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Visit to Chennai July 17, 2005

Posted by vettithoughts in Travel.

I am back in San Antonio from a vacation to Chennai, India. It has been nearly two-and-a-half years since I was in Chennai. So it was not surprising that there were many changes.
But did I like those changes? Now that is the million dollar question. The Chennai I lived in until 2001 was crowded, polluted but it still had retained those pockets of charm.
West-mambalam was still a place that had independent houses and mamis walking to or back from the various temples. The primary mode of transport after PTC buses was two-wheelers. Ayodhya mandapam was the primary hang-out spot for older people. As I said it still retained its charm and place.

The west-mambalam I saw during this trip was full of apartments/flats. I could barely spot an independent house. Oh man!!!! The number of cars on the road…Toyotas, Hondas, Hyundais, Fords…
Pondy-bazaar- no change there, except more crowds, lesser parking spots, dangerous autos and of course newer shops. Happened to visit the Spencers plaza. It is still a hangout for the college crowd.

I did get a chance to visit Mamallapuram. It is now a protected national monument and is also in the list as a world heritage monument (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/249/). It is now maintained by the ASI (Archeological Society of India). I don’t have to elaborate about the ECR (East Coast Road). Any one who visited Chennai in the last couple of years would know what I am talking about. The last time I went to Mahabalipuram was more than 10 years back. I am glad to say that the ASI has done an extremely good job in maintaining the monument. The monuments have been fenced and in front of the monuments are well maintained lawns. The hawkers and shops are out of the fenced area. There is very little littering on the premises. There are ASI inscriptions that describe the various rathas and shore temple. That was interesting as it gave some of the Pallava history and what each of the monument means. On a jarring note though, there were some spelling mistakes on the shore temple descriptions. Recent Tsunami has also left some things uncovered by the sea and these have also been fenced off by the ASI.

Each road signal in the city as a timer that shows how many more seconds the red or the green light is on. That was a great idea. Kudos to Chennai traffic for that. The huge hoardings, cinema theatres ( I heard that a visit to Chennai is incomplete without seeing a movie at the Sathyam theatre), wise-cracking auto drivers…well now that is the good ol’ Chennai we know. There are great places to eat, from what my sister tells me. For people who are Subway fans here, Chennai Subway has more vegetarian fares than the usual veggie delite or veggie patty. I had to remind my sister that she wouldn’t find those options in the US.

On a more philosophical note, I got the english translation of “Periya Puranam”. I can hear people going…ENGLISH TRANSLATION!!!! THAT’S NOT THE WAY TO READ THE LIFE HISTORIES OF APPAR, SUNDARAR AND THIRUGNANA SAMBANDHAR. I agree with that. But my ability to read tamil is overtaken by my need to finish reading the book. More thoughts on the Periya puranam later.

I guess what I can say in conclusion is that “Chennai is growing and the yuppies are taking over”…



1. thennavan - October 10, 2005

Hi, first time here. I wrote about my Chennai trip too. Chennai is changing in many ways yet it is still the same in other ways. But whatever it is, I like my Chennai 🙂

2. vettithoughts - January 8, 2006

Thanks for visiting my blog. I have visited your blog from my brother Ganesh’s blog.Chennai- its a place we love to complain about and still whatever said its our good ol’ chennai!!!!

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