About two days ago, I went to Chennai with my best friend who, after a little world tour, had flown in to Bangalore for the New Year. The trip was an impulsive one. I took for two days and had more fun that I had expected.
For starters, I stayed with a Sri Lankan family, my friend is a Sri Lankan settled in Australia. That was some experience. Now Vani and I have been friends for nearly 14 years (unfortunately, as we keep telling each other!). Never once did I think of her as 'foreign'. But staying with a family showed me how so very different they are.
I stayed with her cousin's family. They themselves live in London and keep travelling all around the world. Yet, the culture, bless their lot, is intact. Right from the way they dress to the colour and prints on their clothes. Right from the Tamil they speak to the kind of chutney they make, they are different. The differences are not too distinct I agree. But it is those subtle things that put them apart. I am against comparisons of any kind normally, but I could not help but compare here because it was almost a jarring effect. All these years, I had not thought of my friend as belonging to a different nationality, save for the lovely Tamil she spoke (very different and more beautiful that what you get to hear in Chennai), but seeing her in her own surroundings, I saw her differently too, not good, not bad, just different.
The stay was lovely. There were little kids around. Three extremely naught boys and a little girl who bore the brunt of the boys 'torture'. A little angel she was. I learnt how to make pongal and had some very different chutney. Could not learn how to make it, though.
My friend and I walked the old lanes. I took pictures of the house we lived in, saw the old shops, the new buildings. I pointed out my dream house to here, one with the flight of stairs leading to the front door with parking space beneath. Long ago, I had decided that if I ever built a house, it would be like that.
We talked. A lot about those years, about me trying to learn how to ride the bicycle, about our fights on the way to school.... We even went to the old school we studied in and took a lot of pictures again. My friend is great at keeping in touch. After a lot of sweat, a number of international and local calls, we met up with a few of the guys we studied with. All were very nice to talk to, well placed in good companies, stylish, carefree, doing and looking good.
We walked down the beach, we walked a lot, in fact. Went to the Vailankanni Church, prayed at the Amman Koil from outside, talked some more. I went in hunt of some of the old shops I used to go to. Maharaja's, a supermarket, was still there, though it was shut. Golden Smiles, a fancy stores, was gone. In its place stands a CD store, from where I bought some excellent CDs. Next to it used to stand Veena Fast Food, where you would get the best uttappams and some great noodles. Now there is a Kerala style restaurant. We didn't bother going in. Sea Rock restaurant, where I tasted my very first piece of chicken, is gone too. Fashion Folks, a little shop that grew to become a brand, has a bigger, more expensive shop.
The trip was short, too short, but I had the most fabulous time. Met some great people, had really good food. Talked a lot. On the whole it was one great trip.
Re-visiting memories need not be bad always.....