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Entries in Chennai (39)


Good times in Chennai

The Chennai visit also got us a chance to go visit the great grand parents for the kids, go visit temples, feed the crows before eating every morning.. little things that define Chennai life for the rest of the family that we enjoy when we go there.. 

First stop as usual was Kabali temple... 

We did the usual veggie shopping, goli soda drinking, and walking around the Mylapore area thing that puts some memory markers in their respective places.. 

A single photo that captures that evening..

Then there was a miracle. My mother and Jr. went to the local temple and overheard the local priest tell a bunch of folks that given the solar eclipse coming this year on the same day we change our threads, a section of folks who follow the Yajur Veda should change their threads in July. While the oldies in the family were debating the technicalities of doing "aavani avittam" outside the month of Aavani, I jumped at it. Have not been able to do this with my dad or brother in 25 years! So this was a sun moon and earth given chance. 

The changing of thread was followed by some yummy food and the rest of the afternoon was spent taking a nice nap! To me this ceremony is about renewing a commitment to learning and keeping an open mind. Have learned a lot of new things last year about myself, folks around me and the world in general and have continued to realize that there is more to learn and all this learning still wont help you because something is always going to come way out of left field and knock all this learning meaningless. 

We did the usual rounds visiting friends and family and also did some shopping for the kids. The great grand parents are all managing their health issues and pushing onwards in their late eighties or early nineties.

We wrapped the trip up with a visit to Kaleidozone, a place where kids and adults can do Virtual reality games. Basically they have a nice set up with VR goggles and some interesting games.

The rates were reasonable and we spent more than an hour there followed by a nice dinner at a Delhi food restaurant and before you could say "I miss Chennai"... I had to fly back!

Don't know when the next time would be to visit Chennai, alone or with family. Here is to hoping it is sooner than later...


Semmozhi Poonga (park) in Chennai

We were back in Chennai after our Amritsar trip. Had a full six days before I had to return to the US. It has been three years since I spent that may continuous days with parents and brother's family. Last two years, it has been a two days or three at the most, squeezed in at the end of business trips to Asia.

One day we decided to cool down at a local park called Semmozhi Poonga. We have visited this place as kids but not in its current form. The park is a great place for kids under 12 and older people who are still kids at heart. 

There were at least two dozen parrots that had made their home in the trees in the park and it was a treat to watch them. It was also great to watch the kids play together. Something we would like to see every day but have to wait for every three years..

The light during sunset combined with the greenery made for some perfect portrait backdrops..

and finally, sometimes the best photographs are the unplanned unposed for ones.. when you catch someone playing with kids and you happen to be standing far away with a telephoto lens trying to capture parrots, but capture something more magical instead! 

I did take what is possibly the best shot of my wife in recent memory. It does not go on this blog, but it is a note for everyone. Keep a telephoto handy and stay far away and you might end up with some memorable "people" pictures!

If you are in Chennai on a hot summer day, strongly recommend this park to take the kids to and have a fun time!


A place to be at peace

On our recent India trip, we went to visit our friend Swatantra (which incidentally means Freedom and she happens to be born on India's Independence day). She found her calling three years ago and moved to Chennai from Gurgaon to work on Srishti, a wellness retreat 90 minutes from Chennai city. 

It was an interesting drive and the kids slept on my shoulder while I held the camera for a time lapse video!

We had a hectic schedule but we were not going to miss meeting her. So off we went to her place and from there she decided to take us to the wellness retreat. I always thought this was still under construction. Turns out the place is ready for the public and we were one of the early ones to get a sneak peak. 

Srishti is set in a village. There is no noise pollution from the bustle of Chennai here. There is no light pollution either! You can see the stars even before the sun has fully set. There are cows and goats grazing around and there is an all engulfing silence in the place that is broken by the occasional sound of birds, goats or someone from the village or a helper at the Wellness retreat calling out to another person.

As soon as you walk in, you feel a sense of calm. Every little stone is set in its place with such meticulousness that there is an order that calms you down. You can see the love that has gone into every wall, every corner of this place. 

We were welcomed with garlands, and got cold water poured into the back of our necks.

That wakes you up instantly! You forget that you were in a car for the last 90 minutes navigating through OMR traffic! Then we got to see the rooms, meet the team of people who make this place work, see the lawns and got to walk around. 

You just keep going "wait.. how..it is like a secret garden!"

Given it was late evening, we got a small snack. Swantantra told us they only serve natural foods there like fruits, fresh vegetables, seeds, dates and grains. Their idea is to let the body recover itself by providing a peaceful atmosphere, natural foods, fresh air, yoga and other exercises and lots of love and care from people around you. Can totally see how that would work! Having done yoga for the last 6 plus years, have finally figured out the body is capable of repairing itself if you give it the right time, circulation and environment. You have to give it a fighting chance to recover! Srishti definitely does that!

After the snack we got to take a short nap and do a shavasana and relax. Then we went for a walk to the lawns and enjoyed the birds, butterflies (lots of them) and the cattle and monkeys in the village. After walking a mile we were back and it was time to say bye and go visit more friends. 

If you are in Chennai and want to take a break from the hustle and bustle and be transported to a place that can restore your sanity, strongly recommend a visit to Srishti! 

and if you have little girls, you can definitely get some fresh Jasmine from the plants for your hair. San was wearing Jasmine flowers. When little Reet saw it, she immediately went and found Jasmine for her hair to match. Watching her so happy with the matching flowers made my day.

did I mention tons of butterflies?!

they sat and posed for me...

If you are trying to walk towards wellness, this is a great choice! 

Here is a link, if you are interested in a visit.

I for one am glad that my friend found her calling. Someday, someday, I will also have the will power and mental strength to make such radical life changes and follow my thoughts.. Until then, like my brother reminds me, have to finish what I started! 


Transcending space and time

The first planned event on our India trip was to attend the arangetram of Kavya. I have never been to an arangetram in India, but have attended two dozen or so of these events in the bay area. 

It was a treat to watch Kavya dance. Sat there wondering when this little kid we are so used to seeing got so mature in emoting! The audience in India is more of an untamed beast. The average age of the crowd that attended was a good 20 years older than the audience in the US, which in itself is not a bad thing. They do not have bladder control though and there is a constant stream of people walking in and out of their seats to hit the restroom. 

So here is a tip if you are used to seeing arangetrams in US and you go watch one in India. Get to the front seat! 

We also got to hear a few words from the Legendary Chitra Visweshwaran on art forms that have gone to foreign lands and are kept alive and well. She talked about the challenges kids face both in India and abroad but how the parents abroad give that extra priority to keep things going to get to an arangetram or a stage performance and not give up because of "board exams". 

Thought of recording it, but then switched the camera off and just listened to her talk.

Hearing that I realized that we put our kids through a lot here in the US and they also push themselves hard because of peer pressure. 

Hoping that BB will post pictures or videos of the event in his blog. I am still getting goosebumps going back to that evening. 

Promptly after the performance ended, we ran out to find an auto! Yes, that was a real challenge as autos are not easy to find after 9PM in that area and we had to catch the first flight out in the morning to Mumbai! 

We had to transcend to another space in short time. 

After reaching Mumbai, our plan was to go straight to see San's cousin and her new baby! We had no idea that the supposed 45 minute commute will become a 2 hour plus ordeal! Lunch plan became tea plan and we were exhausted by the time we reached her cousins place. 

Then a cute baby made us forget everything! 

That was again transcending time. They say you can see god in a baby's smile! There may be some truth to it...

After another 2 hour ride in rains and traffic, we made it to the in-laws place by dinner time, and that was day 2!

Mumbai might drain faster after a quick rain but when it comes to traffic, it is a lot worse than Chennai. At least that was our experience. 

Will continue blogging after coming back. . . 


You don't decide when you go.. 

That was pretty much the summary of my conversation with my grandma. Spent an hour with her on the three day trip. Wish I could spend more time with her. Grandma never sat up and walked after her surgery more than a year ago. 

My conversations with grandma have the usual points (from her or me)

Her points :

1. Grandpa is gone. I have no reason to live. Just praying that God takes me soon. (understandable given she got married to him at 5, started living with him at 13, had 8 kids, had a long and happy married life for 65 years and he passed away)

2. the doctors did something to me after the surgery. I try to move my body but it doesn't respond

3. I am doing my best but it is not working

My points :

1. you don't decide when you go. 

2. as long as you are here, might as well try to do your best and do the rest room thing yourself

we have had the same conversation twice in the two one hour visits over last year and this year. 


She is still sharp and is probably the most progressiver person in the family given her age and situation. She always wants to know if the kids are still practicing music. Never asks about their academics or school.. Only "are they still learning music? are they practicing?"

The woman truly believes that the only thing worth leaving our kids is art ! Sometimes I actully agree with her. 

Hopefully, next year when I see her, she will be up and walking to the restroom on her own! She is trying...