Postcard from Chennai – 1

October 20, 2022
Postcard from Chennai

My wife, Jyothi, and I are avid travelers and we are great company for each other. We have been traveling together for decades now – at home and abroad.

We live as a joint family. My mother is now 88 years of age. Given my mother’s advancing age, we have now decided that both Jyothi and I cannot travel out together. We have decided that especially for long travels, it will be just one of us traveling at a time.

When we traveled together, it was a different circumstance. Now with the evolved circumstance – which was only to be expected with the passage of time – we have adapted to this new reality. Between us, we have also decided to travel without that sense of guilt of missing our partner during the travel.

Traveling solo

As a matter of fact, we have not just adapted to this new way of traveling, we are actually celebrating it.

For instance, Jyothi went on a solo trip to Cambridge, UK, earlier this year to be with our son, Siddharth, and daughter-in-law, Prerana. She had a great guilt-free time while I held the fort back home. Another solo trip to Kerala is coming up for her.

Ah! Chennai!

In my case, I was in Chennai for a few days last week.

The trip came up as a dear friend had undergone surgery and I wanted to visit him in Chennai. I also had some meetings pending with my current and prospective business clients. I decided to take a few days off from my fairly hectic work life and set up a business cum pleasure trip.

Of course, Jyothi was very pleased with the idea. Ever since she returned from her Cambridge trip, she has been wanting me to take a break. Sid and Prerana have also been encouraging me to take a break and I am expected to report back to them on the progress regularly. I have a solo trip to Odisha planned in January – the air tickets are booked already – and then my solo trip to Cambridge is planned in the summer of 2023 but these are too far away in their opinion and rightly so.

As this Chennai visit was a business cum pleasure trip, in addition to meeting my business clients, I was meeting some of my classmates from school. We had passed out of school in 1977 and were still in touch thanks to social media. Jyothi & I were extremely happy that many of my school classmates had turned up for the wedding of Sid and Prerana in January 2020.

I was also meeting a bunch of relatively new Chennai-based friends – connected via social media – who are aware of my writing, especially my food writing. They had planned to take me to visit some street food joints.

I could also likely meet some ex-colleagues from my work life…if it was mutually convenient.

Everyone needs a holiday!

In my mind, a holiday is meant to help you get off your programmed routine and allow you to do stuff – or not do any stuff – at your own pace. Given this definition, one can enjoy a holiday anywhere. The reason why we leave home for a holiday is that the home and everything that comes with staying there represents a programmed routine.

In fact, only recently when I was coaching one of my Life Coaching clients, I helped my client schedule a break even while the coaching call was in progress. She was feeling burnt out and was wanting to take a break but her definition of a break was a solo trip somewhere far away from home.

Given that she was feeling really burnt out, I prevailed upon her during the call to take a quick break by checking into a hotel in the city itself. My rationale was the same: get off your programmed routine and do stuff – or not do stuff – at your own pace. I made her block the dates on her calendar during the call.

Later she checked into a hotel, ordered food via Room Service, went on long walks around a nearby lake, did her own introspection, and, in fact, wrote a piece on her experience. During the subsequent call, she appeared refreshed. The ‘holiday’ had served its purpose. In the process, I had coached her on a new way of looking at things: that a holiday need not be defined by a template and that actions can happen quickly if we are committed enough.

For me, a holiday begins as soon as I leave home. While reaching the destination is the objective, in my view, enjoying the journey to the destination is also equally important and sometimes more rewarding.

Traveling by train

I took the convenient Shatabdi Express to Chennai. It appeared that some very busy people were traveling with me. I was next to a young man who was trying to get some people from Chattisgarh to join an e-commerce firm in Chennai. He spent more than a couple of hours convincing them one by one. A senior citizen was calling up different exporters to fulfill an order for exporting sesame seeds and rice to Russia. Then there was a young girl ostensibly from Recruitment, finalizing Offer Letters for some candidates for entry-level software jobs in Bangalore. These were several long conversations. By the time we reached Chennai, I knew a thing or two about what motivates people from Chattisgarh to migrate to Chennai, how to set up a rupee-rouble trade agreement, and the current starting salary for software jobs in Bangalore. The India growth story was happening all around me.

Stay at a vintage hotel

Thanks to another dear friend’s recommendation, I checked into the 85-year-old Hotel New Woodlands located in Mylapore, Chennai.

Maybe it is because of my age that I love such hotels. Apart from being very centrally located, such old hotels give me that Dak Bungalow or PWD Guest House feel what with broad roads, fully-grown leafy trees within the premises, and an unhurried pace of its middle-aged staff including the waiters and the housekeeping staff. The mosaic-tiled flooring, a spiral concrete staircase, standalone single-story cottages, partition walls erected with concrete ventilation blocks, and polished wooden cabinets housing the electric meters with that familiar cautionary red ‘Danger’ sign spelled out in 7 different Indian languages took me back in time.

I gather that the founder of this hotel, Kadandale Krishna Rao, gave the world its Masala Dosa. Just adding some spicy information so that you know whom to thank when you savor Masala Dosa anywhere in the world.

As I checked into the fairly modern and well-appointed room, I settled into what would be my home for the next 4 days.

Given that the hotel was centrally located, I planned to walk around quite a bit in the mornings and evenings. A walk allows us to take in the sights, sounds and smells. I could slow down, take a detour, and stop for a while if I spotted something of interest.

The Chennai afternoons were meant to be spent in the air-conditioned comfort of the hotel room watching TV, reading, and writing.

In other words, I was foreseeing the signs of a perfect solo holiday.

To be continued…


Interested in reading some of my Indian travel stories? Read my ‘Postcard from Coorg’ here…

For my international travel stories, try my ‘Postcard from Auckland & Queenstown’ here…


Coming up next in Postcard from Chennai: Tere Mere Beach Me! My trip to Marina Beach on Day 2 and the Indian way of enjoying a beach visit.

Given my definition of a holiday as discussed in the foregoing paragraphs, planning a break is easy and quick. So where are you headed?

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