I have always like South Indians- due to their down to earth nature and simple way of life. I have a pen friend in Chennai since the last eight years. She is not exactly a pen friend as these days we have a chat friend, because we chat rather than write letters. Sandhya and I started chatting on Yahoo Messenger and then on Windows Messenger and later Whatsapp. I remember the first time we shared our pictures on email, sending those as attachments. This time when I went to Chennai, we met for the second time. Chennai has recovered from the heavy floods except for a few bad roads.
|Sandhya and me|
I visited Mahabalipuram en route to Chennai. It is named after Mahabali who was the grandson of Prahlada. Historical evidences indicate it was a trade centre in the olden days. There are wonderful monolithic sculptures from Hindu mythology in Mahabalipuram. The Pancha Rathas, Arjuna Penance, Krishna Butter rock, the sea shore temple and the elephant statue are the notable monuments. The old lighthouse has a great view; wherefrom one see the entire Mahabalipuram.
|The old lighthouse|
|The elephant statue|
Sandhyas parents Ashok uncle and Manju aunty welcomed me to their house in Chennai. She is a Marwadi and I had a special traditional lunch prepared by aunty. Sandhya and her cousins Poonam(and her daughter Tanvi) and Payal joined us for lunch. We all lunched in the same plate. It was a great experience, I could not keep a tab on how much I ate as that’s what happens when you eat together.
Uncle booked this auto wallah who took me around Chennai to see the famous landmarks. This is a great way to travel if you want to cover maximum places in the least time. I went to the Chennai Government Museum, the Marina beach – the longest in India, the Ranganathan Street Market and the Sowcarpet market. South India is colourful- the temples, houses, attires; they know how to use colour. I also saw some places on the go – take a quick peek:
|The public library|
|Church in Chennai|
|Market in chennai|
|A picture definitely says a thousand words when you don't understand a single word - the auto uncle and me|
One incident that stuck me while travelling in a public bus around Chennai made me realise that ‘unity in diversity’ is quite difficult in some parts of India. There are two incidents actually. The first one- I was sitting between two Tamil women in the bus. They never helped me with directions and didn’t even try sign language to help me with the stop I was supposed to get down at. After some time, the popcorn one of them was eating flew on me due to the wind and as I removed the popcorn from my hair, I gave her an its-ok-smile. She gave me a I-don’t -care-at-all look and continued eating her snack.
Another incident- Due to long hours of travel and fatigue, I was feeling nauseous in the bus. There was no place to sit. I needed fresh air so I went near the door and sat there. There was a guy sitting there and he was with a group of one more guy and three girls. They found it amusing that I sat like that and the three girls gave me friendly smiles. After the next stop, there was a place to sit. So I got up and sat on the seat. Just as I got up, the three girls hurriedly came and sat where I was sitting near the door. They had gone for a day outing and were so happy to follow in my footsteps as they clicked pictures of themselves sitting like that.
What I realised is – the younger generation of South Indians are friendlier. The older generation doesn’t speak to you if you don’t talk to them in their mother tongue, while the younger ones are forthcoming. Maybe due to exposure… What I also noticed is, they have this aversion for Hindi, but they all are quite fluent in English. Even in Mumbai, people answer in English even though you ask them something in Hindi. India has diversity, but do we really have unity? No wonder the English ruled over us for so many years. Do we realise that now we use English the most – leaving aside this war of languages. Yes, what ‘unites’ us is English! Sad. But true. I love English, but Hindi is my national language. The wonderful South Indian languages are dearer to me even though I can only manage a ‘How are you?’ I can barely manage to speak a sentence in Hindi or Gujarati without an English word in between. I am ashamed of that. While the South Indians can speak their mother tongue more fluently, they are indifferent to other languages. We need to find a balance here, don’t we?
However, I am happy that my generation of South Indians are Indians first. No wonder I have so many amazing South Indian friends.