Weekend In Chennai

The first couple of days of work in Bangalore went well; there's too much to do and too little time, especially since my trip may be cut short by two days.  Nonetheless, there was business to do in Chennai. We flew on Thursday night for a meeting on Friday morning.  (for those of you who need to know, I'll send a trip report separately)

After our meeting on Friday, we did some sightseeing and eating (once again, I haven't had a bad meal here yet...more on that later). We went to a place called DakshinaChitra; its purpose was to illustrate various styles of housing and architecture for the southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh. We're not talking houses from the 1970's here; the housing styles would be of traders or farmers, potters and other craftworkers.

It was on the warm side when we toured the place (maybe in the mid-eighties) but there was a breeze that helped keep us cool.  The place was interesting to see; it's not like I completely understand Southern Indian architecture now, but I liked getting a sense of the different styles of living.

Lunch was, well I'll say it two ways: for the Indians, we had thali. For the white folks, we had a fun assortment of dishes in small steel cups.  There would be yogurt in one cup, a vegetable-with-gravy (not gravy like you're thinking; think of curry instead and you're closer) dish to be served with something that can help sop up the nice liquid. There were other cups with things to mix with the main dishes.  The price for me was about a buck seventy-five, and it was all-you-can-eat.  The server would bring as much additional food as I wanted, and it was delicious food.  A buck seventy-five! Unbelievable.

We left the site, returned to the hotel, and I got some down time before dinner.  Dinner on Friday was at a Thai restaurant in a place called The Park Hotel.  It was a pretty happenin' place; by the time we left, the bar was starting to fill up with Beautiful People (tm).  Everything about the hotel was stylish; it reminded me of the "W" chain of hotels in the U.S.  One stairway descended into an optical illusion that made it look as if you were walking into a pool of water that came from a waterfall running along the wall of the stairs' landing.  It was very cool!  I walked down the stairs and instinctively stopped just before putting my foot on the landing step, because I thought I was going to fall into water.  Man, I crack myself up.

The Thai restaurant had the coolest wash basin I've ever seen in a bathroom.  Instead of sinks, the wash basin was a long rectangle of green frosted glass that was tilted down and away from you when you approached it.  Several water faucets opened up directly onto the glass, but because of the tilt of the glass, the water ran away from you and down into the plumbing that carried away the water.  It was the coolest thing ever.

Sightseeing, Chennai

Road Sign In Chennai

A Relief at Mahabalipuram
The next morning we got up early to do some sightseeing.  Since it's pretty hot right now in Chennai (I dunno, high eighties, and humid), we took off early so that we could do our sightseeing in the morning and get back indoors by early afternoon.
We went to a place called Mahabalipuram, to see a series of old, old South Indian temples.  The site had temples that are currently over 1,500 years old.

Here's a photo from the site, to give you an idea of what the stone work was like.  (click on the image to see a full-size version of it)

Wide Open Roads In Chennai
By the way, traffic to the site was great.  Having only been in Bangalore, I wasn't used to seeing big, wide roads where the cars could go faster than 40 miles per hour.  We had a nice, wide road that led us down the coast quite easily, and I enjoyed seeing the sights along the way.  It was also great to see water (the Bay of Bengal); later, we waded in the surf, which was warm but still cooled us off.  (the water temperature had to be 80 degrees or better, just had to)

Business Must Be Booming

So I'm walking around a temple that is about to get swallowed up by the ocean (several temples already have been) when I get a call on the mobile phone that I'm using during my stay in India.  I missed the call, so I dialed it back.  This sleepy man's voice answers, and I ask "Did you just call me?"  He said no, but wanted to know how I got his number.  I told him "Well, I just called back the number that just tried to reach me; my phone rang but I didn't answer it in time.  Why do you ask?"  The guy says "No."  [I don't know what the "no" is about, but whatever]...No.  I lost my cell phone and you have my SIM."  I tell him I don't have it, I am using the number given to me by the company from which I rented the phone.  He kept at me about something, and I didn't need any more of his grief so I hung up.

He calls back about 5 seconds later: I answered "What can I do for you?"  He insisted that he thought I had his SIM.  I told him I rented the phone from Hutch (a local provider), through my company.  What company, he asks?  Sun Microsystems, I proudly answer.  (if Sun had an anthem, I'd be providing a link to the MP3 of it here)
There's a pause on the phone, and then the guy asks "Are you a software engineer?"  I paused myself, then said "...Yes."  It seemed easier at the time than trying to explain that I'm a software engineering manager; don't ask me why, it's just the vibe I got, okay?  Anyway, he says "Oh.  Because I'm looking for work in the finance area.  Do you have any job openings in finance at your company?"

Pushing A Rock At MahabaliPuram
Let's walk through this one more time, shall we?

I get a call but don't answer in time. I call back, but the guy claims he never called me. He then accuses me of having stolen his phone number. I hang up, he calls back, continuing to berate me for having stolen his phone number (all the while, sounding sleepy). I tell him I'm from Sun and the guy switches gears to job interview mode.  The way he qualifies me as an appropriate hiring manager is first to ask if I'm a software engineer (yes, I say to him) and then to ask me for a job in finance.

Yeah, I'm feeling like putting this guy's resume in the Sun job hopper.  Right.  The economy here really must be booming if a guy like this thinks he has a chance of getting a job this way.
By the way, the photo here has nothing to do with the story; I just thought you'd like something to look at from the temple site while you were reading about Mr. Indian Crank Phone Call Guy.

Tsunami Relief

Tsunami Relief Tent City In Chennai
Along the drive from Chennai to the temples at Mahabalipuram, we came across some small tent cities.  On the way back, we noticed signs that said they were tsunami relief housing areas put up by various volunteer organizations from Germany and other places.  I couldn't tell of any immediate tsunami damage, but Tara was able to discern some.  In any case, it was nice to see that people were making an effort to help.


What an amazing culture! Thank you for the links.

Posted by Elaine Drapau on February 21, 2005 at 12:38 AM PST #

Pretty funny about Indian Crank Phone Call Guy...you should have forwarded him a URL like "Pets.com"

Posted by Rich Garcia on February 22, 2005 at 02:09 PM PST #

hi michale

Posted by guest on May 20, 2005 at 04:31 AM PDT #

Ha ha.. I love that dung beatle effort to move that rock at Mahabalipuram. Nice photos. I request you to visit Coimbatore once.

Posted by Coimbatore Citizen on June 23, 2006 at 09:35 PM PDT #

Photos are realistic............wow...

Posted by Coimbatore on November 30, 2008 at 05:44 PM PST #

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