My tryst with Chennai (formerly Madras) includes Sarvana stores, Kumaran silks, Nallis, Pothys and GRT….. Dhal powders, (different types of podis such as paruppu podis etc), maanga inji pickle. The list goes on…
Forget about anything else, my visits to Chennai are combination of smaller excursions to acquire these much sought after possessions.
As much as I dislike Chennai for its anti Hindi propaganda, irritating auto rickshaws, the hot & humid weather and the city’s laid back attitude, my sole aim to enjoy this city is by shopping there. A few short visits that I’ve made to Chennai, as it appears to me, is a big shopping hub for north Indian people.
Kumaran silks, Lalitha jewelery & Sarvana stores. What else do you want?
Was I always so keen to go there?
In my childhood a south Indian always meant a ‘Madrasi’ to all us kids. Not that we were weak in geography but that’s how a north Indian perceived him. ‘Madrasis’ were different… speaking a language that was nearly impossible to understand. Their names ending with a ‘th’ or ‘dh’ instead of simple t or d, leading me to wonder about the flavour of English they used.
Since travel was mostly visiting one’s grandparents or some other relatives, south India was never really on the map and hence, I guess, such a perception.
As kids we knew nothing about Chennai as a place & we never felt the curiosity as well.
Contrary to North Indians, bright silk sarees and flowers are a part of a woman’s normal daily wear. We make Rangoli’s in front of our houses only on some festivals but these ladies were effortlessly decorating their houses everyday ! I used to think, do they have some festivals every day?
It is difficult to quantify by how much my perspective has changed since then! All childhood notions were proved wrong; some realities surfaced.
I am trying to call it by its new name Chennai but I am a slow learner.
I am always excited to go there. I am always excited to go there. After all, one of things to do in Chennai is to draw water from wells; this being a metro city with houses where wells are still in use!
I believe in ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’. I do not have any inhibitions in flaunting malli pu in my hair. I do not touch north Indian food while I am there.
We have enough of big malls in our city, so they are a strict no-no while in Chennai. Auspicious occasion? Buying precious metals from GRT (I can not even pronounce its full name correctly!) is a must. Go to Marina beach and you can not ignore the mouth-watering raw mangoes nicely sliced & sprinkled with chatpata masala.
Burma bazaar is something we try our hands on once in a while, to do some window shopping of imported electronic items and sometimes to get duped. 😉 A strange phenomena that often happens here is when haggling, once we say our price for an item, it spreads in the market before we even move to next shop !
T Nagar has its own attraction. Apart from the fake Burma Bazaar, this is one big shopping area. You need to be resilient and nimble footed to negotiate the sea of people in Ranganathan street.
My shopping spree never stops till the end; Shri Krishna sweets at the airport or dinner packed in banana leaves at Madras railway station mark the end. Oh yeah, how can I forget boxes of Aavin “Paal Gova” ?