Chennai29 May 2007
The city of Chennai in the South-Indian state of Tamil Nadu is considered to be a Tamil-only speaking city, with people being at their unhelpful best towards anyone who doesn't speak Tamil. Even if they understand Hindi or what we're asking for, they'll act as if they don't understand. They'll make life difficult for travelers. This apart, the auto rickshaw drivers don't go by the meters. They negotiate the cost for the travel and then ferry you around. If you're not a local, you will end up paying 2x to 3x the cost of traveling at a minimum.
Those are the perceptions. Add to that the innumerable accounts of the horribly hot and humid weather, and I didn't really look forward to being in there for long. So I visited Chennai for just one day, this Monday, to make sure Sunil got married. It was the first time I witnessed a Christian wedding. It's not lavish, no song-dance routine, just some prayers, vows and the wedding is over in about an hour. Pretty good.
Back to Chennai: I got off the KSRTC Mayura bus that took me from Bangalore to the Koyambedu bus stand (Chennai Mofussil Bus Stop). Sunil couldn't come pick me up, so he gave the address to an auto guy (over phone). The auto guy asked for a hundred rupees. Sunil said it was ok. I still wanted to haggle. Hundred seemed a lot. I started bargaining, he understood and replied in Hindi. Wow. He said he has to pay some auto stand charges and so anything less that 100 won't be affordable for him. He asked me to go to the other side and get an auto. I could get one for Rs. 60. I started walking. Meanwhile, he spoke to someone else and sent that person to me and said "she will take you there for Rs. 80". I went with her.
Even at 6 in the morning, spending Rs. 80 for traveling a distance of 3-4kms is outrageous. Even though I thought the auto guys were helpful by speaking in Hindi and English, they did demand a lot of money.
Weather-wise, the day was a pleasant one for Chennai. I could feel the hot air against my face. It wasn't too humid and wasn't too hot, though. I was told Sunday was much worse. Ramana came and gave me some company at the hotel while we waited for Sunil to come back from his wedding rehearsal.
The restaurant at the hotel played Hindi movie songs. The waiter fumbled to speak in English, but communicated very well in Hindi.
I found out that even the locals paid something around Rs. 10 per kilometer traveled.
To sum up my experience at Chennai:
- I was greeted by very pleasant weather, I've seen hotter days in Bangalore
- I met with auto drivers who were very helpful and all spoke in Hindi
- Auto drivers did fleece you, though.
All in all, not a bad day at all. Add to that, Sunil actually got married. Wow, great day for humanity.