Sowcarpettai

This post has been written by a good friend Kishor.  He is a story teller and a very talented person who has an inclination towards comedy and movies.  His posts can be read at Blind Man’s Bluff and you can check his videos out at “Moving Images” on YouTube. 

Sowcarpettai – First thing that comes to mind is “Saroja, samaan nikaalo”. But this place has a rich history and is a very distinct neighborhood. Sowcarpettai or Sowcarpet has a huge Marwari population. 

I moved from Chennai to Cuddalore during my high school days and one thing that Cuddalore has in common with Sowcarpet is the Marwari population. Cuddalore is home to many migrants from Rajasthan and Gujarat and they share links with the people from Sowcarpet. 
The street is a time capsule, as nothing drastic has changed in this area for decades now. We all know the wholesale and money lending shops that decorate Sowcarpet, but Sowcarpet also preserves one the oldest identity of “Madras” – Rickshaws. Once upon a time, these 3-wheeled wonders were the identity of Madras. With a rich history, rickshawalas were essential to everyday lives of Madras-vaasis as much as the milkmen and paperboys. So much so that they were portrayed by the one and only MGR in his movie. Losing their business to autos, the once hundreds in number rickshaws have dwindled down to about one hundred now and they all predominantly run in Sowcarpet. Thanks to the continued patronage of the Marwaris in Sowcarpet, the tell-tale three wheels still turn. 

Sowcarpet is close to Parrys Corner and the Central Station. Try the lassi while you are there and holi is the best time here to authentically drench in vivid colors.

If you are in the mood for a quick trip to the North of India, just catch any bus to Parrys Corner and you should reach your own personal Rajasthan.

Sowcarpet is also the best place to taste chaats and North Indian sweets.  You can also shop till you drop there and find amazing tailors nearby.  

The beautiful images found here are by a fellow blogger, Srivatsan, whose stories can be found here. 

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Rajnikanth

This post is about the one and only thalaivar (leader) for the film crazy population down south, Rajnikanth.  

Born as Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, thalaivar hails from humble backgrounds.  His rags-to-riches story is very similar to many of his onscreen avatars.  He brought in a distinct style into the Tamil filmdom, which till date is revered and adored by millions out there. 
Well known for his swag, Rajnikanth is said to be a very spiritual person.  His annual trip to the silent peaks and valleys of the Himalayas is a well known secret and he is unperturbed to stand by his religion.  

His movies tend to be a tad unrealistic given the ground reality, usually with big budgets and huge expectations.  His fan- following that would easily run to millions, go to crazy levels to show their adoration to their beloved superstar.  Every now and then people wait to know his political stance, which seems to be a well guarded secret.  

He rose to Superstardom by playing normal characters that one would meet in their daily lives.  His characters had such a connect with the masses that the people lifted him up to place on a pedestal and worship him as the one and only THALAIVAR.  

His fame can be understood by the fact that Bollywood had a song dedicated to him, he is synonymous with the word Madras, and well, Google throws out his pictures when I look up the term ‘Thalaivar’. 

Truly swag!! 

Quarter Bottle

Good news or bad news, the one thing that remains a constant in the variable equation that is life, is the Quarter Bottle, a.k.a alcohol.  

Tamilnadu has its alcohol market regulated in a weird way.  The liquor in the state is supplied by TASMAC, which is a state owned enterprise.  The bars and retail shops are all owned by this enterprise.  This is a major source of revenue for the state exchequer actually.  

So in recent days, there has been lot of noise regarding the prohibition of alcohol because it seems only now that people are waking up to the bane of liquor shops in their locality.  The menace of drunk and drive isn’t going down anytime soon either.  

So the Honorable Supreme Court ruled that there shall be no sale of alcohol within 500 metres from any of the highways.  This might be a blanket move, no doubts about it.  

But our own people, renowned world wide for the quick fixes they invent, have begun the process of ‘denotifying’ the roads, which is essentially downgrading a road from one level to a level below that in terms of control and compliance.  

Also, Tamilnadu has the culture of wooing voters with alcohol and food.  Quarter and Kozhi biryani, they say.  These form an inevitable part of the campaign culture here and it’s nothing but the sad truth.  

This post is a part of the A to Z challenge 

Pondy Bazaar

Any festival in Chennai is incomplete without a trip to the shopping haven that is Pondy Bazaar.  

Originally called ‘Soundarapandiyanaar Angaadi’, this got anglicised like many other things in Chennai.  Pondy bazaar is the place where you can go with a thousand rupees and still rake in the moolah for that money.  

The place used to be lined with shops on the pavements on either sides of the road till a few years back.  Latest fashion jewellery and clothing, bags, shoes, books and other goods used to be sold here.  Now all those shops have been moved to a multistoreyed building on one of the sides of the road.  

This place also has a lot of branded shops and many small outlets that sell tasty sweet corn kernels and ice creams.  
Pro tip-

1. Check out the sweet corn with a dash of butter and pepper. 

2. Bargaining is the key.  Don’t feel bad, because the prices would normally be factored in for the bargain.  

Oh Emm Aar!! 

That’s how OMR is pronounced.  

OMR (Old Mahabalipuram Road) or the Rajiv Gandhi Salai, is one of the most happening places in Chennai.  

Also perceived to be a youngsters haven, this road stretches from the MadhyaKailash junction to Mahabalipuram.  This was an arterial Road that once connected the small town of Mahabalipuram to Chennai.  The East Coast Road later stole the thunder of the OMR.  

This road is an expressway, which was planned and developed with the sole intention of giving a boost to the IT/ITES industry in the city.  Hence this road is also known as the IT expressway.  
Dotted with IT companies on both sides and also numerous SEZ parks and zones promoted by the State Government, this region is famous for its cosmopolitan demography.  

Themed restaurants, food streets,  branded clothing outlets and everything else find place here making this region self sufficient.  

Housing prices in this region are famed to bring heart attacks to people and so does the traffic.  Just try saying that you have crossed the SRP and the TIDEL signal, when you go into the city and meet your friends, be sure that they have a new found respect for you.  For that’s OMR for you.  

Nirbhaya and Nightlife

Well, One of the most remarkable feature of Chennai as a city is that it is safer than many other metro cities.  

With decent connectivity and helpful people, it is easy to survive in Chennai. When incidents of harassment and rapes were haunting the country’s capital, Chennai stood strong with its record of claiming to be safe by the residents.  

This can be owed to multiple factors although a major one would be it’s relatively conservative fabric.  

This conservative nature can also be a reason for the city’s not so enviable nightlife.  

People from Bangalore always have this against Chennai.  The nightlife here sucks. With a handful of pubs and nightclubs, that too mostly concentrated among the 5 Star hotels of the city, Chennai is one city that most probably sleeps at night.  

The recent directive of the Government related to bars and alcohol has only made things worse to the pub – hopping scene in the city.  

By the way, nights are for sleeping, aren’t they?? 😉 

Half-Way Mark- Update

It has been quite an experience blogging my way through the A to Z Challenge

Thinking about topics, checking if the topic would be fine to be written about, the reception among the readers, the new friends, reading my fellow bloggers’ posts etc have been amazing so far. It is making me a better person and I hope to stay on course till the end.

keep-calm-were-halfway-there

Today is Day 13, which also marks the midway through this journey. My course so far, has been documented below. Click the links to read about the topics.

A- Auto Rickshaw

B- Biryani

C- Central

D- Dabba Chetty Kadai

E- Egmore Museum

F- Fort and FDFS

G-Gilma

H-Hot, Hotter, Hottest

I-Idli

J- Jam Bazaar (Guest Post)

K- Kabali and Kaapi

L- Light House

M- Margazhi

It has been great so far. 🙂

Margazhi

Madras or Chennai, is incomplete without the famed “Margazhi” festival.

images

Margazhi is a tamil month which falls roughly between the 15th of December and 14th of January. This month is famous for Fine arts, in Chennai. Numerous sabhas organise concerts and programmes classical dance and music. It is a month filled with music and dance all around.

Every December, the early morning air is filled with the tunes of the hymns of Thiruppavai and Thiruvembavai. Later that day, one gets to devour the divinity that is classical music and dance. This is also the month when the car porches are decorated with the most colourful of kolams (Rangoli). 

Listen to a Thiruppavai here.

One would be surprised to know that these concerts and programmes happen all through the day. Almost all the sabhas in the city have their own line ups and schedules and it is considered a privilege to be able to perform in one of those slots. We have Rasikas (enthusiasts) from all over the world, who throng Chennai just to be a part of this extravaganza.

Apart from getting to listen to the best of artistes, this season is also for tasting the best of South Indian food in these Sabhas. Each sabha has its own list of food items that are famous and they have their own set of patronage, who stand by them no matter what.

Chennai also has its own set of people who let their houses and free rooms in their homes for rent to accomodate these tourists. They provide the best of hospitality and convenience to the visitors, who also get to experience the Touch of Madras. 

Mid December to Mid January is the best time to visit Chennai and I swear you will not regret it.

Have you booked your tickets yet? 😉

Light House

L is for Life and Love, which is abundant in Chennai. Next in list comes the Light house.

lighthouse

Located in the end of the Promenade on the Marina beach, this Light house is an icon in the city’s landscape. It is one of those lighthouses that are well within the city limits.

This lighthouse has a rich history. The building that stands tall today, is the fourth structure that was built to serve as the light house, to guide the ships to the shore safely. It is a proud symbol of the Maritime history of Chennai and also of our country.

This lighthouse here was thrown open to the public a few years back and since then it has been a great spot for some nice sea breeze and some kickass views. It also marks the beginning of what we call “Gandhi Statue Beach”, which extends way past Santhome.

The location is prime and is served well by buses and MRTS train service. It also has some coffee shops and a mall in its vicinity.

Pro Tip- Head to the lighthouse at around 3.30 in the evening, enjoy the breeze and the views. Head to the beach post that and have some nice street food , sitting on the sand. Best when tried on a full moon day. 🙂 

Kabali and Kaapi

Two topics that are very close to my heart. Kabali refers to Kapaleeswarar temple in Mylapore, Chennai and Kaapi is, of course, our own filter coffee.  

Mylai Kapaleeswarar temple is a temple build for Lord Shiva.  Legend says that this temple is equivalent to Mount Kailash among many other interesting stories.  

Located in Mylapore, the temple is a landmark of the city.  This is one of my favorite temples, mainly due to the ventilation inside the complex and the peace one gets to feel when inside the complex.  
There is always some program or concert happening inside the temple premises and trust me you could find many celebrities walk around here.  The Arubathumoovar is the main festival of the temple, which is all about the 63 nayanmars who sang in praise of Lord Shiva.  It is during this festival that one can aptly take a food walk in the streets around the temple.  It’s worth the effort taken to navigate the crowd.  

This festival happens between 15th of March and 15th of April every year.  

Also, the Puliodharai (tamarind rice) available inside the temple is extremely tasty and a ‘must’ in the bucket list of every foodie.  

What is a trip down south, without a cup of Kaapi?? 

Kaapi or Filter coffee is the famous brew of coffee prominent in the Southern part of the peninsula.  If brewed in the right way, this coffee has the perfect blend of heat, taste, colour, consistency and aroma.  

From my personal experience, I would say that there is a particular way by which the coffee must be brewed to get that cup of perfection.  There is also a lot of detail that goes into the powder that we use to make that perfect cuppa.  

I can go on and on when it comes to coffee, but I should stop right here because my cuppa Kaapi is waiting for me in my kitchen.  
So two things that must not be missed when on a trip to South India- Kabali and Kaapi.  

Kapaleeswarar temple is accessible from all major transit points in the City- The airport, railway station and the bus terminus.  Just ask around or drop in a text, I would be happy to guide you.  Bonus points would be restaurants suggestions in and around Mylapore.  

This post is a part of the A to Z challenge