Thursday, 28 July 2011

3. Walk down the Mada Streets of Mylapore

To soak in the flavours of traditional side of this city, head to Mylapore. To the streets that set off the famed Sri Kapaleeswarar Temple. The three Mada Streets ( north, east and south). Shops that sell  jewellery, artefacts, Hindu religious goods and classical music albums, traditional snacks and coffee powder are set between surviving roofed houses of the previous century. Often, a procession in which Hindu deities are carried out vends its way here; it may be led by traditional musicians who negotiate for space with roadside hawkers selling fresh vegetables and fruits. Walk slowly to take in the sights and sounds, window-shop and encourage yourself to chat with senior Mylaporeans sitting at their doorstep, willing to share stories and legends of the area.
Visit the temple ( closed between 12.30 and 3 pm - there are no official guides inside).
Tip: If you have time, slip into the huge temple tank, filled with water to savour the quiet or roam the inner streets that lead from the Mada Streets.

2. Take in Marina Beach

If you want to enjoy the quiet of the beach, head there before 7 a.m. The pavement and lawns will be still packed with people keen to keep fit or shed weight. Walk to the shore, walk alongside the waterfront; lookout for leftover snacks, plastic and bottles. Only experienced swimmers may get into these waters; the shelf here drops sharply and the drownings take place every week. if you walk south, behind the Light House is a roadside fish market.
The Marina comes alive in the evenings when thousands of people head here, mainly on weekends. Hundreds of hawkers sell snacks, toys and kitsch. If you have a tough stomach, try the 'sundal' ( boiled, salted gram mixed with onion and mint) or the molaga bajjis (large chillies dipped in basin flour and deep fried).  Some stalls offer fried fish.
At the north end are the crowd-pullers! The resting places of MGR, a popular actor who had a huge fans club and went on to become a politician and then a chief minister of this state and that of his mentor, Annadurai. Walk around to get a first hand feel of the amazing devotion that people have for their heroes!
Tip: Avoid ill-lit places on the Marina at night. Many people visit it after dinner to enjoy an ice cream and the breeze. Most stay on till midnight.

1. Go on a walking tour inside Fort St. George.

In search of new trading posts, the East India Company's men chose a sandy strip of land to set up shop in the early 17th century. In time, a fort was built. In time, villages around it were annexed and this came to be the core of Madras, now called Chennai. Most of the fort's built-up spaces are now occupied by the offices of the state government and Indian military forces. But much can be explored. The moat, the ramparts, St. Mary's Church, Clive House, the barracks and bungalows. The streets of the Company officials and of the traders of what was 'White Town' remain as do buildings of the 18th century. End the tour with a visit to the Fort Museum ( Open 10 am to 5 pm. Closed on Fridays. Admission fee is charged).

Tip: This is a secured campus; carry identification and avoid the areas of the local ministers' offices and the military sections. A brisk walk can take about 90mins. and is best done in the morning; best on Sunday when the campus is quiet. Entry is through the main gate.