The title says it all really, however, I haven’t been to any other major Indian cities so I could be wildly wrong but I’ve been informed except maybe in Delhi (or is it New Delhi now? Or was that before? The country is rather confusing), perhaps, Chennai (the former Madras) is rather crazy. Now I know and adore many Tamil people in Sri Lanka, but here they are on a different level. The rich are fine (100% like the rich Colombo equivalents), the very poor are moody and take begging to extents which I have never experienced before. They probably need to but it was a little intimidating to me. I ignored them and then felt guilty afterwards. BUT I had been warned by several people don’t give them money because there will be lots of them around you like flies around sh*t if you do. I took this advice, but still with a heavy heart. They are desperate – the sooner South Asian countries start implementing social security the better – but that’s for another blog. I have heard India is heading in that direction…I sincerely hope so and that Sri Lanka will follow.
What actually impressed the most was the general friendliness of folk in such a large city (except for the beggars, but they are exceptions). They don’t stare at white women like many still do in Colombo – I was treated equally in shops and so on without the preference that so often occurs in Sri Lanka (where you can be waved to the top of a queue just because you are white). This really impressed me. I always feel like a dick when they do it here…..inwardly pleased but super embarrassed 😉
Also the number of Tamil devotees walking around the filthy streets barefoot in their full devotion sarongs and other colourful clothing, most of them with dreadlocks, beards and their forehead in white and red stripes surprised me – having seen a number of Tamil movies in my time – I still didn’t expect these guys to be so numerous in public in Chennai (I was expecting the more mustached Kollywood type of guys that would jump into a song with 50 other dancers on my arrival haha). The devotees didn’t do anything strange there other than smile at you with such honesty that it I had to clench my teeth to stop a stray tear, but they are capable of exceptional stuff, like walking on fire and piercing their bodies without pain – seen all that in Kataragama here in the South East of Sri Lanka – not hugely impressed then, I think “majorly freaked out” was a better expression at the time (younger and more easily upset). No photo’s of that but this one may give you some insight into the beauty of the Tamils:
The food – well what can I say? Scrumptious. I have no recipes but I will get some for you soon.
The best things I ate were:
IDLY (the small white pancake things):
I actually didn’t eat the donut-shaped thing because it was too oily in the hotel breakfast buffet (they have a similar thing in Lanka – I ate it once and was on the toilet for 3 days after). But the idly was lovely, not dry, not squidgy, just perfect….but what really makes the dish is the accompaniments. My favourites were the tomato chutney (bottom left with the green leaf), the coconut chutney (next to the tomato chutney), the sambar (oh luscious – the curry on the right above) and the coriander chutney (not shown). JUST YUMMY. I didn’t miss my pol sambol at all. Instead of the donut-thing I went for boiled eggs and immersed them in the sauces too. Plus I had a cheeky portion of garam masala scrambled eggs on toast). Set me up for the day!
After that, I missed lunch and mainly had curry at night. Do not miss the Chettinad Chicken – incredible. Not being the greatest fan of rice I sadly missed out on a Buriyani but have since been told they are superb there too. Also note – Chennai is mainly vegetarian. This didn’t bother me. However, if your stomach is demanding beef, lamb or even chicken – head to the big hotels. Your average street shop will not have them…most do not even serve fish.
My only regret is that I went alone. I will return but with boyfriend or friends to hit the real sights and nightlife.
And why are all the tuk tuks yellow? Some metered, most not. Is paint illegal there? 😉