Sunday, February 14, 2010

Three month review: What I like about Chennai

I should begin by saying I do not intend for this post to be a myriad of bank-handed compliments, but my presentation and cynicism may thwart that goal.

First things first,
1) I love papaya! I knew I liked it before, but getting to eat fresh papaya almost everyday... I freaking love it. It's so much better straight from the tree. I just cut it in half lengthwise and go for it with a spoon. Messy, delicious, and everything I want out of a papaya.

2) The trains are really cool. I wish America had a train system as extensive and USEFUL as India's. Chennai's local metro has its problems, but in general the trains are cool. I really like riding next to the open doors. It's kind of thrilling. There is no box around you when you're at the doors. In fact, traveling from one city to another via trains is very good fun. I haven't done the overnight thing yet, but I suppose I will soon enough. For now, the 4 hour rides are all I have taken.

3) Cricket: I've made mention of enjoying it. But I think what is so cool about it is that the whole country is really nuts for it. Without a strong secondary sport, everyone just gets behind the only game in town. When you go to a little street side restaurant or a bar or sit around on a train long enough, its a topic of conversation bound to come up. I like the idea that it is in some sense a unifying game within a nation that is otherwise SO disjointed.

4) Bar snacks: I can't say that I really like the bars here, but they at least do one thing right. They will bring essentially unlimited snacks. The better the bar (up until you get to a 5 star hotel) the better the snacks. The 5-star hotel bars have "good" selection of drinks, but are totally missing out on the snacks. Again, at one good bar I can get fresh papaya, cucumber, roasted chick peas, all kinds of fried goodies, sweets, you name it. Generally no meat, but otherwise the snacks are a free for all.

5) Fast food here is actually good. Fast food here, as far as I can tell, just means food that's prepared fast. If you're walking along the streets you can just stop in and buy some south indian specialties (dosas, idlis, pongal) for almost no money. It comes out in a matter of a minute or two. STUPIDLY delicious.

6) The sweets shops are ubiquitous. I've discovered Indians have a bit of a sweet tooth. With that in mind the sweets shops are kind of all over the place and they sell all manner of delicious goodies from cakes to indian desserts whose names I can't remember for again almost no money.

7) The Kolam designs are awesome: Walking around South India (much more than North India) you'll notice the Kolam chalkings all over. They are meant as blessings, but it's nice to have a new one in front of my house every morning. Some of them get very ornate, especially in front of important ministers' houses.

8) The middle of the night is quiet. Since Chennai has ZERO night life, walking around in the middle of the night is a lot of fun. The cars and motorcycles and buses are not so oppressive and crowding as in the middle of the day. I generally don't have to worry about people staring at me, because they are all sleeping. I generally WALK the 6km from my office to my apartment since the train stops running early, and there isn't really anyone on the road when I want to go home.

9) Safety and Security: For being boring, Chennai certainly has the huge merit of being mostly safe. It's much, much safer than any major city in America. I haven't been accosted by anyone other than a disgruntled rickshaw driver. I can't even really count him within the scope of humanity. Rickshaw drivers are basically equivalent to mosquitoes. So aside from that, I haven't had trouble with theft or violence at all. A friend of mine had a bicycle (generally unlocked) stolen from him after SEVEN MONTHS. I couldn't believe it.

All things being held equal. I will be more than happy to leave Chennai when the appropriate time comes, but for now I'll try to enjoy the cool things that it affords me. No sense in HATING where you live without at least TRYING to enjoy the good stuff around you while you've got it...


  1. Hooray! That's the spirit. All things have their pros and cons.

  2. Go with your bad travelin' self at finding some pleasures in a relatively unpleasant environment.

  3. Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.

    Independent House in Chennai