Saturday, May 23, 2009

A thought...

Every morning you wake up with a lot of expectation, to a lot of expectations. A twinkle of hope in those still sleepy eyes that things would be great today; or things would be better or even just that things wouldn't be that bad.

With every waking moment there's a smile that you bring forth, confidences that you build, from depression you help some rise, to some hope you give, you make them feel special, you make them feel cherished, you make them see the purpose of their lives, you help them grow... With a word, a touch, a smile and perhaps a glance...

Take a moment and look at those faces - which are hurt by you, disappointed with you, in despair because of you, angry, upset and humiliated by something you said, never meant to say..

But don’t forget to cherish and acknowledge those souls - who watch out for you, shed a tear for you, cringe every time you stumble, watch your back, look out for you, make a call when something seems amiss without a reason, fear your being hurt, bite nails for your success and feel elated when they catch your happy voice!

This is a solemn salute to those who have done this for me for so long now and add a glow to me whenever I think of them.. Thank you.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Chennai tales: Part 1 - The basics

Moving to Chennai was supposed to be much simpler; as compared to moving to Delhi or Kolkatta (not that I have tried this). If only… the Delhi-ites are predictable. There has been a prior study on this race and you are warned about their behavior, what to expect and what to say to push the right buttons. But the vagaries of Chennai (takes seven seconds here to shake her head) are quite a subject to fill text books with!

It does not help if you know the “locals language”, spend two and hours a day on the Madras tamil page practicing, or just act mute and use gestures, the denizens of 6000xy will try to get you one way or another! My horrific and tear jerking stories could almost make you want to get to Chennai and beat these bullies up (playing the ‘Drama Queen’ to the phullest).

So, me being the helpful soul, will do my best to produce here one of the first reports on the Tamil speaking, veshti katt-ing, curd rice eating, Pongal celebrating, pan chewing, muff wearing, whip cracking.. okay, I am digressing. Anyway, here is a guide to those who head to Chennai and plan to stay there for a while- so that you don’t embarrass yourself by not being aware of what his culture demands!

Auto Drivers:

These souls who are out there in the pollution, traffic, heat and other vehicles which have the audacity to follow traffic rules, are the first clan you will interact with the moment you land here. Just when I thought I had them all figured out with my thesis on them (read here), talking to the ones here almost had me jumping with glee for all the material that they would add to my study. (The auto drivers did look at me suspiciously with me smiling at them over-enthusiastically).

Points to be noted:

- The meters in the autos are for the sake of show (read soo) only. You would often see them covered with plastic sheets and protected from dust, rain and wear. Apparently they are constantly in a state of repair and hence used. Some auto drivers are actually kind enough to have these removed just so that the passenger gets more of the metal rod to hold on to while the auto sways across the width of every lane.

- According to them every destination has a one-way which would require them to circuitous route. There would also be a traffic jam which would be a waste of their time (yup not part of their job profile).

- Their will not drop you from railway station to your destination without a profit of Rs. 100.

- The cost sheet would look something like:

0km – 2km Rs. 30

2km – 5km Rs. 50

5km – 7km Rs. 75

7Km- 9km Rs. 100

9km-13km Rs 150

Over 13km Call that taxi at least now!

Don’t let these numbers deter you. With time you will learn to bring down the prices. You could use lines like – I go to that area everyday and I pay . With a lot of haggling he will get the fare down. (You might be called “stubborn”, “con artist” et al at the end of the ride). But brace yourself for mumbles about being conned, nobody else would have agreed to that price and more sob stories.

- All auto drivers WILL have a passport and ask you about the next best destination to head to for work. Half of them would have already visited Dubai and not liked it much. So, read up on those Visa processes and such.

- The most important rule though is – NEVER APPROACH AN AUTO WHICH IS IMMOBILE. These poor souls are there to enjoy their break and will not move until you pay them enough to make the trip worth it!

- If autos are going to be the mode of transport for a while then it is better to strike a deal with one of the guys who drops you from A to B more than once to do the same on a regular basis. If you are girl, be prepared to flip through snaps of him when he was younger, listen to his plans for the future, idea of his kind of woman, about when he plans to marry and such. If you are guy, be prepared to flip though snaps of him when he was younger, listen to his plans for the future and what he likes about men from other cities..

- And then there are those who give you fashion tips on how to wear your hair, what color would suit you and how a bindi/ shades would change your look. Sigh.

Make sure you keep track of how much you pay an auto driver; because this is like the most non-controversial topic which everybody is an expert on, and could be turned into an interesting ego-game when everyone starts comparing notes on how much each paid. One of the best ice breakers I tell you!


The next thing which people will urge you to do as soon as you land in Chennai is purchase gold ornaments! There are the exclusive designer shops like Rasvihar and Mustafa and then there are the grocery-shop-like Saravana stores and such.

There is a ritual that you follow when you visit these gold shops. To begin with, you need to be dressed in one of your best. It is the reverence that you show the gold! Silk – a must!! You do not buy gold in a hurry. Be prepared to spend at least an hour in each shop!

You can mention your purchases only when they have been made in Mustafa or Lalida jewelers. Even if you have spent a fortune on gold in a “common” shop, you keep mum about it! And do not refuse the free calendar/ dowdy bag/ flowery purse which they give you. You have to place these around you house in strategic positions just so that anybody who visits you will know about the purchase.

But above all, make sure you do not land in front of the store in an auto! Get down close by and walk, but do not reach by auto!

End of Part 1...

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