April 26th & 27th.
Considering that this week could at best be described as intense, we got an even later start than usual, not leaving until 5:00. We just wanted to have a relaxed Saturday, so we headed to a coffee shop known as Mocha, and the sign says it features “coffee and conversations”. It’s pretty accurate. There was a whole set up outside with individual tables and relaxing areas, and the cricket match between the Chennai Super Kings and the Kolkatta Knight Riders (the team owned by Shah Rukh Kahn) was on. The home team Chennai Super Kings ended up winning. We headed upstairs where we sat on the balcony. There was a giant wooden swing and some couches and we all enjoyed the most delightful shakes yet. I ordered the Snickers Shake, which was described as a snicker bar you can drink. Again, the description was not only accurate, but the shake was delicious. After the coffee shop we headed to an American diner. That’s right you read this correctly. Sparky’s, as it is named, is in the middle of Chennai city and is easily recognizable, mainly due to the fact that, not only is it black and white checkered, but at night there is a neon sign with Sparky’s slogan, “Never Trust a Skinny Chef” indicating the entrance. It’s exactly what an American diner in Chennai should be. There is sports memorabilia and pictures of Elvis and surfboards and license plates from every state lining the rafters and surfboards and pirates. There was pasta and salads and Tex-Mex food and Cajun and Hawaiian food and chicken tenders and Onion Rings, and it was all pretty awesome. The owner is a man who is originally from Los Angeles and first came to Chennai in 1980. I had a talk with him and told him how much I love it here and he asked “what do you love about it?” and I said “everything” and he said, “yeah I understand”. He was in awe that I watched television for a living, I assured him it was true and was sorry that I couldn’t help him get a line to his home here so that he could see Lost in original episodes and not a season behind, the way every show that’s imported is seen here.
After minimal sleep, I headed out at 8:30 to check out the parts of Chennai that still remained to be seen. The first stop was the zoo. This place is huge, and you could probably spend all day there, and it had a relatively cheap entrance fee of 15 rupees, which is the equivalent of 50 cents. We had already seen the monkeys and peacocks and white peacocks and barking deer and decided to take the Lion Safari. We pack into this massively guarded car with wire caging over the windows and head out down the safari path. The lions are kept in giant open space, which is why there is a fence around it all. The fence had to be opened and closed for each of the four behicles and I couldn’t help but feeling like we were about to enter Jurassic Park. Although it seemed like the lions were originally going to be causing problems, by the time we arrived at their den they were all calm and pretty much just avoiding the beating sun as much as possible. It was still awesome. We unfortunately had to skip the rest of the big animals if we wanted to be able to see anything else during the day. We headed back into the city and stopped by the Chennai museum, which is made up of 5 buildings. The first building we went into had a lot of handicraft artifacts like tools that were used by cavemen and silk samples and handcarved wooden boxes and upstairs there was a special jewelry exhibition, except it was pictures of all the Maharajas’ and other important people who had worn the jewelry and pictures of the jewelry but none of the jewelry itself. Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels keep those amazing pieces locked away in an underground vault. The next building had facets of daily life. In one of the areas there were dolls dressed in the daily and formal wear of each state of India as well as other countries. When we got to the United States section, I was more than a little disturbed to find all of the dolls looked like Paris Hilton and were wearing crocheted dresses. I can’t remember the last time I crocheted a dress! Or the last time I looked like Paris Hilton, for that matter! Upstairs there were different modes of transportation, replicas of ships and space shuttles. RS told us that the Indian Space program really didn’t start until the last President of the nation was in power, seeing as he was a scientist himself. There’s only been 1 Indian astronaut and that was sometime in the 80s, but there are plans for a space program still in the works. The next building was all stone carvings, dating back to 600 A.D., of the Hindu gods. It was all pretty impressive. I’ve never been able to look at a slab of stone and see a beautiful art piece, and I’m always in awe of people who can. The fact that there were people thousands of years ago who developed that skill leaves me in awe. In the final building there were bronze pieces, also all of Hindu gods and RS did his best to explain to us the basis of Hinduism. I’m understanding it slowly but surely, but need to do more research before espousing about it on the blog. These pieces were absolutely gorgeous and beautifully detailed. After that, we headed out to lunch and since Anna and Mike, who I was with, hadn’t been to Sparky’s the previous night, they were more than interested in lunching there. The owner couldn’t believe I was back so soon and though I assured him I would probably be back at some point during my stay, I also assured him it would not be tomorrow, seeing as it’s Monday. Well that about rounded out the weekend. It was a little more relaxed than usual, but that was a little necessary. Hope all is well with everyone back in the States. Let me know what’s going on over across the ocean! P.S. Chris, at Sparky’s I had a Buffalo Chicken Wrap, as an homage, and just pretended it was Buffalo Bill’s.