In answer to Delirious–here are some famous sights and sounds of my city.

The Central station and a lady at a temple--the modern and the traditional

No Horn Please--and the horns blare continuously!

Backside of a Lorry--serious art in India

Festive food served on a banana leaf

Rice is the staple, curry on top,papad and banana chips to facing left. To the right is a cup of payasam or milk and molasses pudding and a milk payasam. In the background are a row of accompanying veggies cooked as a gravy, or dry, roasted or as a salad (carrots).

Breakfast of idli (white rice and dhal cakes steamed and the healthiest dish on earth) and vadai (fried dhal donuts), coconut chutney, sambhar and Pongal with the green and red garnish. The pongal is riice and moong dhal cooked into a porridge.

The temple is an integral part of the city life. The tall temple tower used to be like a lighthouse guiding travellers to the nearest habitation. Under the tower were huge gates that were closed when there was an attack on the village, in flood, pestlence and disease–like a fortress really. It had its own water source and so could sustain many families. The store was always full of grain.

Temple, tower and tank!

Temple Tower detail

This is a depiction of Lord Shiva and his family. The guy with the mustache is a dwarapalaka–the sentry who guards (Blackcats in those days).

The temple tower has a modern road lamp in the foreground and the name of Shiva stuck on it that will glow in red….sigh!! Like you say ‘My god’ we say what is written on that neon board “Shiva Shiva”!!

Fruit Seller

The Marina Beach

The 4.5 km beach and the second longest in the world, Marina Beach is part of
the cityscape of the capital of Tamil Nadu, Chennai. A visit to the Marina, in
the morning or evening, strolling on the pavements or sands bordered by green
lawns is immensely refreshing and gives a snapshot view of the city’s people
and interests. The sea is great for paddling but beware of violent currents.

Marina Beach--Birds Eye View

The Saracenic heritage buildings on the other side of the beach are reminiscent of
the British Raj. The Senate House of the University of Madras has just been
renovated beautifully and is worth a dekko. A few kilometres away, the Elliot’s
Beach is now a favourite spot for the health brigade and a shooting locale for
Tamil movies.

Saracenic Building facing Marina Beach--The Presidency College

The one strong smell associated with Chennai–the strings of white jasmine flowers that adorn Gods statues and photos in homes and shops, autos and cars, ladies hair, wrist bands, marriage venues–just anywhere and everywhere.

Flower seller in front of temple

Every Hindu household in the South will be decorated with a kolam (a geometrical design drawn freehand by women every morning.

Kolam--geometrical designs drawn with rice flour

According to custom, women of the household began the day by cleaning the front of homes with water mixed with cowdung. This was to sterilise the entrance from infections and to keep the dust down. Then a geometrical pattern, rangoli/kolam was drawn with rice flour to welcome visitors and passers by. It was also a subtle way of feeding insects. The tulsi (basil) plant in the courtyard of homes was also watered as a symbol of renewal, what is now being popularised as greening the planet. Water was offered to the sun again as a reminder of the natural process of precipitation that was the important cycle for crops, weather and the renewal of water bodies that was
vital for all beings.

About padmum

You could call me Dame Quixote! I tilt at windmills. I have an opinion on most matters. What I don't have, my husband Raju has in plenty. Writer and story teller, columnist and contributer of articles, blogs, poems, travelogues and essays to Chennai newspapers, national magazines and websites, I review and edit books for publishers and have specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. My other major interest used to be acting on Tamil and English stage, Indian cinema and TV. I am a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff and write about India's heritage, culture and traditions. I am interested in Vedanta nowadays. I am now an Armchair traveller/opinionator/busybody!
This entry was posted in Heritage, Society, Sundays in my City. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Grannymar says:

    Now I understand why you love Chennai so much! A touch bit of everything, a true home for the Gods!


    • padmum says:

      Yes Marie….we have Gods all over the place. They are supposed to be 33, 0000000 of them and you can see them in every nook and corner…practically a God for every four people! My husband mutters in the background –he is the statistician/mathematical number cruncher for me–don’t annoy the God’s!


  2. blackwatertown says:

    So telling someone that they look like the back end of a truck could actually be a compliment in Chennai?


    • padmum says:

      In India we deliver insults and compliments with great respect, especially to older people!! My brother is asking me to change it to ‘tailgate art’ and I am unable to do so..dunno how to go to the inserted picture and change the caption….sigh!! The pressures put upon younger siblings!!


  3. Rummuser says:

    Chennai holds many pleasant and a few unpleasant memories for me but what will deter me from living there is the weather. The high humidity there is very debilitating for me after having lived in dry climates for over 23 years. I still love to visit Chennai, but to live there will need for the city to air condition itself like Singapore has done! Chennai is reaching there but the traffic is another nightmare that needs to be solved. I suppose that living there one gets used to all the negatives and take them in one’s stride, like I do about Pune’s many negatives. Great post Padmum.


  4. A.Hari says:

    Very interesting account of Chennai in your two posts. I am living in Chennai for more than 40 yrs. It has become more crowded and roads are choked with traffic. There is still lot of scope for improving the infrastructure. Irrespective of all problems, we love chennai. What do you say?


  5. Rohit says:

    Brought back some fond memories of Marina beach! I’ve been to Chennai twice with a span of about 7 years separating the two trips. The change was incredible…not a single place I could remember from my first trip. I did love Sarvana Bhavan restaurant on the new Chennai railway station…and I continue to visit their London branch whenever possible 🙂


    • padmum says:

      Yes Rohit–I too have been in and out of Chennai…and don’t ask me when I went last to Marina Beach–lost in the mists of time. We went to a Saravana’s in Marylebone High Street–lot of Nepalis around–not THE SB though. Food was veg and good. My brother lives nearby. Would love to meet you if and when I come to London next. Enjoyed meeting Paul.


  6. tammyjreed says:

    i’m going to bed soon. i’m not much of a late night person.
    but i wanted to come back here and browse a bit first. and i have enjoyed it very much.
    i started with the posts in holistic cooking. fascinating.
    and then couldn’t resist seeing what chennai looks like. i would want to walk on that marina beach each day i think. at the water’s very edge. so i wouldn’t be swept away yet my feet would be cool.
    i don’t even know if you’ll see this comment since it’s on an older post.
    but don’t feel you have to respond. i just couldn’t help letting you know. it’s so cool to learn about india and your life there!
    and reading through a blog’s archives i think . . . is a little like exploring a lovely trunk found in one’s attic room. treasures!
    well. good night padmini!


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