Blow Hot, Blow Cold On Chennai

Whew!! It was good to be back after 4 days of stifling heat in Chennai; back to the welcome Cool environs of Bangalore.
But then to give Chennai its due, it was good to have visited Chennai too. It had been quite a while for me and I saw the City a lttle differently this time than the earlier ones.( Hope it comes with aging!)
Minds clouded by the numbing humid heat, One tends to miss certain good things about this good ol’ metro.
Chennai is large, I mean as large as Bangalore is perhaps or a little more, but then more well spread out and I thought the load of the Business district is equally shared by many pockets Of the City unlike Bangalore’s . It is connected by a network of well laid out large roads. Besides it has one of the best public transports in its buses, so much so that the autorckshaws here ( a Bangaloreans’ favorite in his City ) has been relegated to an inconspicuous position in its role on road transport. Which is perhaps one of the reasons why the Autorickshaw-wallahs here fleece money from unsuspecting tourists grumbling about Petrol price hike and the unchanging meter fare fixed by the Govt (which is never followed, by the way). If you don’t know Tamil or can’t haggle, you are bound to be overcharged for that lapse. Which is not a daily problem for Chennai citizens as they largely depend on the cheaper public transport and of course, the Local trains that connect the North and South parts of the City quite well.

Unlike Mumbai Locals, the trains here are not ‘that’ crowded and are an attarctive alternative to buses because of cheaper fares for long distances.

I found it intriguing that Bangalore’s Business district roads clustered around MG Road, KG Road orthe much-touted ‘IT Corridor’ are neither as large nor connected with an efficient mass transit facility. Ironically, ‘Corridors’ are what they are.. and I mean narrow!
Why, even in the peak hours of the City, I found Chennai roads less crowded and motorable and there were hardly any Traffic jams whereas in Bangalore not a day passes without several jams happening on its arterial roads.

May be Chennai was planned or developed as a BIG City from the beginning so the City planners had wisdom and vision in developing efficient transport to the city anticipating its growth. The successive State Govts, it would appear, has not done too badly either in maintaining the roads and building Flyovers in a timely manner easing the woes of the ‘Madrasi’ Citizens over the years without much fuss.

In an unmistakable way it goes to hold candle to the fact that Bangalore has been a victim of some pretty poor planning and civic attention from the beginning. I mean we knew Bangalore would grow alright but we disounted the IT-boom which descended like a monster out of the blue in the last decade tearing up all our plans and dreams of a retaining Bangalore a pensioners’ paradise to shreds.
Now it is a losing battle to scream till you are blue in the face that ‘we are doing this’ or ‘we are planning that’ to appease the much-hassled IT Captains. Which is what our State Govt seems to be adept at doing.

Then the question of food for the working man.
A typical South Indian City, Chennai has plenty of restaurants to please the native tastebuds.
Saravana Bhavan chain Of resturants leads the Quick eats pack, not to forget the traditional Dasaprakash, Woodlands etc for ‘Full Meals’.
Of Course, Bangalore is simlarly equipped, in fact a little better by its variety and the No. of eating joints. Yes, Bangalore is a Gourmet’s heaven.

Bangalore lacks one thing that nature has bestowed to Chennai in abundance which is the Sea itself.
The Marina beach is really lovely and very long too running uninterrupted for several kilometers from the Port to Besant nagar thereabouts.
This is what perhaps a Banglaorean misses most in his amusement schedule in his city, being a landlocked city.

But having a beach comes with its own strings attached too….The year-long humidity and the sultry weather. (Not to speak of the Tsunamis!!)
Which is in stark contrast to the salubrious weather Bangalore sports most of the time.
I realized the stark difference when my wife called in to say that it was raining cats and dogs in Bangalore and she was soaked fully returning from work, at exactly the same time I was sweating profusely under Chennai heat. It is Mid October, mind you and see what the 1000- meter differnce in sea levels between the cities can do.

So coming back to ports and landlocked cities, I cannot speak for everyone whether one cancels out the other, but having a beach is perhaps better than none at all.
I mean think of the evenings….Stress Busting… exercising… Poetic inspiration or romantic settings… there are so many angles to a beach that would knock the bottom out of a simple walk in Lal Bagh or Cubbon Park; or perhaps a stroll in the new Mall.

The Cultural milieu of the City of Chennai has not changed much over the years, it is still largely the Tamil speaking proud capital Of its state and other languages are not much heard or understood on the roads. Not so, Bangalore, a true Cosmpolitan sporting diversity to the extent of subduing its own nativity.
Well, Pizza huts and fast food parlours surely dot the upmarket roads in Chennai but then the swinging crowds like in Bangalore are simply not there. The same goes for the Night life,
I only heard this from some friends as I am not a big Night Lifer or party goer myself.
The youth I talked to in one of the offices I visited here recall the fond memories of Bangalore pubs and how they freaked out when they were there.
I don’t know whether to be happy or unhappy about this, being an avowed teetotaller and a non smoking Veggie myself. But to be sure, what these guys are happy about is not the REAL spirit of Bangalore at all for me. It means so much more and different things to me.
And one of those things is certainly religion.

If Bangalore has some wonderful temples and and ashrams in its kitty, there is no dearth of them in Chennai either.
I was fortunate to visit four lovely specimen of Dravidian and Modern architecture while I was there. I had quickly finshed up all my work in the first three days and kept the last Half day for myself.

The Pallavan age- Kapaleeshwar Temple in Mylapore is exquisite studded with ancient Gopuram and sculpture. The Lingam is superb and the pooja was excellent too. It is close to the Hotel President I stayed. (The less said the better about this high priced ‘Star’ Hotel. Suffice to say the that AC was working and the room was kept clean, although the latter was after repeated calls to the Housekeeping).

After praying to the Parvathi, Ganesha and Murigan idols, I let for Parthsarathi Temple.This temple in Triplicane area is dedicated to Vishnu in standing position akin to Lord Venkateshwara. They allow us to go really close to the murthi and that was good!

I left for Ashta Lakshmi temple situated on Besant nagar beach and enroute I saw some of the calmest city routes deviod of any traffic in mid day the likes of which any City can only dream to have! Some 8 different forms of Lakshmi are presented in a two tier temple here. Worth a dekko!

Shirdi Sai Mandir back in Mylapore is another beaut not to be skipped. Every aspect of the Original Shirdi temple has been replicated to scale and recreated here. Tasty, yummy Prasadam too and it was Thursday, the special day for Baba devotees.
I clicked away some real close pics inside of the baba idol.
Oh, on a Tuesday evening I had spent seeing Vadapalani’s Murugan temple.

I witnessed the ‘pal abhishekam’ ( MILK Abhisheka) and Tuesday is auspicious for the Deity, I heard. This is another ancient big temple and certainly worth seeing.
And, Hey! Chennai Central Station somehow manages to look and feel better. They make little noticeable changes to the interiors frequently and that’s a British- age old stone building, mind you..Good show!
Oh no, thats not what you feel when you get out of the train in Bangalore City. If anything, it looks worse and crowded .
And when the prepaid autorickshaw driver demanded more than what was on the bill, I sighed resignedly and paid up.
Certain things never change, whether in Bangalore or Chennai.

Enough of my rambling. I have got this writers’ bug, you see, can’t seem to end the articles…I came back last Night…Catch you all later

~ Nagesh
Oct 6, 05


One response to “Blow Hot, Blow Cold On Chennai

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