- Its the outdoor advertising capital of the country. It has the most number of hoardings I've seen in any city and its the first thing you would notice. These also could be further categorised basis their size and usage: 1. Mega hoardings, these are the size of 2-3 normal sized hoardings combined and are reserved for the movie posters. 2. The normal hoardings - primarily used by those wanting to advertise any kind of Sarees or Jewelry. 3. Mini-hoardings, these are exclusively used for political advertising, these mini ones are omnipresent, you can't sweep your eyes about and not spot them every single time.
- There are no plain, unadorned walls in Chennai! Every single inch of every wall in every part of the city is covered with large, hand painted figures of their gods - the real gods and then ... Amma, Karunanidhi, other politicians and aah ... Rajni. What catches your eye is not just that these paintings are there everywhere and that they are HUGE but also, how well painted these are - each expression, muscvle and wrinkle in the face visible. Too much!
- How can you talk about Chennai and not mention the auto rickshaw guys. After they have tried to fleece you and after much haggling have settled on a still unreasonably high fare, they will go all sweet on you (or may be its just me!) ... on reaching the city, in my ride from the airport to the hotel I knew all about the Chennai weather, the unexpected rains, bad influence of west on Chennai's youth, benefits of learning Tamil and even some Tam words! In exchange I had also given out a status on Mumbai rains, traffic, my marital status, duration of my stay and my familiarity with the city. All this happened with the help of a strange mix of Hindi, English, frantic gestures and a lil Tamil :)
I'm a lil bored of the theme so I will just go on to something else ... I love South Indian food and in my quest for nice Southy food I went to a local joint suggested by someone at office, called Sangeeta, which is near Landmark. I happily ordered my food, got it from the counter and even managed to find a place to sit! As I started eating I looked around and I suddenly realised that anyone could have said without an effort that I was not a local, and all because ...
- I was the only girl/woman around not wearing a saree/salwar kameez AND/OR Bindi AND/OR flowers in my hair
- I was the only one eating a dosa at lunch time, while everyone else seemed to be having some or the other kind of meal with rice
- I was the only one drinking out of a bottled drink - and who could say that an Innocent Sprite could be incriminating evidence!
- I was the only girl/woman sharing a table with 3 men I didn't know (there weren't any women sharing tables with men, unless of course they came in together)
BTW, these guys I shared the table with were really nice. As one of them sat down with his food, I shamelessly peeked into his plate and saw this really interesting looking dish, so I thought I can ask him what its called and order that for myself. The greedy me asked him what that yummy looking thing was and there ... he insisted and insisted and went on insisting (with some help from the other two) till I took the bowl of yummy tamarind-sambhar rice from him. He even gave me two of his tiny, white papads saying they go well with that rice!! :)
Its surprising, isn't it, how by just being who you are, you can end up sticking out like a sore thumb among people. And then, with only a steaming bowl of tamarind-sambhar-rice, you are a little more closer to them :)