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Dirtscapes

Read. Suffer. Try to Enjoy.

Half a day in Chennai…

From Bangalore, it was onward ho to Pondicherry via Chennai. Now I was insanely apprehensive about visiting the place, after all the horror stories I’d heard about the lack of Hindi speaking populace, and the sheer hatred toward people who dared to speak in the ‘rashtrabhasha’. It was therefore with a palpitant heart that I got into the train to Chennai at Bangalore, with muh homeboy Vinod. The first thing this guy pointed out was the name of the train – ‘Cauvery Express’. We instantly found it very very ironic. Don’t you think?

We got the plushest seats in the house…right next to the loo. Also complimentary were the noisiest train brakes in the world just beneath us. They ensured that I could not get more than half an hour’s worth of decent sleep. And the fact that I woke up every hour, sweating bullets and trying to recollect whatever Tamil I knew didn’t help either. Suitably refreshed, we got down at Chennai Central station. For a moment, I thought we were in V.T. Ditto to Ditto. The same kind of buzz, platform structures, overhead metal awnings/skeletons. Then caught a local train to a station called ‘Guindy’. Here’s where the primal Mumbai instinct kicked in, and I managed to locate a fare chart (in English) to check out the fare as well as the position of the destination from the terminus (to get the answer to the all-important question ‘kaunse station pe utarne ka?’). When the local train pulled up, I felt another strong blast of déjà vu. The same kind of stunt-pullers – getting off and boarding running trains, a whole mass of bodies marching up and down ‘footover-bridges’...

Ricks in Chennai are too princely to bother about trivialities like fare meters. The law of the haggle reigns supreme. We had been tipped off by a local contact that the rick guy would ask for 40-60 bucks to get to his place. One look at our skin tones, and 40 was what he asked for. Felt real happy.

The roads in Chennai were a pleasant surprise. Wide, clean(ish), and the traffic didn’t look too unmanageable. Also, communication can be decent, with a little mixture of English and sign language. If you are a southie, then a smattering of Tamil shouldn’t be toooo difficult to pick up.

Then again, half a day does not a truly correct impression make.


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