This is the first story i ever wrote for The Word.
My love of cakes is my Achilles’ heel. In Mumbai, a visit to the cake shop was a frequent affair. Once in Chennai, I have been hard pressed to find a place that supplied moderately good cakes—until a friend took me to ‘Sweet Chariot Café’ for my birthday.
What could be a minus for this two-level eatery is the slow service. The staff had to be reminded a couple of times before they got our orders. To pass the time we listened to loud music courtesy SS music. The big bay windows that line the wall on both levels are another source of entertainment what with the unadulterated view of the empty parking lot and the road ahead.
If you are looking for a quiet corner, try the seating on the first level. The area is comfortable and offers a lot of privacy. The seating on the lower level faces the open kitchen. It is something that can be avoided, especially if you are here to unwind after a busy day.
The café has a limited selection, especially for vegetarians. Black forest and chocolate truffle are the only cakes on offer while savories consist of a few samosas, puffs and pizzas.
The pricing is on par with other cafés. The visit set us back by about Rs 120; we each had a pastry and a drink. I hoped to get a few things delivered at home, when I learned that they did not do home deliveries. A well thought out ploy by the management to ensure regular footfalls?
123/124, Ispahani Centre,
Nungambakkam High Road,
Chennai – 600 034
I know i’m writing after very long. Anyways. Till I finish my time in this blasted city, I think just to save a copy of my work, I will put up my pieces that were written for The Word here.
Poor students, we took the bus route to this little city. Having caught the bus at seven in the morning, we spent most of the journey sleeping in between being crushed by the crowds in a rush to begin their vacation.
We reached Pondi at about 10.45am, a good three and a half hours after we left the noisy city of Chennai. Hard to believe, but people get up early in the morning to burst crackers. I felt this cultural disconnect with the city as in Mumbai, it was rarely done. Crackers were burst, definately, only after the rest of the city had gotten up or early evening (post sunset). Don’t know how much of that still rings true after the three months I have spent here, as friends who have recently visited the city tell me things have changed. Even my mom confirms the same.
Coming back to the trip at hand, I have two realisations that I need to share.
1. You can walk the whole breadth of Pondi in under an hour and
2. The city is cool!!! Everything is cheaper here. Be it the alcohol (which we unfortunately didn’t touch) or things like clothes, electronics etc.
This is because it is an Union territory and the taxes that are applicable are reduced by half as compared to other cities. In short everything we bought was cheaper by 4%. Oh what joy!
Only drawback of our trip? We went on a day when the whole city was closed. So no actual shopping could be done. Instead, spent the day zooming around the city on a kinetic. I think I forgot to mention, we hired a kinetic! This was my first unsupervised ride and I’m proud to say that barring one or two minor run-ins early on, the ride was smooth!
Realised the joy that guys feel when they ride the bike. The thought of being in control. Of having the wind or in this case the breeze (the bike couldn’t go too fast) running through your hair. Dodging vehicles, shouting at people, just feeling like a local ruffian, if local ruffians wear short skirts.
|View from the college terrace|
So, like all good journalism students that can’t stay away from our computers in case the no-email genie will get us, we too thought that we will be here. Actually we had planned a trip to Kodaikanal but health, low finances (at least on my side) and improper planning played the villain.
Staying in the city seems boring but I guess I will do that now that everyone I know has decided to give up and go their separate ways. We decided to go to Pondichery for a day trip keeping in mind that everyone has other commitments and now one by one people have decided that since the company isn’t right, they can back out. For someone who has given their word to another, backing out of the plan is not an option for me now.
It amuses me to know that solitude is an expensive commodity. When you want it badly, it seems farthest from you but when left alone it becomes unbearable after a while. That’s the thing that scares me the most in this city. I know exactly two or three people outside of my college mates. I don’t want to spend any more time with them but unless I run away to some far away place, they are everywhere. The language too I find confusing (not for the lack of trying though). So I am going to be spending all my time with friends from college.
A festival is the worst time to be alone as nearly everyone else has returned home, leaving my hostel bare except for a few who cannot afford the trip home or are disallowed to leave the city.
I hate being stuck here! Vacations may not be a big thing for me but back home I would be able to visit friends who I may have been unable to meet on other occasions. I am going to miss that. Hopefully they will miss my irritating presence too.
What I will also miss is my sense of personal space. Out of options to go anywhere thanks to the crowds I may end up living in the city with just a day trip thrown in for relief. Chennai may be a big city but it is not kind to people from different cultures. Or maybe I haven’t been to those places that are. I some how always compare my days as a student in Chennai to my one week of vacation where I did a lot of roaming around, saw places and enjoyed the stay.
This sense of helpless loneliness would not have happened in Mumbai. I would have been able to hold my own, curl up in bed with a good book, eat cake and rest. I would not have to find excuses to go out. Here I am bound by a million obligations that leave my wanting for personal space.
I miss my home.
The operation was slated to start at and continue for about two hours. I called up my brother by 11 to check on mom. She wasn’t out as yet and he told me that it was actually a three-hour surgery. Disappointed, I asked him to call me as soon as she was out and once again after she was coherent enough to make small talk.
All through class in the afternoon I waited impatiently for his call. Every five minutes or so I would glance at my phone in case I missed his call. I even had a list of excuses ready in case I had to attend the call. But, he didn’t call. I spent the whole day worrying. The pessimist that I am I naturally assumed the worst and got upset with every minute. Finally I could not manage without knowing any longer, no matter how horrible the news could be. I had literally braced myself for the worst. I called my mother. No reply. I then called my brother and he picked up!
I tried to gauge from his voice if anything was wrong. He seemed fine! The nut that he was told me then that he was home and mom was safely out of the operation.
This has got me thinking. How is it that we automatically expect the worst out of any situation? Is it a bracing mechanism that has been put in by the mind to protect you against whatever may happen? So that everything else that happens may be a bonus as you were expecting the worst anyways.
What about the optimists then? Why do people say ‘be positive’? How are you supposed to be better equipped with positve thoughts? If you expect the best out of every situation and then something bad happens. How are you supposed to cope with it then?
For very long I tried following the ‘thinking postive’ method. For mmall things that didn’t matter in the larger scope of things I found was able to maintain the positive outlook. Big things, however, were a different story. Things like exams especially were always dealt with in the most pessimistic manner possible. In the end I have always felt better, no matter what the outcome.
I sure am glad to be a pessimist.
This realisation came one fine morning as we were speeding to college (late as usual!) and the streets seemed familiar. It could have been that i have been seeing the same road everyday for the last 40 days while sitting on someones lap (that’s another experience all together) but even then the city didn’t feel foreign to me.
Anyways in the days that i have been here, I have been forced to mix around with women and lemme tell you it is not as bad I thought it would be. There are actually a few people who I have grown to love. The ones I have grown to hate are a rather small number.
What has been the most enlightening experience since i have been here is that after a while nationalities don’t matter at all. There are a good number of people here from different South Asian Federation countries and now unless of course the profs remind us we don’t even care. The whole alien thing that was a worry earlier has been completely obliterated.
Lets see how many more notions are rid in this year at ACJ.