Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Travel Diary - Chennai, India

Of all the years I've lived in India, I've never truly seen every nook and cranny of the country. I haven't even seen all the major cities! Not even the Taj Mahal! Oh, the shame!

Ironically, it took an American visa appointment to get me to Chennai. I spent two days there, during which time I had two separate appointments for my visa, but on the downtime, I decided to do some sightseeing in the blistering heat. Although only a few hundred kilometres from my home and native land, Bangalore, I never took the time to venture out to Chennai. Honestly, I didn't think it had much to offer apart from the beach. Yes, that might be exciting enough for some. But for me, beaches mean high temperatures, humidity, cloudless skies, which result in the anamolous expansion of my hair! I can't stand it and I don't venture out to coasts for the sake of the beach. Never.

My planning began with the means of transport. I was insistent on taking the train - by far my favourite means of transportation. To anyone venturing out in India, I beseech thee: when in doubt, take the trains. They're well connected, extremely efficient, affordable, filthy, overcrowded, but overall, enriching to the soul. The kinds of people you'll meet on an Indian train, you'll never meet otherwise. If you're a photography enthusiast, look at this as a goldmine of potential nat-geo-esque shots of streets of India and life.

As with any journey I've undertaken that had an important purpose, I overruled it with a list of places I wanted to see. Of course, I did attend my hyper-real, stress-inducing visa appointments, but the main attraction was always the historical sights to see.

The first thing I noticed upon arrival is that Chennai central is littered with magnificent old buildings constructed by the British and the Dutch during the time they colonised India. The word on the street is that these buildings are only beautiful from the outside and the inside is just as ill-maintained as any other government office. Some of the more beautiful structures that are open to the public were on my list but I only managed to see two: The Government Museum and St. Andrew's Church. Both of these buildings were constructed by the British and are still being used for the same purposes.

Although I was unaware of the history of the place at the time, I was drawn to the places by the sheer beauty demonstrated on Instagram, weather due to filters or skills is debatable. In person, the architecture is mesmerising and to one appreciative of art and history, it is a bit of a marvel to think of the people who once walked along the same hallways.

As is to be expected of someone like me, I spent more time photographing ceilings and stained glass than the actual displays of history and culture. Amidst complaints of the capabilities of my camera, I managed to capture a few of the sights that overwhelmed my art-deprived mind.

Two days is hardly enough time to see everything I planned to see. Add in the heat and prior engagements and it was near impossible! And as with every other time I've visited a church (solely for photography purposes) I've been greeted by a locked door and/or a holiday notice. Is this a sign from above? I dare not venture down that path!

The second time around is always a success. I'm allowed inside. I'm allowed to take pictures. I'm allowed to marvel for hours. I'm spared the strange glances at my ever expanding hair.

St. Andrew's Church was something out of a movie. The high ceilings, the floor-to-ceiling church organ by the alter lit up by the stained glass adorned gothic window, the long isle and marble podium. I wanted to capture it all.

And then it was to the beach. Seems mandatory to go to the filthy Marina Beach in Chennai. Everyone does it, they said. So I went. Camera in toe. Eyes glued to the sand, holding my breath as I evaded half-skinned fish and other sea-creature body parts. I should preface by saying the vegetarians should stay off the beach at all costs!

On the plus side, I saw a myriad of aircrafts coming in to land, which was much more excited than watching the sea wash up trash on to the shore.

Now for the real reason I went to Chennai. The long awaited reveal. Something I've been working towards for years. In about a week's time, I'll be moving to New York. I've dreamt about this day for years and I finally made it happen for me. It has been months of hard work and legal processes that forced me to put my blog on the back burner.

Given how consistent I am when it comes to blogging, the next time you hear from me, I'll probably be writing from NYC. Until then, send me your kind words as I'll be terribly homesick and in desperate need of virtual kindness and friendship.

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