Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Chennai emotes

Birthday gal

Returning to Chennai to me has always felt like going back to my hometown. I will never be prepared to move there permanently but to never visit would probably break my heart. So this time we were there for 5 days. We took a night train from Trichy and there was a slight glitch for our return tickets. Lets just say I spent some time figuring out whether our train berths were confirmed.


Since we had once lived there we usually spend a day visiting Mylapore, Thiruvanmuyir and adyar. Then it’s off to clear all our work, shopping, heading to my most favourite tailor in the world. I have been stitching clothes there since 2002 and remarkably he has never messed up my clothes. I send a bulk of stuff, give him details come back in a day or so pick them up and head home or elsewhere. One time i found him closed and resorted to another tailor only to have that idiot spoil all my stuff. Anyway lovely tailor of mine nearly declined to sew my things coz he was overbooked but finally relented.

Prayer seeking
I had wanted to shoot so much things in Chennai but ended up not doing any of it. Of course I managed to have my bhaji and watch a movie at Sathyam. Kamalahassans Unnai Pol Oruvan had just been released and we managed to get a late night show. I wasn’t that sure about watching a late night movie in Madras coz the last time I watched even a night movie, the crowd was pretty different. This time there were quite a number of families watching the show, I guess Chennai’s finally embracing the late night culture? Though I did get a weird look from my hotel reception when I told them I’d be late.

The main attraction in Mylapore is of course the Kabalishwarar temple. There are more temples there but this one is on the tourist circuit yet still retains its charm. If you head there you’ll notice a peculiar thing, people sitting in front of the Ganesha sannidhi (part of temple) instead of the hall area near the side. The reason is come during any day of the year and regardless of how hot the rest of the temple is, that one area will always be breezy. I spent the morning sitting there and watching people walk by.

That’s when I met this little girl all decked up for her birthday, shyly looking at me. I thought I’d have time to come back and shoot the streets of Mylapore where the real activity happens but I never did find time during the day. The streets of Mylapore are filled with various textile and jewellery shops. Everytime I head there the buildings seem to be getting flashier and less rustic then it used to be, sadly. We visited another 2 temples around there though my mom wanted to do more. Yes there’s more!

The look
I have never stopped being astonished by the way the auto drivers manoeuvre through the roads. It was even more intense this time as it was the Diwali season. Still I’m always fond of those little maniac machines, heck I even managed to shoot while they were whizzing in traffic. That’s when I saw this guy carrying a vel through traffic. Pretty funny ;p

playing the waiting game lost
I tell you India is nuts during Diwali, not festive just frantically crazy. Shopping was super crazy. I couldn’t spot my usual guy at Chennai Pothys and got stuck with this sully dude who kept showing me silk sarees I would never wear and refused to understand a single word we were saying. After a frustrating 30 minutes or so he left us thinking we weren’t gonna make any purchase when we spotted another man and within minutes of explaining my taste he was handing me exactly what I wanted.

End of the afternoon, the very happy dude treated us like gold and kept jibbing in the other guys face on how to be courteous. Heh he deserved it alright, I never buy from people who think they know what I should get! So while they were sorting out our blouse materials and we had had our drinks, we headed downstairs to the crazyness. In India saree shops are like departmental stores one floor for men, another for kids, and the rest for women which are modern clothes, silk sarees, textile and fancy/ cotton sarees. It was like entering a mini Thaipusam downstairs at the cotton section. You just couldn’t walk, someone was hitting you every now and then or bulldozing past you as if they were being chased by the devil. Surprisingly the staff was super unfriendly downstairs, perhaps it was the season and the competitiveness comes out with all the frustration from fidgety buyers in the festive season. It got really tiring to shop, something that’s surprising for me but people were just that unruly. Like I said that’s probably the last time I’m heading to India during Diwali! Phew!

Remember how we complain about banking services in Malaysia. Try doing it in India. We have an account in Chennai that has been dormant for sometime and decided it was about time we had a look at it. So we head to the bank at about 10.00 am and start inquiring about our account. It’s this little tiny bank with 4 tellers, 1 manager 2 officers and about 20 – 30 ppl heading in the span of 2 hours. Guess how long it took them to restart our account? 4 hours! 2 hours to walk back and forth between tellers, managers and whoever such, write 2 3 letters, talk to each donkey who were super rude. And finally just as we thought it will soon be over, the lady tells us oh its our lunch time and come back in an hour. I was gobsmacked for a second but had no choice but to do that and when we finally got back in an hour it took them just another 10 mins to get it done! Argggggggggg yeah customer service at its best.

Ah but you haven’t met the gods of India. No they don’t reside in temples, churches or mosques. They my dear are the gods who run the train network. You might meet a jolly god or usually the do-as-i-say sulky ETR (train ticket officer) god but trust me none will ever give you an answer. If you’re lucky they’ll laugh and tell you I’m sure your ticket will be confirmed 1 hour before we leave! I have yet to meet a train god with a soul. They run the system as they wish, leaving most people to the whims of their mood. Weirdo’s.

Yes it was a crazy trip where we met a lot of male chauvinist pigs. Like the hotel manager who insisted he had booked our travel service as we had requested only to find at 5 am in the morning, nothing had been done. Thankfully we ended up with a lovely driver who apparently woke up took a quick shower and headed to our hotel at the very last minute!

Anyway perhaps I’ll tell you that story later.
I’ve just uploaded the first part of a photography recap on V-Eyez.

My photography blog V-Eyez Imagery on Facebook