Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Chennai Diaries- the Detroit of South Asia

Chennai- Indias 4th largest metro.. one of India's major technological hubs, culturally rich, high in population and even higher on the temperature scale..I'm here right now for a short-term course.. And Chennai is truly turning out to be a real treat..

When I got down at Chennai Central, what struck me most was definitely the heat.. Since I come from the other side of the ghats (Kerala) where its constantly raining, coming here, where its dry with practically no rain was discomforting..

We made our way to the IIT Madras.. one of India's most prestigious and leading academic institutions.. IIT Madras is in itself a treat to see, covered in all greenery everywhere, and who can forget scenes of deer running around occasionally, or even monkeys, which are the main species here apart from dogs and humans. Even got a snapshot of some. They say IIT is the coolest place in Chennai owing to its greenery, on an average 2 degrees lower on the mercury than the city parts!

IITM has many other impressive features also- its Central library, Cricket ground, swimming pool, quarters etc being just some of them. Our food was arranged at Himalaya mess- and man do hey cater some pretty good food. I definitely have gained a few extra pounds during my stay here.

IIT falls in a region of Chennai called CIT (Central Institute of Technologies) which houses, apart from IIT, some very reputed and leading research and academic institutions, like the IMSc, etc. I was surprised by the number of research institutes here. Maybe its the presence of places like these that create a difference in the status of a city, like Chennai, as compared to say, Kochi, my hometown, with which I constantly used to draw contrasts and parallels.

Another name synonymous with city life in Chennai is Spencer's Plaza. Usually the first on the visiting list of any traveller here, this impressive shopping center (the term doesnt do justice to its size) has around 4 towers or so with 3 levels.. packed edge to edge with shops of all kinds.. branded items are usually more frequent but occasionally u might also find the traditional cheaper rate shops. The Landmarks store is another highlight feature here- spanning 3 floors and a very large area, this so-called 'gift items' shop has everything from a huge collection of books to cds and all kinds of audio,video,jewellery and other gift products. The Spencer's food court is also something to watch out for. The Chennai City Center is another major shopping center in the city.

Chennai city houses some major IT companies in India, and some major manufacturing units also in the industrial zones. A Hyundai car factory is also located in chennai.Another stark contrast i drew with the situation in Kerala was that the Traffic in Chennai is pretty well corrdinated. The roads are wide enough and in good condition, unlike some of the narrow cluttered roads of Kochi, for example.Buses are also in plenty, as in Kochi, though not as frequent as one would want them.

Beaches in Chennai are the other major attraction to watch out for. The most famous among them is Marina Beach- a 12 km long strip along the east coast of Chennai. There are other beaches also located along the coast. What struck me most about them was the cleanliness.. maybe it has something to do with the tourism potential of these places, but all the same. If you're on the lookout for somewhere special to eat, Murugan's Idli shop located near Besant Nagar beach might interest u- much more than a wayside idli restaurant, this place has the fame of being makers of the best idlis and vadas in Chennai! I was surprised by the long queue (yes queue!- much like a slot system) standing outside the hotel waiting to get in. Well, When I did get in, I perfectly understood why Murugan idlis are so famous! In fact, they even have their own website, and it seems they're starting a new branch in Dubai now!

On the whole, the city has so much to offer to the visitor, especially in terms of city life. All this if u can take the heat, ofcourse!


Helios said...

Nice travelogue...excellent photo walk that bit about your blog......though didnt like your account of the exams....brrrrr, horrifying times...... :(

Unknown said...

It is a very nice and good post. Keep up the good work.