i liked in the hotels was that of "mini-tiffin"…Idly+pongal+dosa+one vada+one small cup coffee…Surrrrp…!!!

"1am or 2am and not once did I fear getting robbed or anything like that" —- Halfway to being a ram-rajya… :D

Parthasarathy temple…special ocassion…? Its been long time since we met…free this weekend… ;)

You missed the essence of Chennai by not interacting with the people…I've had great experiences while asking passers-by for directions …"Saar, straightaaa pongo, aparo 2nd left cutting, 3rd right cutting…"!!!!

But my congratulations for proving that you don't have to know Tamil to live in Chennai…You have given it back to all those ppl who come to bengalooru and don't learn Kannada… ;)


Wow..thats quite a long comment..I guess the longest on this blog :)
Yes…probably the good fortune could be attributed to the two-party system (logically!) there ? Just guessing..This should encourage people to promote 2 party system in other states too.
Yeah..those ads..how I miss them ;-)
Mini tiffin is a good concept..even mini lunch which is a combination of 3 small bowls of rice plus others..what i never understood was , mini lunch was costlier than normal lunch ;-) Also..there were few other veg dishes (I dont know if they are unique to Chennai..but I ate them there) are prepared which almost compete with non-veg in price and taste – like kheema idly, chilli parota etc
Parthasarathy temple -birthday :D
Mostly free in weekend…
Thanks :)

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