I'm back and am pleased to report that I did not get the shits in Madras. I didn't really want to leave India at all, the only downside being that the toilets left a lot to be desired.
We went over for our friend Sanjay's wedding (who's from Madras but now lives in the US), but because he is quite private I promised not to post pictures of the couple getting married, even though they are pretty spectacular.
Still, it was all so amazing I am posting some pictures. And here is my diary....
Ever wondered what happened to Noddy? He eloped with Big Ears and now lives in Madras.
Shop like J Lo
Now, I am not a power shopper. I like a leisurely stroll through a couple of department stores, then a coffee, then lunch, then maybe I buy a pair of shoes. So on Day 1 in Madras I felt a bit like a movie star when I embarked on my shopping spree, because I was surrounded by an entourage - Sanjay's aunt, his fiance Abhilasha, plus the driver, plus John, my husband. We were to buy all the outfits I needed for the wedding. I didn't insist on dressing in Indian outfits, but they decreed that three outfits was the only way to go, one for each day of their Hindu wedding. No arguments, they were paying. And since there are few department stores, you drive from tiny store to tiny store. At a jewelry store where I bought some anklets, the shopkeeper was tearing up saris and removing the silver threads from them. He was going to melt down the silver threads to make silver jewelry. That was the first thing that struck me - the total recourcefulness, out of necessity, to reuse every single object. There is very little waste, and even rich people don't throw away food.
The first day was hair raising because no one follows any traffic rules or stops for traffic lights. The pollution burns your lungs and you watch in awe as the driver negotiates the traffic, often passing a hair's width past a motorbike, and narrowly avoiding cars that are casually cruising the wrong way up the street. Against a deafening cacophany of horns, babies and kids sit on the front of motorbikes without helmets. Madras is a lawless city and yet has an easy vibe. People are not stressed. There is no road rage or screaming in the street, people just drive in a very leisurely fashion. Sometimes you see a pile up, but it always ends well, with the motorbike drivers getting up, brushing themselves down and going on their merry way.
We went from shop to shop until I had a sari, one long skirt and a top embroidered with sequins (sharara) and one casual outfit, a long dress over baggy trousers (churider), plus jewelry. Plus they bought John two outfits. Everyone in the shops looked at me like I was part creature from outer space, part Amazonian. I am probably twice as heavy as most of the women there, with their narrow wrists and tiny bodies.
It is nine pm and we are still shopping and I can't believe the sheer amount of clothing that is being bought. The bride has eight different saris for the occasion. It seems that here weddings are quite a big deal!
So amazing to see the hotel guests smoking cigarettes at breakfast. Whenever I see smokers in non-regulated environments I get a bit of a kick out of it because smoking anywhere these days is almost akin to shooting up heroin in public.
Took a trip to a gruesome crocodile zoo
and then, after a visit to a Hindu temple
I wondered lonely as a cloud...
pondering what fake ice cream might be...
until I was accosted by a bunch of Indian boys
Not sure what they were after but I think it may have been my cash.
Part Two to follow .....