The only good thing in Chennai

The only good thing in Chennai

Pondicherry had been an unique and unexpected delight, but I needed to continue my trudge northwards, particularly as I had read the monsoon had officially arrived a full week ahead of its usual arrival date of 1st June. Along the coast was the city of Chennai, once known as Madras, and so I took a state bus for the bargain price of 50 rupees ($1) along the coastal highway for three hours to arrive ready to explore a new city.
Chennai was a huge disappointment next to the quaint air of Pondicherry. It was a huge, sprawling, polluted, noisy, concrete identikit mess of a city, and as a result I barely left my hotel, popping out only for a quick but decent meal in a local spit’n’stools restaurant. I didn’t plan on lingering, booking a flight for the next day across swathes of India to Calcutta.
Arriving at the airport the next day to check in, I was told that my flight had been cancelled, as Calcutta airport had been closed due to a cyclone – a result of the monsoon, which had ploughed up the Bay of Bengal to hit eastern India and Bangladesh. Slightly miffed, but taking it in my stride, I headed to the Indigo Air booking office to get on tomorrow’s flight.
Despite the several hundred years of British rule in India, the British hobby of queuing sadly hasn’t caught on amongst all of the Indian populace. Time and time again when queuing for tickets, information or even just to pay for something in a store, people would walk in front of me and others as if we weren’t even there, which I find to be the height of rudeness that no amount of “cultural differences” could explain away. If you assert yourself physically you can stop them; being at least a foot taller than them certainly helps in this regard. But no amount of asserting could keep back the swarming throng of irate passengers desperately pushing past me and trying to rebook on tomorrow’s flight; instead I flipped them a finger by cunningly nipping outside to the far side of the office and queued up at the counters there, and managed to get rebooked pretty quickly with the minimum of hassle.
Despite the huge amount of patience I’d decided to tackle India with, I was starting to fray a little around the edges, with the bureaucracy, lack of queuing, scammers, con artists and downright dishonesty from certain individuals all mounting up and chipping away at the many positives the country had to offer. It was particularly frustrating trying to get work done in India; things just never seemed to go in my favour, and whilst I could cope as a tourist, I doff my hat to anyone who can successfully get business done in this country.
A few more quanta of patience were eaten up on my return to Chennai. I grabbed a hotel close to Egmore train station to make my early start more palatable. I quickly discovered the room I had been assigned was infested with little cockroaches. The guy on the desk downstairs appeared incredibly miffed at me wanting a room without insects, and begrudgingly assigned me another room – the one next door – which of course also had cockroaches. I’m a pretty easy going person when it comes to most things, and that includes inadequacies in accommodation. Having placed my head down in some real fleatpits over the years, I rarely complain as it’s often to be expected for the price the budget traveller pays. But for the cost of this particular room, cockroaches were a completely unacceptable “extra”.
Quickly losing my patience, I asked for a room on a higher floor. That also had cockroaches. I demanded a refund, to which he said “no refund”. So much for the customer is always right. Finally he gave me a third floor room that was completely clean of bugs – why couldn’t he have just done that in the first place? – and I got my head down, hoping my patience would magically recharge overnight.