Leaving for the airport to return in due time
Today I am returning back to Chennai. In the morning, I mainly try to kill time, pack my backpack, and rest on my bed. A little after midday, I go down with my luggage. I have to be at the airport at 2 pm, located 25 kilometers outside the city center. So I will take a wide margin; you never know with the hectic traffic in India. At 12:15 pm I leave by taxi. The ride takes exactly one hour.
A smooth first security check
It is a fairly new airport, with one terminal for domestic and one for international flights. A sample of safety neurosis is included at check-in. My backpack first has to go through a scanner, after which a security check sticker is applied. Then I make my way to the Jet Airways counter to effectively check-in and drop off my luggage for my flight back to Chennai. Given the early hour, I am the first, but all happens rather smoothly.
So many security precautions for a domestic flight
The next stop is the personal security check. Of course, my hand luggage also goes through another scanner. Every passenger has to step into a box, and everything in my pockets is double, no, triple checked. I also have to show the content of my money belt. The cop checking me is clearly interested in my currency, but I am not thrilled. This personal check takes ten minutes. As this is a simple domestic flight, what terrorist interest this might have, remains a complete mystery to me.
Spare batteries are not allowed
Finally, I can continue, but there is a problem with my hand luggage. The officer asks if I carry batteries. I confirm because there is a flashlight in the daypack. I have to show them. Magnum, the cop asks if those are spare batteries when I open the lamp. Spare batteries are not allowed. He asks if these can be thrown away. So I take the already in use batteries out of the flashlight and replace them with the unused new ones.
Serious doubt about the murderous intentions of a tourist couple
The tourist couple behind me forgot to take their Swiss pocket knives out of the hand luggage. After fifteen minutes, they get through after the knives have been handed over. Of course, there is a safety aspect involved, although I estimate the couple’s murderous abilities as non-existent. I start a conversation with them in the waiting room annex transit zone. They are also heading back to Chennai to return to Europe from there.
Taking a pre-paid taxi to head back to Chennai
The flight back to Chennai itself goes smoothly. After 50 minutes, we already land. The luggage rolls onto the conveyor almost immediately. There is a stand nearby where you can get pre-paid taxis. I head straight to it, and as the proposed price is very reasonable, I take it. S this rules out any hassle in terms of negotiations in prospect outside the airport`s building. I propose to my two fellow travelers where they would like to go to. They can join if they want and share the costs. They decide to come along.
Taxi driver still expecting more tips
The taxi driver drops us at the entrance of my hotel. When unloading the bags, he talks about tips. I give him 10 rupees, which he clearly does not consider sufficient. The taxi was pre-paid, I tell him, so I turn my back and enter the hotel. The driver remains at the entrance for a long time; up to him, I would say, our payment has been made. After seeing the rooms, my two fellow passengers also decide to spend the night here. I wish them a safe journey home.
All reasons are good to try to get an extra tip
The bellboy gets 10 rupees for his service. Five minutes later, the next one knocks at the door with a roll of toilet paper. I tell him there is already toilet paper. Yes, but that is only one role, he notes. That is not enough for a tip, I think. The man lingers at the door and then points to the bed, which he says he made this morning. This is the most normal thing; when you take a room, you also expect clean, made beds: good try, but no tip. Welcome back to Chennai. I remember my first night when I arrived when suddenly a mechanic was at the door to fix the already functioning air conditioning.
Drinking a beer in a darkly lit space
As I do not want to make a lot of effort today, I decide to have dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, and afterward, I pop into the bar for a beer. The bar is a darkly lit space in terms of coziness – as in most upscale hotels – with clean tables and elegant chairs, full of men drinking beer or whiskey. It does not take much time to empty my bottle and get to my room fairly quickly.
Rickshaw drivers waiting for tourists
This is my last day back in Chennai and South India; my holiday is almost finished. Above all, I have to try to fill the day well. After breakfast, once outside the hotel, many rickshaw drivers are ready to trap tourists. This will no longer fool me; I choose one myself further down the street.
Looking to buy some Indian music
With my remaining money, I want to buy some Indian CDs and possibly also a book. My driver says I should go to Landmarks, the store with the largest selection. My travel guide, however, reports a shop in Spencer’s Plaza. Fortunately, both are in each other’s vicinity. Also, I still have to collect my bedspread from Cottage Industries (CIE), my so-called Kashmiri friends.
Purchasing some bhangra music without a chance to listen beforehand
Landmarks indeed have a fairly wide range of literature. I spot a book about Hinduism, written for Westerners. In terms of music, the choice is more difficult, trying to make sense of all those Indian discs. I like – modern – bhangra most; that is Punjab music. The Indian beats in the western techno scene find their inspiration here. Unfortunately, after some searching, you can not listen to anything here – I find some material with this music style. I buy two collectors, one with Punjabi remixes and another named bhangra extravaganza. I am curious about what I bought.
Inquiry for the price of a bedspread
Back on the street, my driver is waiting for me. He asks for my next destination and mentions an honest, non-intrusive handicraft shop. I agree because I would like to hear another price for a bedspread similar to the one I had booked in Madurai. I paid an advance fee over there with the promise to pick it up and settle the rest of the payment in their CIE shop upon returning back to Chennai.
Fair prices in a traditional handicraft shop
In the store, I first get an explanation of how they work. They mainly try to work with families from rural areas and offer them and tourists a fair price for authentic products. With their price policy, this cooperative tries to keep the traditional handicraft, but that is difficult given the competition with other companies that have only commercial motives. My sympathy goes more towards such initiatives; the problem is that I already was persuaded by the Kashmiris.
Wonderful ethnic and tribal motifs
After telling I am mainly interested in bedspreads, I am shown a whole range. The ones with ethnic and tribal motifs are gorgeous, but those are also the more expensive ones. I explain my intention – a cloth to hang behind a cupboard with a Budha statue – and ask for a green or blue background. After a while, they turn up with some very similar copies to what I bought in Madurai. The price is 1000 rupees lower, and I feel there is still room for a discount, but not as much as my outstanding debt with Cottage Industries. I let the green cloth put aside for me, and tell I have to go elsewhere first.
Picking up my bedspread at the Kashmiris
Again, I blame myself for having bought in Madurai. I already paid an advance fee for the cloth that I ordered (and signed), so I ask my driver to go to the Kashmiris at CIE. My blanket has already arrived, so the decision is simple; I pay my remaining balance. So I got the blanket, and indeed it is a bit nicer than the one in the previous store. I handle everything and get out of here. I hope it will be my last deal with the Kashmiris; I really oppose these tough, cunning salesmen.
Leaving a tip but also running gout of money
Outside, my driver asks me to go to a shop to buy him a T-shirt or a school bag. There will be a Hindu festival soon, and he wants to buy some for him or his children. He is a nice man, he knows it is my last day, but I am running out of money, and I still have to eat and pay for a taxi to the airport. Back at the hotel, I compensate him with a generous tip for driving me around with his put-put.
Not appealing to return back to Chennai
After a small lunch, I walk to the Government Museum of Art. We drove past there earlier in the day. I do not want to go in, but one of the buildings is in the style of the Maharaja palaces I saw years ago in Rajasthan. I take a photograph of the building. Then I walk back to the hotel to pack and refresh myself. Having returned back to Chennai does not appeal too much to me. Madras, as the place is also named, is not really a fascinating city; the bustle and the exhaust fumes are too much for me. Due to the size of the city, it is also difficult to orientate. As a base, it suffices.
Ending up with a lasting souvenir
Another small anecdote, fifteen minutes before my departure from the hotel, I fold my finger double when packing my backpack. My right middle finger is bent. Back home, the diagnosis is; tendon burst. Speaking of a beautiful and lasting souvenir, right?