After the calm and relaxing week I had in Auroville and Pondicherry I was thrown right into the middle of a busy city! I spent two days in Chennai and I think that was just about enough. A friend from Chennai told me that the city isn’t one for outsiders – it takes time for the city to accept you and vice versa.  Every city has its own stories and Chennai was no different.

Traditional Tamil Nadu meal! Saapad!
Traditional houses at DakshinaChitra

Desperately trying to recover from my Pondicherry hangover I was trying my best to give Chennai a fair chance to impress me. I was staying with a friend of mine – shaivya. I walked the streets around her house and came up with a list of things I wanted to cover while I was in the city.
I had heard so much about Marina beach and all the eateries near the beach- it was number one on my list. We went to the beach in the morning so it was relatively empty. I couldn’t help but notice the millions of pieces of plastic on the sand. One time use spoons and forks, straws, plastic bags, styrofoam cups and plates. It was absolutely heartbreaking. Dogs and birds picking at whatever they could and knowingly and unknowingly in the process gobbling up plastic. The waves crashing on to the shore were dragging the garbage back into the ocean as they retreated. There was nothing pretty about this sight. It made me so angry and upset at the same time. How blind can we be? Do we not realise the impact of our actions? We’re headed towards a tomorrow where we will have plastic beaches to pass on to the next generation! When will we realise and understand that we need to cut down and ultimately stop using one time use plastics!
When I see such sites – it becomes difficult for me to enjoy anything else. I felt the rest of the day drag by slowly. My mind still stuck on the littered beach. Trying to come up with solutions and ideas. The solution needs to address the root cause of the problem. If the solution focuses on cleaning up beaches we will never stop!

Fish fry!! Mahabalipuram beach
One thing which did make my day much better was a meal at murudapan idli shop! They are known to have the best idlis in town! They melt in your mouth and the chutneys are to die for!!!

Day 2 in chennai and I knew I couldn’t spend another day in the city – with the traffic and fumes! We decided to spend the day at mahabalipuram and a couple of stops on the way!
Dakshinichitra – which literally means a picture of the south is located on the East coast road (ECR)on the way to Mahabalipuram. They have tried to replicate the houses and life styles of the people from Andhra Pradesh, Kerala , Karnataka and Tamil Nadu . The houses they’ve managed to replicate are just brilliant! They’ve tried to capture every aspect of the house and it didn’t feel as though I was standing in replicas at all! I wish they had food in each house to give it a more realistic feel! But maybe that’s asking for too much 😉 . They did have people sitting outside the different houses showing the local handicrafts of that region. I sat and learnt how to make kollam designs and even made myself a bracelet. We cooled off with some coconut water in the end. While we were drinking we got talking to the old lady who was selling the coconuts. She seemed rather puzzled when I told her I didn’t want a straw and pulled out my own re usable straw form my bag. I felt that this would be the perfect moment to talk to her about my environmental concerns – specially when straws are involved! I showed her pictures on my phone of sea turtles with straws stuck in their noses and she seemed very upset. Since she only spoke in Tamil – shaivya was my official translator. She said she had never thought about what happens to straws once they are thrown and customers often shout at her when she runs out of them. We discussed possible solutions and what we came up with was that she could always give the customers an option. We all know that force never works. She can’t force people to drink without a straw but she can always tell them the consequences and leave the choice to them!
It felt really good to have spoken to her and every time I manage to get through to a local person it’s small achievement for me! It pushes me to go out of my comfort zone and allows me to spread the awareness that I wish to and at the same time it allows me to learn something new from the other person .
She sells coconut water inside DakshinaChitra. I showed her some pictures on my phone of sea turtles with straws stuck in their noses. She had no idea what happens after she throws them in the dustbin. I feel i really got through to her and this was definitely my most favourite moment in Chennai

Spot the crocs!

We hit crocodile bank afterwards. We walked around and saw hundreds of crocodiles in different sections. I was told that during the tsunami the water came all the way in and the crocodiles were freely moving around! Yikes!!!!

Just a sneak peek inside a dustbin! Where do you think all those straws will end up?

We stopped for dinner on the ECR at a place called double roti – famous for its sandwiches , burgers and shakes. Shaivya being a strong environmentalist told the waiter “no plastic glasses/straws ” before I could even open my mouth! This made me super happy. Through the day we had been discussing environmental problems and solutions and nothing makes me happier than to meet someone who has a similar mission to mine!

Exploring different houses at DakshinaChitra!

Overall chennai was pretty interesting. I would say it was more about the people I met and the conversations I had rather than the place itself. Every place seems to work some sort of magic and chennai managed to plant a few seeds in me through its people and I hope I was able to do the same for it!!

My amazing host in Chennai! Thank you Shaivya!!!