Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Tale Of Two Cities

          Yes, I know my choice of title is pathetic, sad, still. I have not posted in such a long while that I have been feeling extremely guilty for having been this mean to the blog. So here goes. This (of course) is a tale of two cities. One is my Chennai, and wonder as I might how it is rationally possible to even amount this much love toward a city, I find no answers, and only increased respect, for this misunderstood and (relatively) conservative, slow city. The second is Pune, where I went on this mini-vacation for an extended weekend, and simply could not get enough of. The funny bit in this story is that around the same time I went to Pune, a couple of Pune friends came to Chennai for a couple of months, on work. So while I was, over here, playing the expert city-guide and taking them around, over there, I was chauffeured around, playing tourist, dainty darling, and all fussed over. EOD- lots of fun, happy memories, and wide smiles.
           Pune is one city that boasts of providing domicile to a number of very close friends of mine. Ironically, when I left to Pune, two of those friends were ‘condemned to Chennai’ as they would like to put it, at around the same time, but that is a different war altogether and we shall not go into those details. So when I land in Pune, I expect to see just one friend, taking an extended lunch break to whisk me away to work. Instead I see a mini welcome committee (yes, three IS a crowd!) and I am already all smiles. The Pune airport is- yes, no other word for it- Small. It bears this lost, deserted look. But that can be excused. As I step out of the airport, I look for the sun dude. I feel the warmth, but no glare. And as I ride on the pillion, all of a sudden a mild drizzle makes me grin. And I learn that these drizzles are common place here. More grins. I bum around in CCD for a couple of hours, waiting for my crowd to finish work. Then we all head to Apache, on FC road- Ferguson College Road. And we sit there from 7 pm to..close to 11 pm. Long, but I lose track of how time flew. I vaguely remember someone-Soham(or was it Ninad?), scribbling on the wall with ketchup, loud, incessant laughter, and a tummy ache that resulted from it, walking (with support) on the roads in the drizzle (again), chocolate paan, a shouting war with Sameer- for no valid reason, of course, I just missed fighting with him, and finally, home, dry clothes, a cozy bed, and the two girlfriends- Dipa and Deepa, who are in the mood for girl-talk. The next day, we walk to a very late breakfast. Then we meet another close friend, Ru, who has come all the way from Mumbai, (big hug to you for that). He tells me, “Gitu, I’m not going to take you to the malls and the cinemas. They are the same everywhere.” And he takes me hill-climbing somewhere on the Pune-Mumbai highway. And I cannot get enough of the climate! You can imagine, a hidden sun, surprise sprinkles, and three friends who are all energy- I don’t remember what I found funny or what we spoke about, but I remember a lot of smiles. Oh, and a bullock that charged at us. And before we know it, it’s close to dinner time and we meet Ru’s dad, say pranaam, talk for a while, then uncle tells Ru, “Take them na, to Corinthians.” So off we set to Corinthians. In a word- Amazing place. I don’t know if it was the climate, or crowd, or the sheer architecture/design of the place that made the evening so magical (it was definitely not the food), but that, was a night to remember! The next morning, we wake up to feast on Misal Pav. And then I am taken around to all the roads- MG Road, FC Road, JM Road..yes, I’m already an expert! I stuff myself with SPDP and Pani puri, and walk around so much that my legs tire, and then I stuff myself with scraped chocolate shakes from Cad-B. And before I know it, day 3 finishes even before it started, and it’s time to leave! The next morning, I want to try Dosa in Pune. It was a bad idea. The best dosas are made where they belong. Period. But- I had the best coffee of my life at MM Restaurant, Aundh. Highly recommended. And then, all teary farewells and promises to meet soon ensue.. . And I board the plane back home. .
          Now it is my turn to play the tour guide, and show my city off. To people from Pune. But Anup and Shreyas are nice guys. I know for a fact that after their city, the sun was roasting them alive, but they bravely put up with it. I had my visit-agenda in place- they had theirs. The very first weekend they hit Pondicherry. Anup recommends Madame Santé, which specializes in authentic French cuisine. A little expensive, but great food. What does Chennai offer to a tourist? Variety in food, so we sampled biryani, idly, dosa, pongal, vada- the likes. We have no dearth of malls. Express Avenue leads the pack, closely followed by Sky walk, Spencers and Citi Centre. It is such a mad race to obtain tickets for movies during the weekends, though. We went all the way to AGS, Villivakkam once, to catch a show. Oh, and the boys booked tickets in AGS Navalur for another movie- that got cancelled an hour before the show. Yes, the theatre is outside the city, and yes, that also happens. We have the beach!! Clean beaches, clean water, but, are they safe enough for a small crowd is the question. The Puneites tell me that they love the transport facilities here. And the share auto system. That, I should second. It is a boon. God’s answer to the overpriced auto-wallahs. We have some great spots to visit around Chennai- but the sad part is that they are all so far off. We went to Mahabalipuram one Sunday. It took us the whole day to visit it and come back- but it was definitely worth it. And I highly recommend the light house climb. The view is worth the climb. We also went to Dakshin Chitra last weekend. That is one place every tourist simply MUST be taken to- because it captures the essence of South India- if not wholly, atleast enough to take back home. Great souvenirs, moderately priced, but awesome food, and lots of things to see! We went to 10, Downing street that other day, and that is another place that you could go over to, for lunch or dinner. Recommend taking a visitor there, anytime. I have taken people there all the time, and they are always floored. We also got to take them to T Nagar to experience a flavor of the Chennai shopping experience. I was looking for trekking spots around Chennai- Sadly there are none that are very close by. I happened to visit Nagala recently- but even that is close to 3 hours away. And if I am not wrong- it is the closest. So today I was making a list of all the places I ought to have taken them to- I added MGM/ Kishkinta- the theme parks. And Murugan Idly kadai. I think every visitor also needs to be taken to one of the many authentic Chettiar restaurants around- and try the fish fry. To the ones who bond with nature- Vedanthangal is a must during the season. And definitely take them to one of our big temples- Mylapore or Vadapalani. And grab some sundal and sit in the breeze, popping them into our mouths. Anup and Shreyas leave today, and I have promised them all these during their next visit, But ending on a don-your-thinking-caps-please note: what else do we offer that is uniquely ‘Chennai’?