Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chennai Diary

Almost out of blue, with a very short notice of 2 days, an office trip to Chennai was planned. The trip is supposed to last for 3 weeks. First, I was told it was a training for a week…which I thought was ok but then that was extended to three weeks saying that we needed that on-job experience as well. That set me thinking. On one hand, at a personal level, I felt that it is going to be a good break from my daily grind. Second, was the opportunity to learn something new and this has always excited me.
As I was packing, I decided to pack the best of office wear. I was excited and looked forward to looking good, feeling good and giving this trip the best shot.

As I got down from the train and stepped on to the Chennai soil, I looked around to see, observe and absorb. I wanted to see how the city is different or similar to Hyderabad. What I noticed were the black and yellow Ambassador taxis which are not to be seen in Hyderabad. We have all those accident prone Indica cab drivers with their dented and scratched cabs. Another mini shock was being charged 430 bucks for a distance of 22 kms to my guest house! And this is the official price set by the police stationed there.

The service apartment provided was below par and I had to quickly shift to the company guest house. On the plus side is that the guest house is 2 kms from the office. This was my dream since we came down to settle in Hyderabad. Commuting to the office in less than ten minutes…that’s cool. The travel is taken care of but I lose heavily on quality food. Complementary breakfast is just that…something that’s an obligatory part of the deal. A semi-conscious and drooping dosa, rock solid idlis, and a watery fruit juice complete the deal. Lunch at office cafeteria is a well-known story…everything stinks of dal/sambar. All that I can do is get adventurous while in pursuit of dinner.

There shouldn’t…rather cannot be any comparison between the restaurant-rich Hyderabad and any other Indian city. If Hyderabad had a similar long IT corridor, we Hyderabadi foodies would be spoilt for choice! My friend and I went to Nallas right opposite my office once in the last three days (has it just been three days?). This place comes with high recommendation from many of my Chennai colleagues. Our meal for two consisted of three rotis, a soup, a curry and a can of soft drink each which totaled Rs 430! An ordinary restaurant, though air-conditioned, with ordinary ambience in Hyderabad will not charge as much. If they do, they will be out of business in no time. Out here, there aren’t really any other decent restaurants around.

Yesterday, we got a little more adventurous and headed towards a food court beside Asecendas. No one without a company ID was allowed inside. I surrendered my ID and got another tag in exchange. Well, with this new set of tags, we stepped into the food court and wow! Like a young girl getting attracted to glittering trinkets, all these junk food outlets had us stunned for all the choice they offered…all of which I might not even care for in Hyderabad . I almost ran towards Mc Donald for their burger, chomped on it washing it down with a much-caloried 7 UP.

Unsatiated, I looked around for more. It warmed my heart to find a bit of Hyderabad in a sign in a corner proclaiming ‘Hyderabadi.’ Well, I can have that once I am back in Hyderabad. I gave my favorite chaat corner a miss, so also the Chinese Wang’s, KFC etc and went seeking stuff from the famous Sarvanan Bhavan. Sarvanan Bhavan, which I thought specializes in South Indian, had a variety of North Indian stuff as well. I narrowed my choice to the never before tasted Idiappam. This was offered with coconut milk. I watched with fascination as I saw a tablespoon full of batter being spread thin in a deep vessel, covered and cooked. A hollow thin hemisphere-like layer was gently coaxed out once cooked. It looked very similar to the regular Dosa we have but I knew the batter was different. I was very tempted to lapse into my comfort zone and ask for chutney to be served with it. But I stoically stuck to the white, sweetened, cold, milk like accompaniment. The dosa was unique as it had a paper like consistency towards its rims and expectedly a slight thickness at the bottom At least, I got to try something from Sarvanan Bhavan and the Idiappam for the first time too.

By the way, how did I forget the filter coffee?! Being at Chennai and dining at Sarvanan Bhavan, I did order for filter coffee. It smelled amazing and tasted good too but really not worth the 23 rupees that I paid for it. I might need to try the same at some road side restaurant to have the real ‘kapi’

Today is the fourth day here. Need to see where else I can go for eating something different. I don’t know whether I will lose weight or gain some at the end of this stay. There are times, I get nothing but a plate of rice with curd and times like yesterday when I binge. More Chennal news in the next few posts till I come back…soon I hope!