TAMIL NADU PART 1: CHENNAI

For our last few days in Southern India, we stayed in Chennai. Some guide books claim this city as merely a stopover to the next destination, I beg to differ! There is fabulous shopping, relaxed temples and classical music and dance seemingly around every corner. It's hectic yes, but super friendly.


We plunged into the mysterious world of sari shopping at a gigantic shop full of luxurious silks, locals and confused sales girls. They were bewildered at us, mind you, as I searched for the origin of a swath of embroidered silk that was just laying on a counter. This was not in their repertoire, a wild goose chase for bizarre Americans. We managed to buy the piece of fabric (after much debate, sighs and asking of all sorts of shop workers) and a few more special textiles I cannot wait to play with back in the studio!
In Tamil Nadu (and all over Southern India) the main mode of transport is the 3-wheeled tut tut. Most drivers customize their ride somehow, many have figurines of favorite gods, others have ornate fabric ceilings; this version had lavender details which I just loved. We stopped for gas for a hot second during the middle of what can best be described as Mr. Tut Tut's wild ride. It always feels a bit like a tilt-a-whirl meets a freeway meets roller coaster on a bad day, and it's guaranteed fun. We also popped into a puja store which carries all the items one needs for temple and prayer, I love these shops, chock FULL of sparkly wares!
Gold shopping is a must if you're exploring the South -- it's intricate, well crafted, yellow gold and dazzling that makes my heart flutter! We have a friend who gave us a couple bucks to pick out a special piece for her, and man was this a fun "assignment." Spending someone else's dough on a unique and fabulous ring, yes please!
Our last evening in Chennai, we stumbled into a meeting hall near a large temple. Diwali festival had ended days before, but the fireworks were still going and live music and beautiful singing lulled us down a road. We were quite surprised to arrive and find a dance performance as well as the enchanting female vocals. A group of seven girls from age 8-16 were performing a religious play/dance in full regalia before their friends and family and us. We were welcomed into the room as we peeked inside, and in true South Indian generous spirit, given the best seats in the house. A couple in their 70s gave up their spots and sat on the floor so we could comfortably enjoy the show in two chairs. Things like this happen all the time in the South -- if you are open and seeking magic, tradition and conviviality, it will just find you.

After about an hour of chanting, singing, dancing and praying -- mixed in with a little service by the priests who were lighting incense and creating a big flower altar -- we walked out in a speechless daze. It was unreal, this evening of ours. I especially loved how the girls had obviously worked so very hard for this evening and when it was done, they all put on pashmina shawls (it was a million degrees in there) and grinned ear to ear. All the grannies were beaming with pride too. It reminded me of all my dance performances growing up and the celebratory aftermath with my parents. The crowd went next door for some refreshments and we tut-tutted back to the hotel. WOW.

3 comments:

  1. What a fabulous photo tour! Thank you for sharing it and telling the behind the scene stories.

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  2. what a night. let's remember it always

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