Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Chennai, India

I am still coughing, hacking, and hating my lungs when my plane lands in south India on February 27th.

Immediately, something is different.  Yes, people still drive on the left side of the road like they do in Europe.  Yes, there is still lots of congestion.  But I notice that there are actually driving lanes in Chennai, and that people are actually adhering to said driving lanes...most of the time.  I stop to listen and I can barely hear any horns (this was constant background noise in north India).  It feels surreal.

  Indian men swimming at Marina Beach.  Yes, something is definitely different in south India, and it's not just the way people drive.

We are only in Chennai briefly.

It's enough time to visit San Thome Cathedral and Marina Beach.

San Thome Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church near Marina Beach.  In the basement, it houses the remains of Saint Thomas the Apostle (Doubting Thomas).  There are only two other churches that house the remains of one of Jesus' 12 disciplines.  They are Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain (Saint James) and Basilica San Paolo in Rome (Saint Paul).  I was raised as a Roman Catholic, and while I now classify myself as "spiritual not religious," I still find the history intriguing.

We enter San Thome Cathedral, and walk right into a wedding ceremony.  It's all in English and the guests are singing a song that I recognize from my days in Catholic school.  The bride and groom are standing on the altar with the priest.  Lots of fans are whirring and we sit in a pew and watch the ceremony for a few moments.  It's bizarre to see practicing Catholics in India, after seeing so many Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist adherents over the past four weeks.

 Surfs up.
After crashing my first, I mean second wedding in India (see Udaiper entry), I walk to Marina Beach.

 Locals dancing on the beach.

I was born to live near water.  I feel instantly happy.

 The locals ask to take a picture with my "exotic-looking" travel mates.  Apparently I do not look foreign, for I am not asked to be in the picture.  This is a new experience for me.  In the United States, I am asked at least once per week what I am.  My default response is Indonesian.

People are dancing, flying kites, socializing and wading.  For some reason, it reminds me of Puerto Rico.

We stay at the beach until the sun sets.

In the evening, I eat my first dosa.  It's a rice-flour crepe that is served with sides of curry or stuffed.  I long ago established myself as a food snob, and I spent most of my disposable income over the past five years on one of three pursuits:  traveling, triathlon and frequenting ethnic restaurants along the west coast.  I'm quite familiar with north Indian cuisine, but it seems I've never tried south Indian food before.

The dosa is incredible.

The night is over, and I go back to my hotel where I have another coughing attack in bed, under the cold A/C.  But I can feel my white blood cells waging battle.  And I know that they are going to win.


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