The Brits Bring the rain to India!

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January 10th 2018
Published: January 10th 2018
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Our entry into India couldn’t have been easier, as a pleasant gentleman checked our visa’s, immigration forms and took pictures and finger prints we had our passports stamped, signed and we were free to enter India for the first time.

Woolly says – The same gentlemen didn’t quite know what to do about taking paw prints, he scratched his head and then having smiled at me for a few minutes, he patted me on the head and wished me a happy stay. I trotted off to exchange some money for our next lot of currency while the women waited at the baggage claim area for the backpacks to circle towards them. Twenty minutes from landing and I stepped out onto Indian soil for the first time, sadly for us it was wet Indian soil as rain teemed down on us, I knew there was a reason for packing my raincoat I just hadn’t expected it to be used quite so quickly on our trip. Having negotiated a price for a rickshaw which now replaces my beloved tuk tuks we headed across the city of Chennai. The city was formerly known as Madras and is the capital of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, located by the Bay of Bengal, I had always thought that Bengal was a tiger, so I just hoped it wasn’t a sea of tigers we were dealing with!

A forty minute journey led us through the honking and crazy traffic of the city before turning into a small road which had wooden shacks on each side selling food, drinks, groceries and car parts, a strange combination but it seemed to be working for the residents.

Woolly says – Checked in and having dumped our bags we headed out onto the roads in the search of food, the choices were varied and the smells of cooking wonderful. Wanting to try a variety of flavours we all ordered something different to share along with the best nan I have ever had, Jo’s choice of a Vegetable masala was reasonable, and I chuckled to myself as Zoe claimed that her home made one was better as I couldn’t disagree, her choice of tandoori fish however was a treat. With our bellies full and our eyes tired we retired for the night ready to take Chennai by storm in the morning.

We passed a reasonable night and having tried to get used to the squat toilet and dealt with the pile of washing that had mounted up we set off for St Georges Fort.

Woolly says – The rain seemed to have settled in but refusing to be downhearted I told the girls a little more about the Fort as our rickshaw honked and dodged its way through the streams of traffic. Fort St George (historically known as White Town) is the name of the first English (later British) fortress in India and was founded in 1644. Originally uninhabited land it provided the starting point as a trading port from which the city grew. The East India Company which had entered India around 1600 for trading activities, purchased the land and began the construction completing it on 23rd April 1644 at a cost of £3000, coinciding with St George's Day. The fort was christened Fort St George and helped to establish English influence over the region. As our driver pulled up I had been expecting a huge place with towers to climb and bastions to defend, it looked more like a large country house, more worryingly was the huge amount of police and army officials that surrounded the area, I looked at the women and they also seemed a little bewildered as to the quantity of security in place, were we not safe here!

Understanding recent situations in India we had expected a lot of bag checks and guards but there were hundreds of them.

Woolly says – We stood and pondered for a moment which way to go when a nice Indian gent asked if we were heading into the museum, I smiled up at him and replied that we were, he pointed to a barrier and told us to head through. Having had our bags checked twice and bodies checked three times we seemed to be inside, I looked around me, I was slightly underwhelmed and wondered where all the fort like things were. A quick discussion revolving around breakfast took place and having asked a security man for the nearest eatery we were directed to what appeared to be a canteen. Zoe and I sat down, as Jo took matters into her own hands appearing at spasmodic points bearing apple juice for the two of us, then tea for her before vanishing to return with a plate of dhoti and sauces, we all peered at the plate full before tucking in.

Thirty minutes of work to acquire it was a novel way to start the day and although not all the sauces were enjoyed at least we had enough sustenance to keep us going.

Woolly says – Going through another check point to gain entrance into the museum I looked around at the rather neglected reception area, paint was peeling off the walls and it had a neglected look about the whole place. The first room had a sign telling us not to take any photo’s and having looked over the mortar cannons on display we moved quickly onto the ceramic section which gave us a few cabinets of china from the East India Company as well as a large object that had been made in Worcester (near to my home town of Stourbridge) which at least gave a feeling of home. At the bottom of the stairs we glanced over a couple of statues of former commanders of the fort, one was of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort,i although the information made me chuckle as he was given the title of King and it said that he had bought his wife (with no mention of her status) to India, not sure she would be amused at that! The next floor up led us into a large room and certainly the most impressive, sadly pictures weren’t allowed, and we merely examined the huge oil canvases on display of Vice Roy’s and Leaders of the region before moving to the floor above. These rooms gave us a collection of coins which really needed a good polish as well as the first Indian flag, as it is now, lay under protective glass. There had been six flags to recognise the country over time and the one that we currently associate with India has been used since 1953 denoting the red, white and green stripes with the dharma wheel in the centre. The museum appeared to be completed and having expected to spend several hours at least investigating the fort itself I wondered what the plan was going to be.

Like my small friend I had thought the majority of our day would be spent there, plan b was needed and having quickly consulted the map and flagged down another rickshaw we set off for Marina Beach.

Woolly says – I really wonder about these two sometimes, it’s raining, and they want to go to the beach! Stepping onto the sand I can’t say it would be my on my best beach locations, littered with rubbish, crows and tents selling snacks and drinks, the highlight was seeing my first wandering cow along with two horses that seemed to be giving rides to the hoards of people that were also on the sand even in the deluge, at least it’s not just the Brits who are strange in their leisure activities! Having reached the sea and checked for tigers of which there were none we watched the Indian’s who had chosen to swim in the rough waves, mainly full clothed, strange, very very strange. I suggested a drink before going to look at what appeared to be a park that we had passed on our way to the shoreline.

Our route back involved person after person coming to us, saying hello and shaking our hands before asking for a ‘selfie’, Woolly obviously thought he was being recognised for his fame and happily posed for snap after snap, Zoe and I shook our heads at each person and plodded on through the rain.

Woolly says – The park turned out to be a memorial site. The MGR memorial was built in memory of former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, M G Ramachandran. The body of the former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and Mr Ramachandran’s protégé J Jayalalithaa is also buried there now. Built in 1988 it has the highest footfall of places in the region. A hugely impressive winged house led us into the quiet area were our eyes were immediately drawn to what appeared to be an Indian Elvis, I couldn’t help but to laugh and having caught my companion’s eyes I knew they were thinking the same thing, trying to straighten my face we wandered past the Ministers bust and towards the other memorials of other former Ministers, the last one was the newest and was covered in brilliantly coloured flowers which was lovely. It appeared that we had completed the Marina Beach part of the day and I had only one more idea of where else to go, having made my suggestion, we climbed aboard yet another rickshaw and belted through the traffic in a serious of beeps, honks and loud Indian music to the Mosque of a Thousand Lights, now that must be worth seeing.

As our driver pulled up I looked around for one of the largest Mosques in the country to find myself staring at the white and green onion tops of a very small mosque, it was smaller than my local Mosque in Turkey!

Woolly says – It was tiny and even worse it was shut, I sighed, today wasn’t turning out so well and having trudged along the pavement less road for several kilometres avoiding the rubbish and the smell of sewage I’m afraid that Chennai wasn’t really doing it for me, tomorrow however is another day and hopefully a first for us all!

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