I love Chennai. Most people cannot understand why. It is not a fun and happening place. It is very conservative. I have heard it said many times that it is not very welcoming of outsiders. As for me, there is no place else were I would rather live. One of the most enduring symbols of Chennai is the Marina beach. It is the second longest beach in the world. It is my favorite haunt and I feel it truly reflects the spirit of Chennai.
If you take an early morning walk on a Sunday (by early morning I mean 5:30 AM), it will be buzzing with energy. You will find all sorts of people in the long stretch. You will find actors and athletes, ordinary people, police men and women doing their early morning jogging, several laughter clubs bringing a smile to every passer by, children playing cricket and football and boxing. Vendors selling tender coconut water, papaya and arugam pul juice (it is made from a variety of grass and is believed to control diabetes). I can’t think of any other city where people rise so early on a Sunday morning.
Evenings are even more colorful. The Marina beach is the greatest leveler. The richest and the poorest can find a place to relax. It also affords an odd sense of privacy. Although there are thousands of people all around you, you feel quite alone, as if no one is really see you. Here are some pictures I took of the Marina at dusk.
Another major attraction are the hot bajjis, made from powdered Bengal Gram and onions, potato, chilly and raw bananna.
Since Marina is on the east, the sun appears in the morning from the ocean and disappars from the other end. Do you notice the white building in the picture. It is the office of the Director General of Police. It was built during the days of the British empire. It was due to be demonished. Then someone filed a public interest litigation against the demolition. It was then renovated and being used by the police. The building is almost half a kilometer in length and looks beautiful in the night.
I carry so many wonderful memories of the Marina beach. Flying kites, playing with my cousins in the water and emerging soaking wet, building sand castles and tunnels in the sand, taking a ride on the merry-go-round. I can never forget the day when my husband and my son went for a walk to the Marina and left just 5 minutes before the Tsunami stuck. My dad used to tell us stories of his childhood in the beach. The entire extended family of nearly 40 people visiting the beach on full moon nights and having a moonlight dinner. I am sure my son too will have many stories to tell his children. Marina to me is one place where continuity and change co-exist in perfect harmony.