Monday, February 25, 2008

The Pool

Some time ago I promised to post photos of the Madras Club pool, which was recently renovated. Its beautiful. Well, here it is. And it was taken just as the sun was setting - the light was great. Not sure how great the photos look though taken with my phone's little camera...

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Landmark used to be a little haven for book enthusiasts. I remember going to the Nungambakkam High Road Landmark underground and just browsing through tons of books on the shelves and tons of magazines on the racks. Everything was neatly organized and they always had a great collection.

Then they added a CDs and DVDs section. That was alright. It was almost expected that they would naturally extend their reach to music and movies. Then they added a stationery section. Hmmm. Then a toys section. Then a knick knacks section. And I mean knick knacks. The teenager stuff like plastic flowers and hearts on little glass vases. That really put an end to my enjoyment of Landmark. I now officially dislike going there.

I had to today to buy some kids books and wrapping paper. Everything was so difficult. The books were stacked everywhere, on the floor, falling off shelves, still in bins. I could see a few books but there was no way I would be able to actually find a book by myself without asking for assistance. (I did ask four different people for assistance repeatedly before one guy just told me that its not available and he doesn't know if he can order it or not).

Then I went to the wrapping paper section. It was terrible. Half the papers were torn, most were hanging off the wall, and some were crumpled and badly worn. I had to juggle my books while I tried to find a few that seemed new!

Sigh. There goes another Chennai Landmark! No pun intended.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


We went to Tirupati this past weekend and I'm continually amazed at how efficient it is. I've been to Tirupati about 6-7 times so far and every single time it has a huge impact on me. Driving up, you start feeling a sense of excitement. When you get to Tirumala, there is a celebratory air over the entire town. Everyone is on their best behaviour (drinking, smoking and "physical contact" between men and women are frowned upon at Tirumala). There are speakers all over town buzzing with chants from the temple and everyone is in a kind of holy excitement.

The town is very very clean. I now know that Indians can be clean if they tried, they just choose not to bother. There is no litter anywhere, no trash thrown on the roads. There are lovely sidewalks and gardens and museums and shops. Its a lovely town. Set high up in the hills, the weather is cool and the surrounding hills covered in clouds are a sight to behold.

I've walked up Tirumala too. The walk takes about 3.5-4 hours and its completely under the shade, with lots of little shops along the way selling energizer drinks of lime and soda, caps, umbrellas.

There is a tradition of hair tonsuring at Tirumala that is supposedly very auspicious. It signifies a surrendering of your ego to God. It is a well organized system. The barber comes to where you stay, he finishes the shave for the person in exactly 15 minutes - no fuss, no knicks, no cuts and always a new, sterilized blade. He collects the hair and takes it with him. I was curious and found out that all the hair collected in Tirumala is made into wigs and exported. None of the wigs are sold in the Indian market.

There has been a recent controversy in the West over whether wigs made from this ritual should be allowed to be sold because of the religious nature in which it is done. You can read more about that here.

The must-eat place is Bhima's Residency in Tirupati - either after your trip to Tirumala or before. I recommend after - since driving up the hill on a full stomach from Bhima's might not be a pleasant experience with all the hairpin bends!

*By car, Tirupati is a 3 hour drive from Chennai. Alternately you can also fly in from Hyderabad or Bangalore.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Thank you, Jet Airways

After a long, tiring weekend, we were on our way back from Kerala to Chennai. And it was exactly at lunch time too. My daughter was hungry, sleepy and tired. I was absolutely dreading the flight back knowing the last thing she needed was to be made to sit in her seat with a seatbelt and nothing but the clouds to watch outside. I made sure I had crayons and paper and a book to read to her.

Jet Air totally surprised us. I'm sure its been around for a while but this is the first I'd heard of it. They had these little TVs for inflight entertainment. And, the greatest gift of all, they had a Kids Channel that had lots of cartoons (including Dora the Explorer, my daughter's favourite!). I was delighted. She was delighted. And everyone heaved a sigh of relief! :) It was the most pleasant plane ride we've had in a while.

They also gave out little packets of coloring pencils and books for the kids in a little bag. The only drawback was their kid's meal. The steward told us that we had to have requested it earlier, which we didnt know (on the other hand, when we flew to Kerala on Paramount Airways, they had a child meal ready for her, even though we hadn't requested it - now that's called service!). But I'm not complaining. Dora beats the kid's meal anyday.

Thanks, Jet Airways. And thanks Paramount, for catering to people who don't warn in ahead!

Friday, February 08, 2008


I feel compelled to write this, just to get my thoughts in order. Its almost a note to myself. As I've mentioned before, I was born and grew up in Chennai and went to school, high school, undergraduate and graduate school here. I only changed school once after my 10th grade, and even then I loved it. I can't say the same for others, but doesn't everyone have fond memories of their schools? Can anyone really tell me "I hated my school"? I think its almost universal that everyone you ask will say they loved their schools, no matter where, no matter how good.

I've been thinking very very hard and talking to lots of people about where to put my daughter in school. She currently attends Kids Central which is now a pre-school. I think its fabulous and my daughter loves it. She recently started attending school on her own and the separation was very hard, but the school was tremendously supportive and she loves it now. But Kids Central ends at the 1st grade. What then?

Since I was in the same school for the first 12 years of my life, I wanted the same for my daughter. So she could have the same friends and same teachers and same environment to foster a sense of belonging. But I can't for the life of me decide on a school. I really want her to do the ICSE board, which is what I did, and I thought it was a tremendous learning system.

The American School is not really an option since they don't allow non-US citizens. Sishya was a choice, but I've heard that the waiting list just for the lower Kindergarten is 100. People are registering their kids while they are 2 months pregnant! Since I didnt get a head start, it seems almost impossible now.

Its difficult. Does anyone have any insights into the Chennai school scene? How do others decide on a school?