place: chennai, kanchipuram
district: chennai, kanchipuram
state: tamil nadu
location: some 1700 km from kolkata
fame: chennai is a global city and kanchipuram is a temple city
|route map i had taken|
I had never imagined in the wildest of my dreams (yes, they are literally wild) that I would be going to Chennai, down south, all of a sudden and so soon. I had this big dream of visiting all the states there, stay there for a year or so, stopover at all the places of historical importance, eat enough of idli, dosa, sambar and pongal, drink gallons of fresh filter coffee and not return before. South India has always attracted me because of the beautiful temple architecture, the wildlife, the Western Ghats, the forests, the waterfalls and the unrivalled beauty. I also had to test the credibility of the constant complaints people from north have about the place (and vice versa) but believe me after my visit I would say and out loud, “Go there man! It’s your own place, your own people and enjoy. The food is awesome, the language cool and the weather hot. There is so much to see and explore.” I will need another live to live south India to the fullest.
My younger sister had shifted to Chennai a while ago and I had to go and meet her and assure that she wouldn’t be the only person whose family members didn’t come up visiting. The day I got to know that she has been placed in Chennai an unfamiliar sensation gripped me. I was poignant that my beloved sister would go to a different city but also happy that she would learn to live of her own plus the bonus of meeting my blogger friends at Chennai. I got my tickets, applied for leave, decided to stay with Sree (he was good enough to provide me lodging, company and food for free) and reached Chennai on the morning of 8th August at around 3.3am. It was a Sunday and Meghana’s birthday and there was still some work undone. I have roamed around quite a few cities now in the dead of the night and believe me Chennai looked amazingly heaven-like under the incandescent light.
I hired an auto which charged 300 bucks to Sree’s place but considering the distance I guessed it alright that I had been fooled, but that was an one-off instance. I am a terrible case of doodh ka jala chaach bhi phook phook ke peeta hai so I promised myself no disaster henceforth and no letting others fool me. The first thing I did when I entered Sree’s untidy room was send my birthday wishes mail to Meghana lest her dhai kilo ka haat falls on me. I was a relieved man once that was done. Sree told me about his engagement, took me for free breakfast at Hot Chips and even to Elliot’s beach and said that the whole gang would be coming over for lunch in the afternoon at The Cascade. I went to meet my sister and considering the punctual guy I am reached the comforts of the restaurant well in time. It was not the first time I was meeting friends who were technically strangers but I was cool with it. On the contrary I quite liked such encounters. I could recognize Niveditha, Navin, Manoj, Sreeram and Priyanka followed by late-comers Daniel, Chandramouli and Nithyanand and finally the sorceress of the group, Anuradha.
|the sun was quite hot|
Sree broke the news of his engagement to everyone and it was a great moment. I could see everyone cheering and making merry. People were visibly happy and moved. Sree is quite popular amongst his friends and why not, he is one good guy. Who would after all have kept a total stranger at home for two days? I could very well be the bad guy and might have mugged him while he was asleep and gotten away with his DSLR, his laptop, his Activa and the bottle of hair oil from his washroom. Who knows?
|a beach at chennai|
It was great to meet new people, have a good lunch with them and celebrate the moments of joy. MJ was the comedian of the group and Anuradha made much of the noise while Niveditha laughed after almost every 5 minutes. Mouli was the quiet one and clicked pictures intermittently whilst Priyanka was seeing taking pictures of everything her eyes could lay of ranging from the food to the tumbler to the stones kept in the desk under the glass sheet. After we were done with the two course meal and the dessert and I having broken a glass we went out for the beach. We had a couple of group pictures while the sun was burning my skin like fire but I was cool. We spent quite some time on the roadside, under a tree shade, talked nonsense and when the time was right went near the beach. I was enjoying every moment. It was now time for everyone to leave. While retuning back Nithya accused me of being technically challenged and said I was shorter than what I looked in my pics. He was good to talk to and he sounded every bit of the genius people say him to be. Priyanka was demure and had a very pleasant personality and the only girl in the group. Anuradha was paranormal but funny. Who will not enjoy her company? Sree was definitely the life of the group and MJ the darling of all. It was great having met them all.
|the gang of bloggers|
I had to go and meet a couple of friends so I left for IIT Chennai after a farewell with my crying sister in a state bus. It was good to meet my college friend Indrani after such a while and going around the campus of the world famous institute in the middle of the night was a great feeling. It had rained while my friend and I had dinner within the campus. The food was good and I got wet too but since the weather had cooled substantially compared to in the afternoon I wasn't complaining of anything. While returning to the main gate I saw a spotted deer (chital) and a scorpion which I couldn’t see from close because of the dark. My friend Indrani had accidentally stepped over it and the white species had raised its tail ready for the sting. We talked of many things and it really felt good to come and meet a friend in a different city. It was already 11pm so I skipped the idea of meeting another friend who stayed even further and by the time I reached Sree’s place it was already 11pm. The moment I landed on the bed I was a dead man, tired of all the day’s going around.
|the sky and the cross|
The next day I had planned to go to Kanchipuram, one of the most ancient cities on earth and world famous for its temples in Dravidian architecture built by the Pallava kings. I had made up my mind for Mahabalipuram but on the insistence of a friend from office I went to Kanchipuram instead. Sree helped me with the direction plus I had a fair idea too. It was some 80 km away from Chennai and a few miles off NH4 and it took around 3 hours to reach from the place I was staying. Chennai is an amazingly beautiful city full of IT parks and beautiful places. It’s clean and undoubtedly qualifies as a Global City along with Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata. I reached the place and from far I could see the Ekambareswarar Shiva temple towering over everything else in the city. I was glad to have come there. Am mighty fascinated by the rajgopurams of these temples and if I had the time of the world I would have taken a day each to see every one of them. I booked an auto for 250 bucks and told the driver to take me around the town and that he did.
|vamanar vishnu temple gopuram|
He first showed me the Vamanar Vishnu temple and I was amazed at the mere sight of it. I had no idea that almost all the temples closed their doors by 12.30pm and then open again at 4pm. It was already 12pm so I rushed inside. I was astonished to see Vishnu's Vaman avatar carved on stone measuring his third step on the head of king Bali and in the process blessing him. It was one of the finest things I had seen in my life. The temples were fascinating and more was to come. Next he took me to the one that I had seen from the bus, the tallest and the largest temple in the town and one of the most famous Shiva temples in the world, the Ekambareswarar temple. The first view left me spell bound. How could a temple be so big and tall and this was not even the biggest in India I am talking about? This was for the first time I had seen such a big rajgopuram and I couldn’t stop myself from clicking pictures. I was excited and on cloud nine. I hurried inside the temple and an arti was going on. I pushed myself amidst the thousands of devotees to the front to get a clear view of the Shiva lingam and a view I did get. The rajpurohit speared a handful of chandan on my forehead and blessed me. I roamed around the temple seeing in awe the granite pillars, the sun reflecting its rays inside the temple, the thousands of Shiva idols, a mango tree allegedly 3500 years old and the palligopurams seen from the courtyard and it was a magical feeling. I felt having come to a different age altogether. I was charmed beyond repair. I went outside and saw a pond with a temple in the middle. A huge Nandi rested nearby in stone and a bronze Nataraja danced to cosmic glory in the sprawling lawn. I could see a bunch of women dressed in red Kanjivaram saree and they looked angelic. I just didn’t feel like coming out of the temple but I had to. The sun was scorching hot and the auto took me to another famous Shiva temple, the Kamakshi Amman but by the time I reached, it was already closed. I also got to see the famous Vardharaja Perumal Vishnu temple from the outside since that too was closed.
|inside the ekambareswarar temple|
I couldn’t have waited till 4pm because I had to go to Chennai, meet my sister again and reach the station on time to take the midnight train for Kolkata. Before calling it a day the auto driver told me, “Sir, every foreigner coming to this place, see old temple, oldest in city. It is 8 km from here. You give me more money out of happiness and I show you that temple.” I don’t know if he considered me from Venezuela but nevertheless I said, “Yes, take me there too.” It was certainly another beautiful monument and much like the Shore temple from nearby Mahabalipuram. It was the Kailasnatha Shiva temple where I could see at least twenty foreign tourists clicking the place from every possible angle. I went inside with my shoes on like a pucca foreigner and had to be reminded it’s a temple, albeit not in use. I clicked some pics but didn’t stay there long as it was terribly hot by the time.
|kailasnatha shiva temple|
I had already explored enough of the town in the baking sun but the auto driver told me he would show me the weaving centre. Who would say a no to that? Kanchipuram is world famous for its silk sarees. I thought it would be a weaving community where I would see old ladies weaving sarees on a loom and would click pictures but he took me to a shop instead where I was cornered by a gang of good looking girls with lovely smelling gajras on their hairs. They offered me coffee and started showing me sarees. How could I say a "no" so had to pick one. I went for the moderately priced one costing 2000 bucks and returned back as soon as possible lest more money went out my pocket. I reached Chennai, amazing city I tell you, very beautiful, and went straight to meet my sister. I was glad to see her happy and not crying unlike yesterday. We talked for a while and then I left for Sree’s place. I reached the gate but it was locked. I called Sree to ask where he was at which he was shocked, “Oh! I had forgotten you were here! Give me 15 minutes and I will be there.” Well, I could now understand the forgetting and all but the guy did come in 15 minutes sharp. It was already time to bid the city a bye and Sree made it a point to drop me till the station and not before showing the Marina beach and some other pockets of the amazing city. I felt I had stayed a little longer but I had to go. I got into the comforts of my 3-tier AC compartment and ensued for another long and boring journey but with memoires that will last for a lifetime.
|chennai moufazil bus stop|
A big and heartfelt thanks to all my friends for making my trip so adventurous and so full of life. I will surely visit again.