Monday, February 26, 2007

Incredible India , Enchanting Tamilnadu

It was a warm evening, not the usual winter weather when I started from work in the afternoon to catch my flight to India on Dec 29. Since it was a Friday year-end no big excuses needed for leaving by lunch time and make it accountable for the whole day.Everybody were in the lousy mood to work and were looking for the New Year holidays.
I have to catch the flight in Washington DC (Dulles) airport which is like 70 miles from here. Thanks to avis that I could rent a car from here, take my baggage and drop it in the airport next state. That’s a convenience here which gives you the independence.I reached the avis rental place inside the airport and thanks to the pretty convenient airport shuttle bus which can take me and my baggage to the airport terminal. Infact the driver helped me to load and unload my baggage during that transit. I was pretty early than the flight time and also had the boarding pass printed online, Thanks to British airways and I had only one major work at the airport but painful one. I meant the security check which is no lesser than pulling your shoes out and putting them on your head and walk half naked through the scanning door. Since I took a laptop for my friend it has to be scanned out separately. They stopped me at the scanning exit as I had my Bluetooth headset on my ears. I threw them out with all my other items and got everything back. You get almost undressed and would be tightening up your belts on the other side. It was a no liquid carry on baggage strictly and in frustration I told the security people that I almost got dehydrated without buying water bottle inside the terminal and even you can't find liquid inside my body. After all formalities I had enough time and of course enough minutes on my t-mobile account that I called all my friends in US and told happily that Iam going home for a vacation.
After boarding the flight I didn’t find BA more comfortable than LFA as I was told and found the same Anna bus seating inside the flight. Just landed in the aisle(Overseas vanthu thaan yenaku ithey "aille" nu pronounce pananumnu theriyum) side seat which I chose online, so that I don’t have to disturb anyone sleeping next for my journeys to restroom.Iam gonna stop complaining about how people are treated in the flight for the meals offered . This time I was prepared and also have requested meals online before boarding. It was just the drinks offered more than that. London doesn't look that far from US that I landed soon in the so far claimed world's busiest International airport Heathrow(pronounced as he-thru). There was a long queue of desis(most of them) in the terminal and I proudly told them that I have the boarding pass for the next flight. But they said, hey you cannot do the security check online. go and stand in the queue which is meant for that and yes... out my shoes and laptop for scanning again. It costed most of my transit time and thanks for that. The shops in the airport terminal attract you that much that you cannot miss shopping there. I felt I have fewer chocolates in my check-in baggage that I started shopping chocolates. London is quite expensive for any kinda shopping. you have to limit yourself. Though you gonna sip the cherishing filter cappi back in Chennai, you cannot resist the aroma of star bucks in the airport .Prices quoted in pounds doesn't hit my head till I started sipping the coffee and paid them through my credit card since it was that accountable during currency conversion. Transit time was less and hence started boarding the chennai flight as soon as my coffee was over. Here comes my school buddy checking onto the flight after his 24 hr transit visit in London. You can roam around in london for a maximum 24 hrs transit if you have a valid US visa itseems.we had a nice time in the flight chit chatting and of course with his portable DVD player, we hosting our own movies in a flight which has its own Hindi movie in the entertainment display. Guess what those movies are of, he he... it’s a duo combination of parthiban and vadivelu comedy in movies. Atlast we landed in chennai, the so called winter but pretty warm humid night. Though the flight landed in the right time, they didn’t allow us to get down till they arrange a ladder steps than the normal connection to terminals. Yenada namma ooruku vanthachu.. iranga vida took 30 mins for alighting.
Welcome to Incredible India was the propaganda everywhere all along my journey. Chennai welcomes with an aroma of winter, the customs were too good to leave people like me through the green channel who doesn't even carry a set of next day clothes. Everything in my check in baggage was electronic. First time I smiled at the unknown workers of the chennai airport and they acknowledged.Enough of blondes, Here comes the usual bluish green or orange color chudidhared beautiful girls with colorful flowers on their black hair, The call qualis which I went home was driven with all rash skills competing with a bus and a road block.

Next day lunch straight to Annanagar anjappar with all my college buddies.Only auto rickshaw everywhere.just 1.5 dollars dude he he ! You won’t feel comfortable sitting with someone unknown in your table but that’s how it was when we were only 5 in a table of 6.Had a nice feast of animal planet on the table including crabs. You feel like ending up the meal with a gum to follow to cleanse your teeth not a beeda though. Tipping 5-10% itself was considered too much and you'll get a salaam everywhere. The night we celebrated New Year in a beach resort in chennai dancing for numbers like "Yamadi aathadi" and "Kammakarai"...Tapanguthu pottu romba naal aachunu appo thaan therinjuthu...

Jetlag illai nu sonna thaan bandha pola.but I wasn't able to cope with it and hence woke up everyday morn 4am with hunger, used to go to tea shop which opens at 4.30 in my locality. First tea of the shop but I used to ask full tea becos the quantity they serve in glass tumbler with lather was enough only to make my tongue wet. It was like a week I went like this and took tea in the early morn with biscuits served to stray dogs. I think my biological clock is made in Quartz that it worked religiously like this.

Traveling in auto rickshaw was a nightmare. He'll leave only 2 inches when he wants to squeeze through a gap between a bus and the road median. I got really scared and was holding the two metal bars while sitting inside. Thanks to my SanDisk player that I could avoid the honking noises of the traffic while Traveling. For no reason people love honking on the roads. The most skillful driver on the road is the auto driver who keeps only his 2 hand grips as his vehicle for most of the time and forgets the big auto body behind. Chennai autowallahs are the most outrageous people on earth when they charge people at astronomical rates. I was charged 100 rupees for less than 2 km ride from chennai central to my place. I accepted the price and asked him to drive around the city before he could reach my place so that the money is accountable. Ivan namma ooru pola nu mannipu ketaan.
I really felt like driving bikes but didn’t take for the first one week due to the warning of my half-american friends of the left/right-lane confusion in India. But when I took the bike, driving on the right lane of a road without median is not considered as an offense. It was looking like an unpreferable lane of driving and nothing more than that. You would feel like having a sunshade over the helmet like a car when you drive opposite to the sun. The white kerchiefs which I use became black when I wipe my forehead after a travel anywhere in the city and my white socks became brown.

Rules of the road :

1. Yield first to auto rickshaw and cyclist before somebody honks from behind.
2. Never yield to pedestrians unless they form a human chain and block the road to cross.
3. Oneways are not applicable for cyclist and cycle rickshaw drivers.
4. Stop sign boards are not meant to stop. They are just to keep your leg on the brake without pressing.
5. Red traffic lights are like blinking oranges in most of the roads, so take your own judgment. In main roads and traffic junctions, there is always a 5 second grace period before and after the red lights for vehicles to pass. Never try stopping for an orange light and before grace period of red light, you might be hit from behind and terribly scolded in bad language.
6. Helmets and seat belts are meant for fools and there are no fools except few in chennai it seems. I was one of those fools waiting for a week to search out my good old helmet from my house before I could start driving. I dont know why still it is not mandated in chennai. We have to learn driving safely at least from the west.
7.Yellow lines are just designer lines on road.

Since medical treatment is cheaper in India, I decided to do a overhauling of my complete body before I could start back. To start with, the sonogram costing just 11 dollars doesn't show any traces of stone in my kidney. One day went for eye testing and power is the same. Still contact lens doesn't fascinate me more than a laser surgery in future. I thought of making a complete renovation of my tooth structure and hence made a contract with a dentist, He called me for many sittings just to do root canal therapy, fill , remove, shape, cap . So whenever he felt bored he called me for doing something like Chennai Corporation on the roads. chinna vayasula thaan i missed taking care of tooth. Atleast now i can treat and make myself ready to eat nandu @ 60.
I went to Bangalore and hence had a chance to travel in a car through the chennai-bangalore highway. It was really good and people can enjoy driving only in these kinda of roads. Bangalore city is just the same with more traffic on the road and I found some long term flyover projects getting completed. These people should learn from chennai to deliver it quick. Apart from that the smell of flora is missing in Bangalore and roads have become a little bit less dusty but more pretty girls on the brigade road. Train travel has become easy as I could book online and print a e-ticket for my return back to Chennai.

Chennai real-estate have grown crazy. people are putting money for plots which doesn't have proper road connectivity. But if you laugh at them, you are considered fool as we are not in this race. I don’t know when its gonna stop or saturate but I feel it’s not worth the price. Anyway people pay and again earn like me to repay the loan. who is the gainer, the people who do the business and who is the loser, innocent people who buy and then claim happily that their property is worth crores. but tell me , are you selling them and enjoying the life? First sensex was going crazy but now I feel real-estate is far ahead, Good that we hail we produce 8% growth every year and 9 % this quarter but can you say where it is reflected? I feel happy to hear when bharti open an agri business as well as a retail store tied up with Wal-Mart. I feel happy when I read Mahindra plans to deliver SUVs to US. I want to see Scorpios flying across the interstates in US. India has to concentrate on two things now, the damaged roads and the damage minds of its normal citizens who still need to get more civilised. When are we going to learn to say "Sorry and Thanks" when required? And Still casteism, poverty and male chauvinism does exist in the society. Right to information act has become popular. Now common people have access to all official documents. I believe this effectiveness and transparency may reduce corruption .Anyway rich are getting richer and poor becoming poorer and who cares about RTI act. Many cases related to rape and murder trials getting closed and I could see many convicts behind the bars.
TV has become one of the main entertainment for people in chennai as very few love to drive out and go places due to traffic. Munbe vaa becomes a stopper song when remote scans through the TV and sun music with the usual Veyil song "Uruguthey" (Love panravangaluku intha paatu pidikum pola :) ) . I could see only one episode of VJ mahalakshmi's sun music programme. she has become lil more gundu and now looks odd for me. I am surprised how I was watching everyday those days. Pepsi Uma still on the box looks horrible, I don’t know why they can't find a better anchor. Vijay TV has started ruling entertainment in TV these days..kalaka povathu yaaru.....jodi no 1 all making news around people. Suntv used to be still favorites of oldies who watch the usual sobby serials and people look dull when they hear an important character "archana or akshaya" dead in the serial.It does bother them more than the merciless killings in nithari which hits the NDTV news everyday .Selvi has been renamed to Arasi for a change and people still believe it’s a new serial and were watching.

Chennai has become more livable compared to Bangalore because of its better infrastructure and traffic but I cannot live with the mosquitoes . Annanagar cannot be cornered these days for the same. Everywhere it is like that and I was carrying "All out" wherever I went especially to clinics where normal people can become patients once you enter. I couldn't do a blood donation before I could start from India due to my dental treatment everyday but almost donated 1 unit of blood to chennai mosquitoes. I sensed a good feel when I traveled near sardar patel road where you find lot of greenery and everywhere else it was a dry winter. Good that i didnt come in the seasons of summer and more-summer in Chennai.More eat outs these days with lot of crowd around. Nobody is cooking at home it seems. I went to mahabs for a drive , watched the dance festival and on the way back saw movie "Guru" in mayajal in Hindi :). Another day I could find time to watch "Pokiri" in my home theatre Abirami. The theatre was nothing less than a piece of shit ...too ugly on the floor and people are not trying to use dustbins. More over in the film I hate the beeda cop who was spitting everywhere. Vijay has got a lot of craze from chennaites and I heard from the next seater saying that "vijayye adichitanda!" when in one scene he was slapped by the cop.After then I stopped commenting .I was surrounded by lot of fans and hence kept quiet.. Though the film was a telugu remake, it was a good entertainer. Next attraction in chennai was the book fair and I thought I can buy some books. I was astonished by crowd on a working day morning. But still people who want to become intellectuals by reading good books doesn't have the sense to use the dustbin to throw their tickets and bills off before they departed. Gas prices are astronomically high in India (cooking gas illa..I mean petrol) and hence the service guy stared at me at surprise when I filled my pulsar tank for 20 dollars. But anyway that was enough for my whole vacation.
My trip to north chennai was terrible as roads have become worse than it was due to rain and govt doesn't concentrate for north chennai as we know. I couldn't see any remarkable difference in north. But in south I could see the taramani road to Tidel Park being laid with parks in the median and it was looking good. Roads in chennai which come under the national highway projects are really good. Even the by pass road which I used to travel to chinglepet once was good and had nothing less than a "exit" if you want to get into tambaram or any other main junction. People are too busy in India trying to balance their work life with personal life and have less time. I met all my working friends only in the night after 9.somehow I felt we are far comfortable to be back at home by 5.30 in the evening. Definitely work culture hasn't improved much in India except a few MNCs who maintain like how it is in US.

My last week became pretty hectic doing some shopping in spencers for clothes and food materials. I shopped because I don’t want to check-in two empty baggages back to US. The quality of clothing has reduced a lil bit and good quality ones cost the same as it is in US. But i was ready to pay any price for products which are made in India. Also I filled my boxes somehow by buying sweets and savouries.Even in adyar ananda bavan, first time in my life I got respect for my hefty shopping.Yenada born and brought up in US mathiri romba scene poduran suresh? The last two days you feel really heavy hearted trying to find answers for questions like why I have to leave and whats up for me in US except loading my bank account with more balance. What Am I missing. This 30 day X 24 Hrs life filled my heart and I felt I really enjoyed it. Yes I boarded back the flight straight to Baltimore and was invited with the heavy snowy winter. Now back to the reel but luxurious life.

Expiry: Best before my next vacation