Category: South of India, 2012

Gods, food and textiles, Chennai, January 27

Fond reunion with the Sugarmans for breakfast, then headed to the lobby to be picked up by our guide, Jay. We’re staying at Vivanti, part of theTaj Hotel group, like the rest we’ve been at. We have a very nice villa, looking out on The Bay of Bengal, with hammocks hung outside, beyond the patio. Place has a nice, resorty feel to it. (Karen says it reminds her of Hawaii.)

We are driven around Chennai, formerly called Madras and the capital city of the Southern state of Tamil Nadu. In the 17th century, Chennai was the economic and political capital of the East India Company, the British trading company which eventually led to the colonization of India. The history of this area goes back to the fourth millennium BC and the local language, Tamil, is the oldest language in India. Economically, Chennai is one of the fastest growing cities in the country attracting investments from both the automobile (known as the Detroit of India) and the information technology sector. Land is rather inexpensive and water, power and other infrastructure is either in place or being planned.

We visit the heavily carved and colorful 16th century Kapleeswarar temple at the Mylapore temple area. As today is the 63rd anniversary of Indian Independence, the Hindu temple is even more teeming with people off for the holiday than usual. The temple is not only a place for prayer, but also a place for meeting, celebration, shelter, learning, performing, and communication, but not for dating (95% of the marriages are arranged marriages). People come bathed and dressed in fine clothes. Jay stresses that the Hindu religion is very tolerant and respectful of everyone’s beliefs, giving people freedom to pray to whichever god they want in the manner that they choose. We stroll leisurely around the temple, observing the goings-on.

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After the temple, we continue to the home of Sabita and Kittu Radhakrishnan. Sabita is a charming woman, our age, a renowned chef who has published three cook books, including one for children. We are joined by her 91-year old mother and her 17-year old granddaughter, Aditi, who is considering going to school in Singapore. Sabi has prepared a delicious lunch for us. After lunch, Sabi gives us a slide presentation on Indian textiles and shows us pieces from her excellent collection. She started and ran a textile boutique, has written pieces on textile history and is now active in promoting Indian textiles through non-profits she’s involved with. In addition, she’s a playwright. After 2 1/2hours, we say goodbye to Sabi and Kittu and drive to a nearby crafts area she recommends, where the Sugarmans buy a number of pieces.

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We return to the hotel and rest for awhile, before going up to the lobby with the Sugarmans, taking the bottle of wine Carol and I have brought from the Taj in Mumbai. We’re told they won’t open our bottle, so we order some drinks, then go to the very good seafood restaurant in the hotel, where we sit outside, enjoy a lovely sea breeze and succeed in convincing the restaurant to open and serve our bottle of wine–YESSSS.

Gods, food and textiles, Chennai, January 27

  • leslie

    Arnie. I have a picture of this same man. this is bringing back fabulous memories!!!! so glad you are enjoying. Les

  • W.

    Incredible photos, Dadz! Heavily carved, indeed! Would you like a little temple in your carvings? Amazing. And the next two photos of the men are fabulous. Sabi has quite the bio! She could be a Kanter. Or a Sugarman.
    L,
    W.

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