New Year's Eve
Today Dana and I visited Kapaleeshwarar Temple, an ancient temple dedicated to the Lord Shiva. This is one of Chennai's largest temples. It could not have been a better day to visit, everything and everyone was decorated in celebration for the new year. The smell of fresh floral wreaths and incense filled the air, streets were marked with chalked designs of prayer symbols..everything had such a magical feel. Truly an amazing experience!
We visited the small market and neighborhood around the temple and purchased a few gifts for family and friends. We celebrated New Year back at the hotel, which was also decorated and very festive. Many people were visiting the hotel to enjoy the various restaurants and parties...it was a buzzing place!
Happy New Year Everyone!!
Dana and I made our first outing this morning alone...on foot. We are usually guided by a rickshaw driver, but today we felt a little daring. Basically, we only made it two blocks from the hotel before discovering an antique shop and a department store/shopping center. the antiques and furniture were great to see...everything was very beautiful to see. The shopping mall was interesting just out of shear interest of making a comparison to US stores.....visually they are similar as in the US, though there are many more clerks, which consequently makes quite the impact on their service.
By afternoon coffee was in order, hence began the quest for a western style coffee house....they are far and few but when you find one.....you'll be content. We found one just a short 5 minute ride from the hotel. Coffee house culture is very popular here because most stay open late and serve as hangouts for young adults. 4 cups of coffee and 2 slices of cake later, Dana and I headed back to the hotel to get ready for evening events.
This evening we were invited to visit Kalakshatra, a private arts school, to attend a production of "Masquerade: The Man in the iron Mask", directed by Sheejith Chakkappoyyan. We received a private tour of the school grounds, walked through the museum, and then had a small snack while we waited for the performance to start. Dana looked up into the trees and noticed a monkey sitting up on a branch. I was personally excited because this was one thing on my India to-do list! So we saw our first wild monkey....he had shown up just a day prior and seemd to be making the place his temporary home. Monkeys don't really present themselves very often in Chennai because populations aren't very exorbitant. It isn't until one travels to New Delhi were you'll see monkeys walking the streets and stealing fruit from markets, etc.
The production of "The Man in the Iron Mask" was presented in the contemporary style, which, we have been told, is the new rage with dance/theatre artists and audiences. It was fascinating to watch because although movement wise the performers were dancing in the Bharatanatyam style of Classical India dance, they were acting out a western and fairly contemporary story. Performances in most South Asian cultures last an average of three-four hours....it was amazing to observe the dancers' stamina throughout the performance. It was truly and enjoyable experience!
After the show, it took us about 10 minutes to find a rickshaw to drive us 30 min back to our hotel. Our driver this evening was the most enthusiastic and daring driver we have encountered on our trip. The best way to sum up the experience is to think of yourself as a passenger in a car during a high speed chase in a hollywood film. We were quite thankful when we finally saw the lights of our hotel!
What a way to begin the new year!!
---- Kelly Moss Southall
---- Kelly Moss Southall