I have almost reached the age now where doing the ‘smell test’ to see if a t-shirt is still wearable is frowned upon. If I wear a t-shirt, it should be fresh out of the cupboard and neatly pressed. Which is what happens most days.
Last night saw quite a big storm hit Chennai in only the second bit of rain we’ve had this year (jealous much, England?). The thunder isn’t like the wussy stuff you get in England which rumbles around like an old man, it’s the make you cover your ears and hide under the duvet thunder. Lightning does the very best job it can to rip the sky apart from the seams, probably doing to particles what it took humans $10bn and a Large Hadron Collider to do.
So around 5am this morning, my room started lighting up like an action sequence in a Spielberg sci fi movie and the thunder virtually knocked me out of bed. “3-2-1″ I said to myself and right on cue and almighty explosion (probably from the same action sequence) signaled that the transformer outside my apartment had blown up and my a/c promptly died. It’s raining, what do I need the a/c for, you might ask. Well, this is the tropics, it’s still 30°C outside and the rain just means the humidity is pushed up to 99%. Uncomfortable? You betcha.
Even by the morning, the power wasn’t back on which not only meant a cold shower (mmm, invigorating), but a return to days of yore by doing the ‘smell test’ to see if a crumpled up t-shirt was still wearable since I couldn’t iron anything. Colleagues are keeping their distance from me this morning, I can’t think why?
A pic from outside Taramani Station this morning after the storm hit last night
Every morning I have to take the train to south Chennai. The Mass Rapid Transit System, or MRTS as it’s known, is a marvel in concrete. Soviet Russia style concrete monolithic stations are dotted every few KM and are so brutal in design, it would make Joseph Stalin himself give a nod of approval. Rather surprisingly, it’s also a triumph of punctuality and reliabilty too, something Network Rail would do well to study. Trains that actually run on time? How can it be?! The MRTS gets a lot of flack from the media and the local population but actually I think it’s pretty bloody fantastic for what it is.
Since the elevated track runs along about 4 stories high, the plan was to use the first level of the stations as a car park for commuters and the 2nd and 3rd level as huge shopping malls, like the big stations of London. That was the plan. 10 years later and many of the stations still resemble building sites with scaffolding and construction detritus littered around the platforms. Where the thriving shops were supposed to be are instead cavernous halls, serving as shelter to dogs, goats and the occasional cow, the odd homeless person and not to mention a place for hapless souls to drink away their troubles in the cold darkness.
This photo shows the station where I catch my train. If you turn up before 8:30am then the platform is virtually empty like it is here and the journey is relatively pleasant. After 8:30am is when Chennai goes to work and 6m people mobilize at once…the journey is then pretty far from pleasant!
In my apartment we have a cat. King of the Golden Nuggets is his name. A fearless predator, an alert hunter, a father to half the local feline population, stalking through the night for his next victim, he answers to no man…unless of course you have some delicious curd to give him. The relationship between the apartment dwellers and Golden Nuggets is thus: you feed him whenever he’s hungry and in return he’ll guard the steps of the apartment against any trespassers and ne’er-do-wells*.
* Provided the trespassers scurry on four legs, go squeak and come at a convenient time when he’s not sleeping.
I was sitting in a bar in Delhi the other day where they brew their own German style beer on the premises and after 4 years of Kingfisher it’s like liquid gold in a bottle. The beer wasn’t the only thing unique about this bar though because I noticed one of the waiters carrying this boot of beer to one of the tables. I couldn’t let it go by without taking a quick snap of it – it’s not something you see each day!
Indigo is a budget airline that operates in India in much the same vein as EasyJet or BMIBaby. The budget airline sector in India is pretty crowded and with rising fuel costs forcing up the prices getting customers is harder than ever. Indigo have a unique style that permeates every part of their business, it’s the little things that separate them from all the other carriers. On the flight just before we landed the hostess requested everyone to turn off electronic devices, but part of the speech also included a note about making sure you save your work before you shut down your laptop. Very small, but it sticks in your mind. Airplane food also gets a tough time from many frequent travellers but Indigo has made a big effort to bring something unique to the food as well. The picture below is the box the sandwich comes in. It’s in the style of a matchbox because the sandwich contains a lot of chilly. Simple, smart and stands out enough for someone like me to mention it on my blog. A great marketing effort by Indigo!
Monsoon season is upon us here in Chennai, it arrived last night with quite a bang. Thunder rolled (it rolled a 4), lightning flashed and I got grumpy because I couldn’t sleep. A quick school lesson for you here…the monsoon refers to a type of weather pattern, not the actual rain, the rain is a consequence of a weather pattern. There you go, something to impress your friends with.
The first day of the monsoon brought 12cm of rain in 24 hours and as usual turned the roads in to shallow water rivers. When I first arrived in India I wondered why all the pavement curbs were all 2 foot high, it’s so it can channel all the water. Or at least that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.
When I woke up it was still raining so I knew that getting to work would be an issue. I toyed with the idea of working from home but the dedicated worker that lives within me told me to get to the office. The problem is the road outside my apartment had turned in to a river and just getting out the apartment complex would involve walking ankle deep through, well, water with suspicious things floating in it.
Of course, I used to be in the SAS
so a little bit of murky water shouldn’t be an issue for me, I’ve roughed it like no one else has. Yeah, that was 10 years ago though, so I did the only sensible thing I could do: I called up the office manager and asked him to come round and pick me up on the back of his bike. Yeah, hardcore!
Not sure where the old boy who owned this rubbish cart went, but he obviously didn’t want to be out in the rain and left the cart standing there!
1Army Officers Training Corps: Saturday and Sunday crew
Took this photo outside the Covent Garden Apple Store in London on Thursday afternoon. Big crowds had gathered outside to pay tribute to the man. I’m not a mac fan myself but you can’t argue with the success Steve brought to Apple when he returned to the company he founded in the mid-90′s. He left the company as one of the biggest in the world when it eclipsed Exxon in August (but then lost some ground) having already succeeded Microsoft and Dell.
Not to be outdone by the often spectacular sunsets that India has to offer, I snapped this photo at about 7:30am which has the usual English Autumn morning mists with the sun desperately trying to break through. I’ve obviously brought the Indian weather home with me because it’s not supposed to be mid-high 20′s in October! Or as one person on Twitter pointed out: Greece, pay your bills and you can have your weather back!
In England we like to take our personal space very seriously. We get offended if someone violates our immediate area and if we have to go somewhere where there are already other people we tend to look for the place where the population density is the lowest, for example if we get on a train we look for the empty set of seats rather than sit next to someone. (Obviously this formality goes out the window during London rush hour when you’re crushed like sardines in to a traveling tin can also known as the Tube).
In India, personal space doesn’t seem to be protected with the same voracity as in England, largely I think because people are so used to growing up on top of each other in the large joint families that you’ve never had personal space to begin with! I took a couple of photos of some ladies queuing to get in to the local temple because I couldn’t believe how close they stood next to each other on a sweltering hot day which must have been around 38-40°C!
Chennai held the Indian National Art Exhibition this year where established and upcoming artists from all over India submit their artwork for the chance to be exhibited to the public and also the opportunity to win Rs 100,000 (about £1,450). India isn’t spoken of in the same circles as Rome, Florence, London, Paris and New York when it comes to art but it does have a pretty active art community and the Government really tries to encourage it by offering heavily subsidized courses, subsidized amenities and organizing fairs and exhibitions for the artists.
I’m sure there are a great many undiscovered artists and sculptors in India sitting behind a desk and speaking to you on the phone right now, calling themselves “Chrissy” or something because a lot of middle class families push their children to do engineering degrees so they can get a good job at the end, rather than perusing their passion. Infact even in my company I know there are people with a good talent for drawing but instead they are helping from people around the world because it probably pays better.
Anyway, being the patron of the arts that I am, I took it upon myself to go and investigate the upcoming and established art talent that India has to offer. Since I apparently appreciate art in a different way to arty people though, I actually preferred what the Stella Maris fine arts students did compared to this exhibition.