After sharing a cab to the airport in the pouring rain Denise set off for Delhi and her onward flight back to the United States and I did what all snowbirds do and flew south for the winter. My "indigo" flight was on time and I was soon deposited at Chennai ( used to be called Madras) in the state of Tamil Nadu. First impression is that it is not so dusty and cleaner than the north and definitely not so many cows in the street. A tip for anyone following me make sure you go to the prepaid taxi stand when exiting the airport as it will save you from being fleeced by unscrupulous taxi drivers preying on tourists at the airport. I paid 450 Rupee plus a 100 tip compared to the touts price of 1000 Rupee!!.
I arrived at my first Hostel on this trip, the Red Lollypop and settled in to my bunk in a six man dorm and set about finding out what to see the next day after which a good nights sleep and a full day sightseeing on the agenda for tomorrow.
Tea, toast and out the door and on the doorstep was an Indian "friend" who asked if I was on my way to the beach as he would give me a lift and on the way he stopped and put petrol in his scooter (50 Rupee) and suggested I could help out with the petrol cost if I liked ha ha. He dropped me at the beach a 15 Rupee ride away and I wished him well and gave him 100 Rupee and walked my first footsteps on a beach for 7 weeks and was soon looking at the Bay of Bengal crashing against the shoreline.
Further along the beach I saw the fishing boats pulled up and the nets being mended
Away from the shoreline and the boats up along the road the ladies had set up a fish market where the day's catch was being sold off. If only I had an Indian chef to cook me a fresh fish they looked fabulous.
As I wandered along checking out the fish and watching the cricket match going on in the road between local kids and thinking what a great life it was down here I crossed the road and the bubble burst with a Big Bang.
There on the other side of the street were the slums the fishermen and their wives and their kids lived in, where I watched the women sweeping meticulously but it was a complete waste of time as the rubbish all ended up on the ground next door.
It was Advent Sunday and as I walked along as a backdrop to this insult to humanity the Cathedral of St Thomas, the one of only three in the world that the Holy Roman Catholic Church has deemed to contain the body of one of the disciples of Jesus. (The other two are in Vatican City and Santiago De Campostela in case you were wondering) was towering over the slum in all its glory.
I attended the service and noted that there was a full congregation made up of everyday Indian people who sat deferentially while a priest done up in clean new cassock and surplus preached to them and I noticed all the choir boys wore nice outfits and the silver cup and plate from which, after they have been separated with their money to help the church, they are offered the body and blood of Christ. And I felt like screaming " Don't keep taking - give it back" The Pope doesn't need another Pope mobile, the cardinals have enough heavy brocade red gowns. The Holy Sea as it is known is awash with money and jewels and their flock are suffering - it really can't have been what Jesus suffered and died for can it?
I left the church after the service and visited where the remains of St Thomas are meant to be and although it said "No Photos" I felt rebellious.
In case you think I have a grudge against the Catholic Church when I left I walked along the main road and came across the C of E "St Thomas Church" and true to uk trends it looked as if it needed a collection for a new roof and I had to laugh.
Off my high horse now but I hope you all give it some thought, in the west we really do not know what the word poverty means and we really need to get to grips with it.
By now I wanted to walk off my melancholy and so I set out from Marina Bay to walk the 13 Kms back to my hostel and on the way I passed the Indian version of Waitrose supermarket and a local temple that had been part replaced as a fruit stall.
Later I wandered the streets to the local temple and watched a locals street concert of a famous drum dance performed by local musicians and once my son tells me how to add the link to the you tube post you can take a look.
My last full day in Chennai was spent discussing how and where I should travel around the south with Murugan the main man at the Hostel who is so helpful. I then caught a 5 Rupee bus ride to central to book my overnight train to Madurai for the next day and returned with a ticket. Now please be aware when booking a ticket for onward travel in Chennai you must go to the big blue building next to the central train station not the train station.
After an interesting ride on a local bus I visited the two temples near the hotel the Arulmigu Kapaleeswarar Temple and Sri Ramakrishna Math two totally different temples both preaching peace and tranquility with no entrance fees.
Finally I made my way back to the Hostel via a dive that sold bottles of Kingfisher and spent the evening in conversation with a couple of girls from Sweden and New Zealand and a nice guy from France whilst watching a Bollywood film none of us understood ha ha the joys of travel.
Well my last day didn't turn out to be my last day as my train leaves at 21.40 so I have a last day to kill before heading to Madura. Murugan was kind enough to say I could leave my bags at the hotel and pop back later for a cab so I set out with a book and headed for the beach.
You may remember my last visit to the beach was 13 Kms away, this time I walked the 2-3 Kms to the local beach with the sole intent to sit and read my book but when I got there the beach was not what I was expecting.
If the state of the beach wasn't bad enough there was no shade and temperatures were in the high 20's and so with so much time to kill I just jumped on the first bus to leave the nearby bus station and paid 20 Rupee to ride it to the end of its route after which I had a walk around grabbed a Punni Puri and French fries washed it all down with a banana lassie.
Afterwards I caught the bus back looking out for a park I had seen on the way which looked kinda nice with toilets nearby perfect place to kill some time with my new Dan Brown book. Ha Ha you have to laugh the park would have been great if it wasn't for the fact I kept being approached by Indians who wanted to talk and then after a few minutes I realised they were all guys and mostly couples, yep, I had walked into "Gay Central Park" so as all good news of the world reporters would have said " I made my excuses and beat a hasty retreat". Back on the bus I jumped of early to walk through a housing estate and found an archway between two streets that was done up like a temple that I just had to snap pictures of.
Hot and worn out I headed back to the Hostel where I had left my backpack and they were happy to let me kill time in the common room until it was time for me to catch a car to the station.Tuk Tuk with driver turned up at 8 pm and broke all records getting me to the station in 20 mins after which I bought water and snacks paid my 30 Rupee to sit in A/C waiting room and waited for the train. All being well you will hear from me from Madurai.