Its been 13 years since I last visited Chennai. I guess it was called Madras then. I had some very emotional memories of this place. The last time I was here was with my best friend, Aditya who sadly passed away in 2007. The flight was close to touching down in Chennai when it was circling over the sea. It was obvious that we were flying above Marina Beach. Chepauk stood out like a huge black box. I was with Aditya at Marina just one day prior to our departure from Chennai in 1998. Sigh.
It was quite unexpected that I was to go to Chennai. It was late Monday afternoon when I was informed about a visit to Chennai for 3 days starting from Tuesday. I was to go there with Lokesh and join Guru in Chennai for a KT session for the team being set up in Chennai.
To be honest, Chennai did not give me the same big city feeling that a Mumbai or Delhi or Hyderabad gives me. Even entering MEPZ which is supposedly the IT park of Chennai did not impress me coz it looked like the old industries of Pimpri-Chinchwad area in Pune.
Anyway, the 3 days in Chennai were great fun.
We reached Chennai at 0730 on Tuesday morning and reached office by 0830. Well before anyone showed up. The KT started at 11 am and I started it and it had a very smooth flow to it. The 3 of us were really enjoying this KT without any PPT or other documents. Just a marker and the White board. Frankly, I just got up on Tuesday morning at home in Pune and got myself to the airport at 0430 hours. I hardly knew what I had to speak before I left for Chennai. So having said that, I was surprised at myself and the others for having answered all questions asked by the audience. Well done.
We were now brimming with confidence and that took us into the lunch break and we had some local stuff like Rassam Rice, Sambhar rice, etc. The 2nd session continued in the same way and we had a great KT day.
We were discussing plans to drive to Pondicherry but being a Union territory, friends in Chennai said that stuff shuts down by 11 pm over there and we will need to find a place to stay to avoid the cops. Plan dropped. Now what? Booze anyone? Sure.
Guru took us to a fine bar called Aatangudi close to MEPZ. We started at 7 pm and were there till 11 discussing vague stuff like whom do you like the best in the team as a person and as a crush. Whom do you hate the most, etc. It was insane. When people are drunk, they can say such a lot of great stuff and in a great way about people they like. In the same way, the manner to express anger about people whom you hate is equally enjoyable. It was 11 pm. Now what?
We had our guest house booked but we hadnt been there yet. Lokesh and I set off in a cab with Guru and Uday on their bike. It took us some time to locate our guest house but Whoa. What a place.
A huge 3 BHK with one bedroom allocated for 2 people. So Lokesh and I took one. Uday and Guru being locals had to go home some time. The other 2 rooms were occupied by other folks. We had a cook for everyone who made us lovely tea at 12:30. A Wi-fi router, A/C, lavish bath and we were set for the night. The terrace was huge and we made frequent visits for tea over there. To make matters worse, I forgot my Pyjamas at home. So I was going around in a towel all along.
We played cards. Surprising. :) I taught them how to play a game called Minimum and the very popular Maharashtrian game of Mendi Coat. It was fun and Cards + Tea ensured we were up till 0530 hours. Having slept at 2200 hours on Monday night and having got up at 0330 on Tuesday morning, we were asleep for just 6 hours since Monday. Damn it.
Guru and Uday went home at 0530 hours. Lokesh and I reached office by 11 the next day all drowsy. The next day again had some KT sessions. In the evening, we decided to head off to Marina. In a local bus. Yeah.
It took us around 1.5 hours to reach Marina. We had some Fried Fish, Bhajias and Ice cream there. Marina reminds you so much about Juhu. Beautiful place which has unnecessarily been commercialized. Sigh. We were still hungry and we also had Yuvaraja with us today. He is also a local from Chennai who was in Pune for 2 months back in February. He wanted us to have food at Sarvanam, one of the most popular South-Indian joints around the world. Apparently, present in 18 countries. Impressive.
So we were back in a bus headed to Chennai Central. There is a Sarvanam branch at Chennai Central itself. And it was a lip smacking delight. Parota Bhaji, Chilli Parota, Ghee Idli, Sambhar Rice. Just out of the top draw. Yuvaraja left for home. The 4 of us boarded a local train to Guindy. And then a cab to the guest house. It was 12 again. We played some more cards and some more tea was consumed. This time we needed to sleep early since we didnt have any sleep. But the bed supported only 2 people. But we had to adjust for 4. So be it. Done with plenty of space to spare.
The last day was more of a drag. Our flight was at 2115 hours and we decided to go down for final round of tea and gupshup at 1900 hours. We also called the cab so that it arrives by 1930 and we can reach the airport in time. At least we thought so.
It was 1940 and no signs of the cab. We called him and he said he will be there in 5 minutes. Called him again and he said it will take 10 minutes more. It was 1955. This was getting scary. Finally, we called him again and he said the number of the cab is 5588 and the name of the cab driver too. The cab turned up but to our surprise the cab driver said that he had to pick up someone else. Doomed.
We were fortunate enough to get an auto immediately who demanded Rs. 170. We did not care. We just wanted to reach the airport. He said that it will take 20 minutes to reach. It was 2005. The auto driver was driving like a man possessed and we were hoping we would be alive by the time we reached the airport. And then calamity strikes. We ran out of petrol. What more can go wrong? We were still around 3 kms from the airport. We started yelling at him but to no avail. He did not understand Hindi or English and we did not get Tamil. Panic struck, we started waving at cars and buses to stop but it was of no use. Finally, we saw an auto and literally stopped in front of it. We just jumped into the auto and asked him to take us to the airport. Now this guy was in no hurry at all and was driving at his own sweet pace.
But, we were at the aiport at 2035. 40 minutes away from departure. And now we realised that autos are not allowed inside the airport campus. Dratch. We ran for 2-3 minutes to reach the Departures gate and showed our tickets to the Guard. Problem. This was International Departures gate. Man. A jog for another 2-3 minutes got us to Domestic Departures gate. We got out Boarding passes and the lady said "Gate 7. 1st floor." OK. Again a jog for 1 minute got us to Gate 7, 1st floor. But it was a Delhi flight. As John McEnroe would say ... YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS.
We had not even looked at our boarding passes. It said Gate 2. Where the hell is Gate 2 now? Ground floor of course. Back to the jog again. Reached gate 2 to realise we are the last 2 to get in to the bus that takes us to the aircraft.
Just the icing on the cake for the most memorable 3 days in Chennai.
Some incidents ...
Me: How do you guys survive over here man?
Guru: You mean the humidity?
Me: No dude. The crowd. The girls. There is hardly anyone to look at.
Guru: Aah. I see. Yeah. North Indians are very beautiful.
Me: Well yeah. But, even Pune has such a great crowd. You will agree right?
Guru; Yes buddy. By North Indians, I meant north of Chennai.
Lokesh: (singing a song from Robot) Kilimanjaro. Ladki parvat ki yaaron. Iska roop nikhaaro. Yaaro Yaaro. De do hamein ek chhoti bosi. (and then stops singing). What is the meaning of Bosi in Tamil?
Yuvaraja and Guru: Bosi? Whats that? We have never heard such a word.
Lokesh: Its there in the song
Yuvaraja and Guru: We dont know
Lokesh: Maybe it means a kiss. Ok, what do you call a kiss in Tamil?
Me and Lokesh: (look at each other and burst out laughing)
Yuvarja and Guru wonder why.
Lokesh: It sounds so funny.
Yuvaraja: Why? Is there a meaning for Muttam in Hindi?
Me: Yes. Kind of. It means Piss or Pee.
Guru and Yuvaraja start laughing. This is the time when we get into the lift and are waiting for the door to close.
Lokesh: How funny will it sound if I say to my girl friend ... Can you give me a Muttam?
At this very time, 3 girls enter the lift and stare at Lokesh. Yuvaraja and Guru yell at Lokesh to cool it. Its a big issue here. ROFL.
It was fun. Cheers ... !!