Given the utter lack of things to do in Chennai (ie. the pub) on Sunday evenings, Chennai, as a whole, converges en-masse to a place known as Marina beach. I often forget that Chennai is a coastal city but it’s just a short 10 minute train ride to get to the beach.
Marina beach is the place to go, it’s like Blackpool but not as bad. Families play with their kids, newly weds and secret couples sit slightly closer to one another trying to look nonchalant (but no touching!) and groups of lads do whatever it is young men do and talk about in India. Talk about cricket I guess. Amazingly you’ll also find small groups of young lady’s on the beach – quite what they are doing out of their hostels and on their own I don’t know! :p
When I went to the beach this weekend I did notice a large mixed group of young twenty somethings – presumably MBA students – sitting in a circle and chatting away to one another, however, true to the norms of the society in this part of the country, dignity was maintained by having all the girls on one half of the circle and all the guys on the other.
The beach is like India everywhere, the rich rub shoulders with the poor. If you sit or remain stationary for more than a few minutes, hawkers converge on you like the plague, peddling everything from food of a dubious quality to palm reading and even parakeets that can foretell your future by selecting cards from a pile. You’ll even get the unfortunately disformed beggars trying to touch you and ask you for money and as a foreigner you are definitely seen as a walking ATM!
Oh yes, and as a foreigner if the hawkers don’t get to you first then it’s because some locals have come over to speak to you. Some of my friends can find this quite tiring but I personally love the attention and curious nature of the people here! However, the questions are always the same…
- “You are from?”
- “How you like India?”
- “You like our food?”
- “How you find our climate?”
- “This is your wife?” (pointing to my friend)
- “You have been in India how long?”
Then when they learn that you’ve been living and working in India for the last two years the focus of the questions change…
- “You have a smart salary?”
- “How much you earn?”
And then, after chatting for you for 5 minutes, during which time you grow more conscious of the fact that you have not asked them a single question they ask for “your good name” and ask if they can exchange contact details with you – as a result my phoneboook is stuffed full of numbers for young and middle aged Indian men who I’ve met for all of 5 minutes, answered the same questions and never spoken to again in my life…if only it was this easy to get women’s numbers!
Back to the beach.
While the Indian middle classes are still learning about recreation, downtime and life beyond the office / shop / factory, the deep rooted traditional values of the south remain intact. Women do venture in to the sea but this being India they keep themselves covered from head to toe – yep, they go in to the sea fully dressed, it’s quite bizarre!
Unfortunately, from a personal point of view, no where sells buckets and spades for creating massive sand castles, so one of my few talents is completely wasted on the beaches of Chennai 🙁