Today Old Mahabalipuram Road is a sight to see. The road has become broad and smooth. All the erstwhile potholes are long gone and the road is being beautified to have green medians and lovely looking bus stops! Not to mention the big hotels, apartments and IT Hubs that have appeared splattered all through the IT Corridor
Venture into the city though and I feel so lost... I used to know Chennai like the back of my hand, and zip by on my scooty many years back. Today all my regular routes are -ways and I find myself frequently disoriented in my attempt to paint the town red!
However there is nothing at all that is not available. From Fisher Price toys to Quesadilla's and Margaritas everything is readily available if you can pay the price! I visited City Center and stood in awe like a villager at all its splendor!
I packed my bags for the first train journey this trip and entered the Egmore railway station. The numerous helpers in India have always held an appeal to me. And I kept talking about hiring a porter to cart all the boxes to the train. Imagine my surprise when I saw escalators zipping up and down. However at the base of the escalator we encountered a porter. I remember my erstwhile trips to Egmore where I haggled with him and he always had the upper hand. Knowing fully well that we are going to have to use him. I would part with atleast a 100 bucks or more every time. This time the guy was willing to do it for next to nothing. I will do it for 20 bucks he said. I was very tempted to give it to him.. poor guy!
As I landed back in Chennai, I haggled with an auto wala to take me home and as expected he started off with atrocious prices. I called my uncle to ask him what the reasonable price was. And he educated me about the Volvo A/C Buses now plying across Chennai. These look so wonderful that now I need to take a trip just to experience the joy ride! We took a regular bus though, at Nantu's request. It was his first bus trip and turned out to be fun early in the morning with none of Chennai's hustle and bustle! We also made an auto trip also at Nantu's request. However in a few minutes the breeze and rocking put the li'l ruffian to sleep, so I was left alone to enjoy the sights and smells of Chennai!
Another experience of note was an evening at one of the oldest clubs in Chennai - The Gymkhana Club. The ambience and food was simply superb and we had a relaxing meal and uninterrupted gupshap (conversation) thanks to Uncle S. The club retains all of its old splendor and traditions, which include a strict no to photography. So my armor the camera was rendered useless there. But then we had a lovely time nevertheless and that was a lovely end to a busy shopping day at Chennai!
However, some things never change in Chennai and the familiarity they represent is strangely comforting - the heat, the traffic and the bustling city. But as bad as it sounds, these are the things that make Chennai what it is and I wont change a thing about it!! (Oh well, I take that back.. If only I could turn down the heat a bit!!)