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Entries in Chennai (41)


Great grandma visits and binge eating..

On our 5 day India trip, we managed to visit all great grandparents, thanks to some efficient auto rickshaws..

my maternal grandma is 90+ and her mind is very active. She is unable ot walk and she no longer asks me "when will my time come". she has been asking me that since my grandpa passed away almost 10 years ago. She has come to realize that no one knows.. and is now reading books to pass her time. She blessed us with all her heart!

San's grandparents are also pushing 90 and they are doing okay given their age. Walkers, hearing aids, etc. A slow methodical life and an approach of taking it one day at a time. Some lessons for San and me there.. Grandpa told me that till a few years ago he was doing yoga regularly including Nauli but now he is not able to. He is still active given his age and is a role model for all of us.

The best part was that they were the couple honored during my fathers sadhabhishgam as part of the "dhambati pooja" and given I was doing the pooja in proxy for my dad who could not bend down, it was a great honor! Will write a separate post on the function and what we did as part of it.. 

Then there was the eating in three places..

We went to watch Toy Story movie at the mall in 3D.. it has been some time since I saw anything in 3D given the massive headaches I get for days after watching any 3D movie.. but the kids wanted to go together somewhere and an Air conditioned theater was a good idea! After the movie the kids decided based on reviews that the best place that would accomodate everyones menu requests was Haven Sampoorna right near Phoenix mall in Velachery. It was an interesting place. I got my butter naan and side dishes and the kids who wanted pasta, got their pasta.. food was good. service was good. ambience was funny.. 

 Here is PIchchai Sundar with Sundar PIchchai... (kid you not, this was the photo right behind my chair)

you have no idea how many jokes I have to put up with ever since this guy became Google CEO. We are both the same age, went to similar schools and the same IIT coaching class in Chennai, think he also studied metallurgy, went to work for semi conductor companies ... I stayed in Semi and am traveling back and forth to Asia.. he moved to software and management..and probably has a lot of things going for him that I simply don't have or want.. but the jokes, they keep on coming.. So it was only fitting that I ended up below that photo! 

The sceond place we ate was Amethyst.. again nice ambience, relatively quiet and excellent food.. we went for evening coffee/ tea with San's cousin and brother's family who also happened to be visiting and ended up eating a lot of stuff..

The last place we went to was in Matsya in Adayar.. on a previous trip we had gone to another Matsya branch.. this was closer to where we stayed. It was also a nice place (we didnt take pictures). It was raining in Chennai that evening and we were all not our best when we got there. The funny thing with Ola/ Auto etc. is that they drop you off at the location but on the opposite side of the street and there is no way to cross over for a good kilometer either way! So we walked around a flyover for 25 minutes to get to the place. The dinner was great though. They had an amazing variety of dosas and cricket matches playing on 4 different TV's.. so I got to watch cricket and eat dosas.. 

That was pretty much all the activities we did outside of the function. 

Still waiting for photos from the function itself...

Missing San's maternal grandma who passed away recently as I write this post. We would always make a visit to see her as well. She passed away three months ago. 

Great grandparents are precious.. the way things are going, not a lot of kids get to see their great grandparents! 


Destiny..elephants.. memories..

San has successfully managed me for 20 years now! A milestone that I am extremely grateful to pass. The kids who always take my side, finally acknowledged "yeah. you are not an easy guy to deal with. you are very complicated. so amma did do well to handle you for 20 years". 

They are her toughest and biased critics and this came from them.. 

Was still under travel pressure, so we just kept it simple this time. Lunch at Chaat House as usual for our anniversary (this time with my in laws) and a visit to the local temple to say thanks. There was no ice cream at Ghirardelis.. 

We also ended up on a whirlwind India trip for 5 days. This time to do a Sadhabishegam function for my dad and mom. Have written a recent post on this..

My dad's 1000'th moon happens in early December and technically (the sankara sastri in me rears his ugly head again).. we should have celebrated this next February. Then there are astrologers, older people, fuzzy logic, health concerns etc.. and the quantum computing ended up with last week as the "last Revathy birth star of the first half of the year where the earth moves northwards (between Jan14th and July 14th)".. If your head is spinning faster than the earth after reading that, you are in good shape. Like they say in Yoga class "it is normal to feel dizzy after that!". 

It was hectic for us, as Jr. is going to Senior year in high school and we have a packed agenda. We did go as a family and celebrate the event. It went better than expected, given my dad was in diapers three months ago when I went for a 5 day visit. His parkinsons is under control, but he had a fall and was recovering from it. Looks like he is back to where he was before his fall. 

We literally entered the house at 5AM and the function started at 6:30AM.  Chennai was going through a water crisis. So there was the waiting for water truck on some days. It was also the first time we stayed in a hotel in Chennai. Hotels have water and star hotels definitely have water. That was a good decision to move to a hotel.

Two days for the function, two days for rest and we flew back on day 5!

In those two so called "rest days" we managed to

- go meet my grandma (who could not make it to the function)

- meet San's grandma

- eat out in three places

- visit Kabali temple and

- do a quick round of shopping in old Cupertino/ Old Fremont..

sorry.. Mylapore and Mambalam.. I have to write a separate post on why folks who are in Mylapore side end up in Cupertino and Mambalam side end up in Fremont.. the statistics are interesting.. think BART and Station road might have something to do with it..

where were we? Yes.. quick visits on two "rest" days.

We visited Kabali temple .. the place where San and me met for the first time..a place where "our fates changed" in San's words.

The kids went to the elephants and quickly realized that the elephants were sitting in the sun all morning and were at 41 C. One quickly jumped off and the other managed a smile knowing she had already done the damage..

Don't how many kids have sat on these elephants and had fun over the last centuries.. 

We also walked through one of my favorite places in the temple where they keep the cows and peacocks.. Didn't not spot any peacocks this time but this little calf came and was all over me.. kissing me and wanting to play with me. Brought back so many memories.. 

As usual I am now down with a cold virus from the flight.. so taking it easy and resting as much as I can for the long weekend.

My one achievement for the trip was to take a family group picture of my parents with all their kids and families. This group has never been together under one roof ever.. this was the first time. Hopefully it will be repeated many more times.. Have waited a long time to take this picture!

Will have more pictures to edit and share soon. This trip was only 5 days and 20k miles but felt like we went to the moon and back and over decades of time in memories..


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!