Sunday, April 19, 2015

Chennai--Day 9

Tuesday we again got a late start. Warning: TMI--by this time I, too, had a little touch of the burbles--and I hoped we'd be able to find bathrooms if I ever needed one in a hurry. Luckily I never did.

Gracia and I were uncomfortable with the Indian team buying us lunch all the time, since we were not fellow employees. Also, we knew Heenu and Vigna, the female employees, would miss out on training time by touring around with us. So we arranged to meet up with Vigna after lunch time on Tuesday. And then we learned that she hadn't had lunch with the team at work, like we planned. So then she had to grab something to eat at the mall when we got there.
This was a pretty modern mall, with multi-floor department stores very much like a JCPenny or Nordstrom at home. I was intrigued by a sign outside of one store that advertised "Silk Saris, Cotton Saris, Silk-cotton Saris, Cotton-silk Saris." Obviously, there is more going on here than I know about.
Casey requested that I buy him a hat and socks for the practical reason that he needed a hat and socks. I bought him a hat with the colors of the flag of India on it. It became one of the most sought after souvenirs when we took it home to our kids. I also bought Anderson a tie. Gracia bought a tea-cup and saucer for her sister-in-law, and a kurti for Kirby Heyborne's wife.  And some traditional jhumki earrings for more of her family.

Gracia wanted to buy her youngest daughter some Indian music, so Vigna took us to a music store, only to find out it had gone out of business. So then she took us to Spencer Plaza, which she told us is the oldest shopping plaza in India (although the building was built in the 1980's after a fire destroyed the original.)
We came inside from the parking garage past this signboard showing the stores inside.

There were higher end stores fronting the balcony but the majority of stores were along low-ceilinged hallways that radiated away from the central courtyard like wheel spokes. My impression of this place was that, aside from being indoors, it was exactly like being in a busy street bazaar--tiny box stores crowded together with lots of merchandise outside in the aisles between stores. And shopkeepers clamoring to get you to come into their store and buy something. 
So we bought a few things, you know the routine--a carved wooden elephant for one of my kids, a shawl with peace signs on it for Gracia's daughter. The music store Vigna wanted to take us to was also out of business, but we found a tiny store selling DVD's that also had movie soundtracks. I have to say, I think I need to be educated in listening to Indian music--it is too detailed for my ears to follow.
Are you bored of hearing about our shopping yet? I was actually pretty bored of shopping myself, even before this. But I knew I wanted to take gifts to my people at home--it was one way I could share part of my trip with them.

Gracia bought Dan a Star India cricket team shirt. Casey and Dan were actually playing cricket in the back yard of Cognizant with the team while we were shopping. It was hot and humid and they were getting very sweaty.We still had a couple of hours before we needed to meet the men to go to dinner with the team.

When we told people in Chennai that we had also visited Hyderabad, several of them asked if we'd gotten any Karachi biscuits while we were there. A couple of them said they would always have their family bring Karachi biscuits with them when they came to visit from Hyderabad. There are no Karachi Bakeries in Chennai. Out of curiosity the night before, I had googled "Karachi Bakery Chennai" and it came up with an address in Park Town--a part of Chennai that was 20 minutes north of Spencer Plaza. So we asked Vigna if we could go there--we wanted to get some biscuits for the Indian team as a thank you gift for all they'd done to host us (but we didn't tell Vigna that.) The driver was hesitant, and we had to call the number I'd written down to get instructions from the owners before he felt he could find the place. When we got close he told us he'd have to leave us at the corner because regular cars were not allowed inside the area--only three wheeled "tuk-tuks" and two-wheelers.
Just before we got there we passed this old British building that was turned into the central train station in Chennai.

This colorful archway led into the wholesale district known as Parry's--pronounced like the city Paris. Vigna was very game to take us into this warren of streets without knowing exactly where to go. That night when she told her husband where she'd taken us, he laughed.

We wandered around trying to find the Karachi Bakery and getting nowhere. This was the narrowest, dirtiest, most crowded area we saw in India. And still all the women were wearing such beautiful clothing.
Gracia took some pictures of a lady selling Jasmine flowers on the corner.

These guys wanted to pose for her when they saw her taking pictures.  The red tint in his hair is henna. We mostly saw older men use it--on grey hair it turns a bright auburn color just like Clarissa's hair.

Gracia loved getting pictures of the kids in India. Meredith wanted us to bring her an Indian baby, but we had to settle for a carved elephant. 
Vigna was asking her fourth or fifth person for directions when a man who happened to be on his way to the Karachi bakery himself overheard her and offered to lead us there. 
We went down an alley, then a narrower alley, and then into a building and up a narrow staircase. Gracia later told me she was starting to get really nervous, then we arrived. We removed our shoes to enter--maybe the owner's family lived there? It wasn't an actual store front, it was a distributor who sent the biscuits to local hotels. But we happily bought as many boxes as we had cash for. And they very kindly gave us a couple of canvas bags to carry them away in. We had to get a picture of the nice people in the shop.
Vigna, the shop owner, the man who helped us find it, and Gracia

Then the shop owner's wife and mother arrived. (Isn't she an elegant and tiny person? She reminds me of my great grandmother.) And Gracia dragged the two young women working in the back into it, too. 
The nice man who had shown us the way there asked if we'd brought our children to India, too. We said no, it was too expensive. He then speculated that it had probably only cost us $5000 for a plane fare. I didn't know what to say--it was closer to $2000, but the assumption that $5000 would be an "only" for us . . .
He was kind enough to lead us back out to the area where we had come in. He kept suggesting that we might like to try some fresh juices they were selling along the side of the road, and I felt rude for refusing, but we really needed to hurry at this point--it took us an hour to get back to our hotel with evening traffic. Dan and Casey had gone back to the hotel to change out of their sweaty clothing, and we were nearly an hour late meeting up with the rest of the team for dinner. But we'd had an adventure!
We had dinner in a hotel, of course, at a restaurant called The Great Kabab Factory.
They brought us a series of different kinds of items served with different sauces--either veg or non-veg. Most of us went with non-veg. The restaurant lighting was dim, so the pictures I took of the team didn't work out, but I love this one of Dan hamming it up behind Casey. 

The end, of day 9.

1 comment:

Phillip Hale said...

I'm so glad I was wrong about your having finished your trip report! Tell us more about those biscuits. were they worth the excursion?