Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rain or Shine....

It has been a really long time since I last posted here. And just to keep you informed I am still here in Chennai. The things have been pretty much the same; there are men with white faces, ladies with yellow faces and there is me with an uneasy face. Now the former two are results of powder and turmeric used by them and the latter one is also the result of powder and turmeric used by them. Although, I shall have to admit that I am not new to this concept of powdering the face; thanks to my two years in TAPMI. But, to see every second person like that makes me uneasy. I don’t think anybody would like to put on such a ridiculous “make-up” and go out everyday. It shows that either they don’t have mirror in their homes or this is their definition of looking beautiful. Even when I reach office, I see people combing there hair first in the parking lot, then in the mirror adjacent to the lift and then again in the restrooms. It shows that people here are very conscious about their looks and that always reminds me that I am still in the city of “colourful” people.

Around two weeks back it started raining heavily here and I thought “Thank God, finally some change is there.” But that again brought with itself some agony. Now it looks like that the sea has crossed over into the city as every street and road is flooded.

I can live with that since now the weather is much more pleasant here than it was when I came here. But when I say that the weather has become pleasant (which is highly subjective in Chennai) I mean only the look and feel of it, not the smell. Generally in weather like this people tend to go out and breathe fresh air but here if you try to breathe then you will be on the ground choking like the character in the first scene of The Rock (remember the movie with Sean Connery, Nicholas Cage). Even if it drizzles the city starts stinking like instead of water the city is showered with hundreds of rotten animals and tons of garbage. If Chennai was an airplane then I bet that the oxygen masks would be out 24x7 in the rainy season.

As I said the weather becoming pleasant is highly subjective because for most of the people around me it is like their life’s worst winter season. People here are geared up for this like they have shifted to Siberia. You can see them in jackets, sweaters, caps and everything else known to mankind required to survive at North Pole. And if you are roaming around in just shirt or t-shirt, like me, then you will see some strange looking faces staring at you.

So, I stay in the comfort of my air-conditioned room and avoid these staring eyes, the stench and the city.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Once you reach Chennai for a comparatively longer period of stay (more than a month), you will find that there is not much that you can do here. There are only a few good places that I have come up with-in Chennai that one can visit:
  • Marina Beach
  • Elliot Beach
  • Spencer’s Mall
  • Citi Centre (Mall + INOX Theatre)
  • Sathyam Cinema
So, all in all you can either go to the mall or watch a movie or go to the beach. Some people might say that you can go to Pondicherry, but that’s outside the city. So, there is not much scope of interaction with the people and the city itself. But, every morning I had to come out of my house to go to work and then in the evening come back home.

During this brief interval of interaction I got chance to experience something, which I guess is every boy’s dream. (I know it for a fact as I along with a lot my friends back home have cribbed over our bad luck, as it never happened to us.) But when it happened here in Chennai, believe me guys, it did not resemble even remotely to what we had imagined in our daydreams.

Before I start the story I would like to tell you that it involves a “Shared-Auto” which by the way is a great way to travel for a NOT (Non-Tamilian) in Chennai.

For those of you who might not know this concept of shared-auto it is like this: the not-so-notorious autowala charges a fixed amount of money per person (5/10 Rs) for a fixed destination. There are around 9 people in the auto, 7 of whom sit in a specially made two-level platform (where you usually find the back-seat) and 2 sit with the driver. So, you just have to speak your destination, the autowala signals to you if he is going there. Once your destination comes you pay the fixed amount and simply walk away. No need to speak much, signal, try to understand or beat your head over lack of bargaining power (which comes naturally if you are a NOTS (Non Tamil Speaker).

So, on that day too I was waiting for a shared auto to reach office. One autowala stopped near me, I said “Tidel Park”. He nodded and signaled me to sit. “I love the way in which the whole process works”, I said to myself feeling like Neil Armstrong entering Apollo 11 before take-off. I saw there was only one seat left on the lower level, so I sat there and the auto picked up speed. On the next stop a guy, who was sitting next to me, and a girl, who was sitting behind me on the upper level, got off and another girl entered the auto. Now, as there was an empty space on the upper level the autowala signaled me to move there so that the girl could sit at my place. The moment I shifted I realized that I was in deep trouble.

Now there were a total 3 male and 5 female passengers in the auto. Two out of the three males were sitting with the driver. And I was surrounded by girls (3 in front and one each on either side).
Now think if it would have happened to you in any other place what would have been your reaction? You surrounded by girls…WOW!!!! But here…..
The moment I realized the situation I was in I remembered my “Take everything in positive” pledge, otherwise I would have fainted. So after keeping my calm for the longest 5 seconds of my life I felt like I was on a ship that had wrecked while shipping coconut oil and there is a massive oil spill all around me. Then, I started feeling seasick and my only hope of survival was the small window at the back of the auto rickshaw. (Not to jump but to breathe and supply some fresh air to my lungs.)

I tilted my head back to get some fresh air when the autowala announced arrival of my office building. I literally jumped out of the auto and had a quick breather. I did not even mind whatever autowala said to me because I was busy breathing and had not paid him money yet. I gave him the money and walked towards the office enjoying the sun and thanking that there are no coconut trees on the way.

Monday, June 22, 2009


I arrived in Chennai around a month back to join a company as my first job after MBA. Well, it was not new to me, neither the company nor the city, as I had been here before for my summer internship. At that time my friend (Ingle) and me were counting days of our 8-week MIP period (later I even started counting hours left till our flight’s scheduled take-off), as we desperately wanted to get out of this place. But exactly one year later here I was on the same airport looking for an auto-rickshaw (notorious for their ridiculously overpriced fares) in the middle of scorching heat to reach company guest house. From my past experience I knew that there was little scope for a non-local-language-speaking-individual like me for bargaining. So, after not any bargaining I got a cab for myself.

The moment I got into the cab with my baggage I decided to make up my mind that no matter what happens I will take everything as a positive and if I can’t then I’ll try to enjoy the surprises that this city throws at me. Suddenly, I felt a rush of positive energy running through my spine but moments later I realized that it was the stream of sweat rolling down my t-shirt. So, I asked the driver to switch on the AC. He responded in Tamil, which I interpreted in 2-3 attempts, (thanks to some non-verbal communication classes back at college), as “The AC is not working, so roll down the windows.”

The cab rolled on and I decided to do some sight seeing just to explore the city. The cab made its way through the traffic and the driver kept on applying brakes and stepping on accelerator. It was indeed a “shaky” start to my journey but I didn’t notice it much. It kept on happening and I wondered that how come there is so much traffic in the city on a hot afternoon?

Soon, I was on the IT- highway where I could see the cars cruising past my cab (A 1979 Yellow & Black Ambassador). But then it happened again. With the road all-empty in front of the cab, the cab was shaking to and fro like the engine is dying down. I turned to the driver to ask him about the reason and at that very moment I had my heart in my mouth. In the middle of the highway, amidst fast moving cars the driver was dozing off. I could not believe it and before I could see my whole life moving in front of my eyes I decided to shake him and wake him up. In the grip of fear I said to him, ”Abey kya kar raha hai? Marwayega kya?” (“Hey, What are you doing? Gonna get me killed?”). But he ignored me and almost saw through me as if nothing had happened. Then I realized that he would not have understood anything I said. But still, thankfully for me, he got the point I was trying to make and drove without any glitches from there on. Once I got out of the cab, I felt like kissing the ground just like Pope John Paul II but omitted it for obvious reasons.

“Talk about taking positives now”, I said to myself and entered the guesthouse.