Chennai day three
Trip Start Apr 06, 2006
24Trip End Apr 22, 2006
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Today was Sunday and the factories were closed. Nandakumar, my counterpart in India, offered John and me to spend the day exploring. We arranged to meet in the hotel lobby after breakfast.
We were met at 10:30 am by Deiva and Nandakumar. Deiva works for one of the companies in Chennai and is someone that I consider a good friend. As there were four people traveling and we needed a driver, we had a second car hired to make the trip. Deiva and I set off in one car and Nandakumar and John were in another. We set off for Deiva's house where I would get an opportunity to meet his wife and kids.
We made one stop along the way at an Indian Wal-Mart to pick up some American necessities, silver (plastic) ware (Indians eat with their hands)
We made our way to Deiva's house. It is in a gated community and is a really nice complex. It was chosen by Deiva because it is safe for his family and close to his daughters' school. His apartment was very nice, open and airy. It resembled an apartment that I had when I was first married. Deiva's daughter was very cute; bouncy and energetic, she reminds me of my daughter Rosie. His son was asleep, so we let him rest with the exception of pictures before we left. His wife made us a traditional Indian meal consisting of spicy mango, rice cakes and Indian style pancakes with dipping sauces. She is a very good cook; everything tasted great and reminded me of the foods that my friend Monica used to make. I decided to blend in with the culture and did not use the fork or spoon.
We discussed where to go next and decided to visit Mahabalipurum and have lunch on the beach on the Bay of Bengal.
On the way to Mahabalipurum, Deiva suggested that we stop for tender coconut. I figured what the hell, I have never had raw coconut and was willing to try. After paying a toll on one of the road we pulled over to a guy in a tricycle with a machete and a pile of coconuts and straws. In America I would have never stopped for fear that the guy was a serial killer, I mean c'mon tricycle, machete, how many signs do you need?
Mr. Machete cut the top off of the coconut in a few quick chops and when a small hole was made in the top he put in a straw and gave to us to drink. The coconut juice was pretty good, and I agreed with Deiva that it is really good for cooling down on a hot day. We then gave the empty coconuts back and Mr. Machete chopped them in two pieces, he removed a section of one of the pieces to use as a spoon. He then used the coconut spoon to scoop out thin layers of the inside of the coconut. I tried it, didn't like it, and threw it away. It is not it was bad, I am just used to sweet coconut that is more ripened than this.
In about another half hour we arrived at Mahabalipurum. Prior to entering the grounds we were met by "Deiva's contact", a man named Dana. Dana is a brother of Deiva's neighbor and was hired by Deiva to "watch our back" and ensure that the scam artist stayed away from us
Mahabalipurum it is kind on like a small tourist trap, around a site of natural history were small stores, vendors and lots of people selling overpriced trinkets. Quickly panhandlers and freelance vendors surrounded us trying to sell stuff to us or beg for money. These people were quickly shunned away by Dana with a few harsh words in Indian.
We set off to see the sights. It was explained to us by the tour guide that Mahabalipurum features were either natural or the structured were carved from single pieces of stone. Stuff carved out of stone is not normally that impressive to me, but this was as I learned that it was all done around the year 600 a.d.
This first site that we visited was the "balanced stone". The stone is huge and is on a steep incline, it appears that a small shove, or maybe a good wind will make the stone roll away. Indian children were running up the hill and sitting in the shadow of this natural bug squasher. Our guide gave some history to us about it and said that in the time of British rule, the British tried to move the stone with a tem of eleven elephants, but it could be moved
The second site that we saw was a temple maybe 50 foot long and 20 foot high, of course, carved from a single stone. On the way there we were asked by an elder fortune teller of he could read my fortune. Those who know me well, know that I think that fortune reading is a bunch of crap. But in the spirit of things and the economical Indian currency of 5 rupees, a mere 10 cents, how could I go wrong? It was actually pretty cool, the old dude had a parrot, who I now refer to as the tarot parrot, who would pick your fortune card from a stack after you tell him your name. I told him my name and he went down the stack of cards until he found one to his liking.
The card that he picked said that I will have great wealth, have a long life and that I will do great things, today of which was just the start. It said that I was a man of courage and that I was most auspicious. He said that I was very good at getting things done and that the barriers in my life had been recently broken down. While the man was telling the fortune, tarot parrot picked another card and set it down; this card was of a Chevy suburban, the old dude said that I would be adding many assets to my life
We continued through the temples seeing more and more fascinating carvings. Each on the temples were translated to us revealing what the meanings were, essentially it was the equivalent to hieroglyphics and the carvings told religious stories. On some of the carvings we could see a distinct horizontal line; our guide told us that the line was from sand that had been the old ground level in front of the temple. Only recently did people start to unearth the full temple which lay beneath the ground. The Tsunami that recently hit the coast of India revealed more sites such as this, they are being excavated currently. I am really surprised that National Geographic has not written a story about this as it is truly of some historical significance.
We left Mahabalipurum to have lunch on the beach near the shore temple at the Bay of Bengal. Lunch was arranged for us at a seaside café right on the beach. After we sat down, the waiter brought over a live lobster and some fresh fish (not cut and still had their eyes). The lobster, as well as a couple more, were let to run around on the ground while we made our selection
While we kicked back with "the king of good times" I saw some cows on the beach. Now I know that this has a different meaning in America, I have to say it was true, these were really cows. They walked right in front of the café, turned and headed for the bay. I don't know why they were there, the water is salty and there is nothing for them to eat but sand. I say, "Let cows be cows."
After dinner I went to the dip my feet in the bay. On the way back we watched fisherman put an Indian catamaran in the water so that some tourist could take a trip out into the bay. Not too interesting? You should see what they call a catamaran. I would not attempt to ride this piece of junk, especially without a life jacket like those fools were doing.