PLACES OF INTEREST
PLACES OF INTEREST
Fort St. George & St. Mary's Church, Gandhi Mandapam, High Court, Anna Square, Kapaleeswara Temple, Light House, Marina Beach & Aquarium, Parthasarathy Temple, San Thom Cathedral, Snake Park, Theosophical Society, Valluvar Kottam, Ripon Buildings and War Memorial Fort Museum (0900-1700 hrs. Closed on fridays).and Govt. Museum & Art Gallery (0800-1700 hrs. Closed on fridays
Off the Rack
“Ready-made” means basically “off the rack,” or pretty much anything that isn’t tailored (although many places are willing to tailor the ready-mades). There are ready-made shops beyond number, but I defy you to find the same fabric used twice anywhere. Anyway, a couple I frequent:
FabIndia (many locations, but especially Besant Nagar) – for men and women; stacks of kurtas, skirts, blouses, trousers, etc, for about what you’d pay to buy the material and have them stitched; in some locations also have blankets, curtains, etc.
Naidu Hall (“For the Real Woman, since 1939,” many locations, but the one in Adyar is practically next door) – women only; some western styles, but mostly salwars and saris; underwear
Built in 1654 and remodeled in 1749, Fort St. George is the first bastion of British power in India. The fort has a six-meter tall wall that withstood many sieges by Mughals in 1701, Marathas in 1741 and Hyder Ali during the late 18th century. The fort now houses the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly.
Kapaleeshwarar Temple Tank
In front of the Kapaleeshwarar Temple entrance is the temple tank, which is full of carp (or possibly catfish. Opinions vary). Many people come to feed the fish with packets of fish food (puffed rice) which can be bought in vendor stalls in the vicinity of the tank.
It's fascinating to watch them feed, the water seems to boil with fish, and many are pushed up out of the water by their larger fellows underneath them, and they flop around on the surface before finding a gap into which they can plunge. Then the food disappears, and they disperse... until the next handful of rice.
"Mooning in Madras"
I arrive at Singapore's Changi Airport just before noon, and since my layover before my flight to Meenambakkam Airport, Madras, India, is about 8 hours, take the opportunity to window-shop in the Lion City and enjoy one last Hainanese Chicken Rice knowing that pretty soon I’ll be drowning in Indian curry. Back in Changi by early evening, I find myself, yet again, at one of the many web spots available. Counting how many times I had been to Changi this year, I stop when I reached 10.Its been a good travelling year and now it’s off to India!
I've been regaled with so many horror stories about India that I can't help but expect the worse.
When I finally step out of Madras airport it is about 2am my time, Penang time, a full 18 hours (8 hour layover, 1 hour flight delay,1 hour wait for baggage) after I left home(ahhhh...sweet home..) and I have no doubt that I am thousands of miles away. Less than half a minute out of the airport in a cab, the cacophony of honks, toots, beeps, and hoots, starts.
Where are these people in such a hurry to get to at 11.30 at night? I put it down to the excitement of being home, or leaving home.
Its only the next morning when I am in a three-wheeler, in the thick of traffic, where trucks, cars, buses, bikes, bicycles and three-wheelers all surge abreast in a heart-attack rendering lack of order, that I realise that the incessant blaring of horns is their song, the endless symphony the norm. I thought the traffic in Penang was bad, but in Madras it’s a mess!
The traffic in this city is unnervingly disorderly as people and various vehicles merge together, each at their own pace, wending and weaving, jousting for space on a route mapped only in their heads. Here, it’s a case of 'whoever heard of stopping at roundabouts?’. It’s a toe-curling experience; I am constantly stomping on imaginary brakes.
Quite a few times the three-wheeler, or 'auto' that I was riding in had a near-collision with another vehicle or pedestrian and this would result in a bout of shouting and arguing between the parties as heavy traffic swirled around them, finally ending with each going on their own way, cussing under their breaths. Funny thing is, as soon as they get off on to a less travelled road they all slow to a tortoise's pace, as though the city traffic has sapped the energy from them and they need time to re-charge. I saw buses that looked like burst cans of too- tightly- packed sardines, people spilling out of both front and back doors, hanging on the side of the moving bus. Here if someone runs into you from behind, he proceeds to accuse you of being blind!
Poverty is rife. The city teems with beggars, they are never afraid to ask. We were approached by a beggar in the streets. I watched as, speaking to her friend on the sidewalk, she caught sight of us and broke her conversation off to cross the streets to our auto. The others would hold their palms open as we walked past them, but we gave them food instead of money. Many times, it was graciously accepted, drunken male beggars would decline, wanting cash for more cheap liquor. Children barely aged 3 would wander around the beaches selling packets of drinking water, which we declined because we carried our own. I gave them potato crisps, which they eagerly wolfed down, picking the bits that had fallen out of their hands, from the sand.
Even the VCD vendor asked for a bit extra ‘I’m working, need more money,’ he says, and what? We don’t work? I think about how different the mentality is here, compared those at home, where pride and hard work would take more of a stand. At first it seems like everyone tries to get a little bit extra, but as we become familiar faces, they just take what is fair.
At dusk, as the hustle and bustle winds down, people start settling down for the night on the sidewalks and in the alleyways. Some of the more fortunate ones live in thatched huts with woven reed walls. Slums line the river banks and streets, some standing smack in between modern concrete and shiny glass buildings. The women hang what little clothes the family own out to dry on the railings by the roads, oblivious to the dust collecting on the freshly scrubbed clothing.
There was a man that I passed every morning and evening who never left his sidewalk patch, he seemed to sit in the same position everyday, eyes glazed as he stared at something no one else saw. Seeing someone urinating or defecating by the side of the busy road in plain view of the passing world is a common sight, if fancy takes them they just hoist up their lungghi (sarong) and 'go'.
The people stare as we pass, more out of curiosity than hostility, often approaching us to ask where we're from, and when we tell them, they leave it at that and are off on their way, as if it was just so they could go home and say 'hey,I met someone from .... today ’. Though they keep their distance, they are always helpful when we turn to ask.
I am charmed when two little girls follow me around and their mother later approaches me and asks, in perfect English, if I might have a pen or something that I could give the girls. They just wanted a small souvenir and I regret that I had nothing.
The air is thick with a haze of exhaust fumes and pollution is everywhere. Garbage is dumped in every corner and the rivers are viscous with scum with rotting trash, an open sewerage so malodorous and fetid that on hot days you smell it way before you see it. It’s so dry and dusty that every time I return to my hotel room I am covered with a film of dirt and dust, and after awhile the feeling just doesn’t seem to go away, even when I've just scrubbed myself pink and raw, I feel the need to scrub again.
I think about how at home, where I actually drink the tap water, while here I wouldn’t even think about it! I start missing Penang, its relaxed pace, and our apartment above the beach, and the cool refreshing breeze that blows all day, no need for fans or air- conditioning. Most of all I miss the peaceful silence in the evenings, save for the waves breaking on the shore.