(This post is for all of you who repeatedly wished that I break my one and a half years of silence and start scribbling again :) )
Every now and then, the searing heat waves scraped through below my Rayban lenses, reminding me constantly of the fact that I no longer belonged to Seattle. As the RX-135 made its ascent on Gemini flyover, I was pushing myself hard to accept the fact that the once magnificent Chennai skyline, dominated by huge vinyl hoardings, is no longer a reality. Just 2 years back, I was flashing my cousin’s canon S2 at every hoarding (from the pillion seat of this same bike), marveling at the cityscape, even as he was accelerating his beauty through this very flyover. I still remember The Hindu headline “Hoardings disappear, Chennai reappears” - what still evades my cranium is the pathetically absurd justification given that those hoardings were a distraction to the city motorists.. the craziest move a government can do to mutilate a multi million industry!
Things have changed quite a lot within a span of 2 years. While I was able to quickly adjust myself to a nomenclature change from UTI Bank to Axis Bank (or Hutch to Vodafone, for that matter), the half dead NRI (Not quite Ready for India yet) within me, still finds it hard to accept the fact that the exponential increase in Carbon Mono Oxide levels, thanks to the density of motorcycles in the city, is something one has to live with, without choice. Nevertheless, something that still hasn’t changed is the youth’s unquenchable thirst for hanging out at Spencer Plaza, the u-find-everything-here shopping mall. I mean… everything ;) Our hungry gang was all the more ready to pamper itself with arguably the best food Chennai can provide as we entered the Saravana Bhavan serving hall. I have to confess that this is one thing I missed so much these 2 years, even despite the fact that Seattle did have a lot of options for Indian cuisine per se. So much so that during my Uncle Sam tenure, we hunted for every HSB in the US (we even took a Canadian visa exclusively to eat at the Vancouver HSB :) ). The food at the Spencer HSB was exquisite – ghee paper roast, onion rava dosa, 14 idlis, poori masala, basundi ,rasmalai, rava kesari and filter coffee… and what more can you ask when there is banters going all around, each trying to pull each other’s leg at the slightest possible opportunity. It was a royal fight between laughter and platter, only to concede victory, hands down, to our fulfilled stomachs!
Next was destination Satyam. No weekend is complete without a unique Madras theater experience. And Satyam, for sure, has painted a new shade on Chennai’s 35mm. The vast renovation that this Cineplex has undergone in the recent past clearly pushed me into stupor as I was scrambling to find the motorcycle entrance and then the entrance to the screen itself. The movie – The Hangover – laughter flat out. When the director of a movie of this genre can generate such non-stop laughter from the audience just 10 minutes into the movie, he, in my view, has justified his claim of succeeding in making it. How four friends who land up in Las Vegas for celebrating the bachelor’s party of one of their own, not only to find themselves scratching their heads after a one night amnesia but also to lose their dear buddy, the bridegroom, forms the plot. What ensues is total stomach pounding hilarity as the friends deal blow after blow during the course of discovering all their misdoings the previous night. Taking as familiar a subject of humour as a bachelor’s party and giving it such justifiable treatment is worth applause. And what more, the 1.5 hours took yours faithfully through a 4th trip to the Sin City, this time virtually though, but not with any less fun. The Bellagio fountain, the Pyramid and the Eiffel tower replicas, Caesar’s palace.. man! So familiar I am with that place now that you can literally blindfold me in the middle of the strip and I can guide you into any casino or show you want to go to! However, I would really have loved it had all traces of my Las Vegas trips too been annihilated like how the four friends in The Hangover decide to do in the last scene of the movie. ;)
Outside the movie hall, the film didn’t cease to roll as I got a glimpse of the rapidly changing face of the Chennai elite, frantically trying to infuse cosmopolitan blood into the city’s veins. Gorgeous ladies in designer attire, polished glass and steel structures that only 5* hotels could earlier boast of, a choice of burgers and sandwiches that one would only have seen in Star Movies five years ago.. and to top this all, a digital LCD display (switched off though) above each urinal in the restroom, in front of your eyes as you pee!!! We then landed in Idly – the ‘restaurant with a theme’ in the Cineplex. Presenting yet another elitist ambience, this eat-out prides itself of a unique pub-like setup of a round table with barstools, the only difference being that the preparation in front of your eyes is a steaming idli or a dosa as against a vodka or a tequila. For all those who like to relish their evening in a barstool (sans liquor for a change :P) or for those who always wanted to but never gathered enough courage to venture into Bike and Barrel, this is an ideal hangout.