January 6, 2008

Chennai Chutzpah

Chennai has changed. I have said that each time in every post since I came to India. While many of the changes are the modernizations, this time I am out to crib. I can barely recognize the Chennai roads anymore and it has more to do with the traffic scene out there than the detours.

I accompanied my SIL-to-be yesterday to Ranganathan Theru.. (For the unfamiliar many, its this winding street in TNagar buzzling with trillion stores and million times as many people). She wanted to buy some jewelry at Saravana Stores (This is one of those multistoreyed stores that sell everything from a 50 paise to over 50 lakhs.. from clothes to jewelry to toys to furniture). We snaked our way into the street vaguely keeping sight of one another and tight hold on our purses and wound up at the door of the store. It took us 5 minutes to get to the entrance.. Once there we were informed rather rudely by one of the security fellows that we couldn't carry her sari upstairs to match it.. but instead we had to leave it underground, where there were many large puddles of dirty water from recent rains, I might add. We used my cell phone camera to capture a handy picture of the sari in case we needed to match it.. That done, we decided it was better to climb the 5 floors rather than wait for the overcrowded elevators. Once upstairs we were in for another surprise. They wanted to seal our handbags in large plastic bags lest we steal anything. I was exasperated with the security measures (I secretly don't blame them but wish they had something more fool-proof that didn't inconvenience the customers as much). Once in, there were sooo many people that I could barely feel any airconditioning (wonder if there was any), the salespeople were overworked and could barely tend to us... Everything took frustratingly long. And yet there were all these people there.. buying, screaming, billing, brushing across and what not. Either people have too much time or too much money or both. On restrospect the crowds were thronging because of Pongal perhaps. But still it was more than I could bear. I was getting rapidly claustrophobic and I thought I would pass out by the time we billed the small jimiki (jhumka) I bought there. And the worst part of it all was that we didnt find anything for my poor SIL. :(

I experienced Part II of the madness today when we went to Mylapore for yet another bout of shopping. The shopping part went on reasonably well and we went to the Saravana Bhavan nearby for a refreshing meal afterward. The trouble began here. Though the restaurant boasts an underground parking, of course on a Sunday evening, it was full. Appa and I parked at the far end of the street and took a hunger evoking walk to the restaurant. And once done, the fact that there was a Thiruvizha (a large fair) in the locality dawned on us. And that didn't help traffic at all. Add to that the cows and bulls that meander the streets lovingly making it their own. Oh and of course the humongous college buses which can dwarf any street when present on South Mada street prety much take all the place that there is. It took me and Appa about 40 minutes to drive the block around Kapaleeswarar Temple. When finally the roads cleared, I didn't know what hit me. Who ever thought things could get his crazy in Chennai? Chennai.. which was the most tranquil of the metros has transformed into something more sinister. Why can't all the roads become like the IT Highway (this road is right behind my house and has been paved into the highest quality road where the traffic flows away like butter) ? Hmph.


Anonymous said...

At least you weren't mistaken for a sales person. The last time I went to one of the overcrowded sari shops in T.Nagar, I was asked for locations of different types of saris on three occasions. Don't know whether I give out a vibe that says 'sari expert'.

Ram said...

Hmm... looks like someone is slowly tending toward my view of Chennai :)
One thing is sure, I like your posts from Adyar.. 10x better than the US.. your creative genes are somehow flowing better there.

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