Wednesday, April 1, 2009

25-30 March 09, Boys Company to Mettapalayam to Chennai to Dubai to Oakland

As I was preparing to leave for a two-month visit to the United States, I took some pictures of our home in Boys Company. As excited as I was to go to California, it was really hard to leave.

Gopal, Athul, and Jayanthi working on the flower garden Jayanthi created for us
Our vegetable garden is just beginning
Our container garden is now sharing space with Shaggy's bed and dishes

On Wednesday afternoon, 25 March, a taxi picked us up at home and took us to the train station at Mettapalayam, about 3/4 of the way down the mountain, where we caught the 8pm train to Chennai.
Functioning steam engine getting cleaned up at the end of the day

We spent two days in Chennai before I flew alone to San Francisco. Thursday, we checked out Spencer's shopping mall. I was looking for more sophisticated salwar kameezes than I can find in Coonoor. I didn't find them here.

We tried this Subway restaurant for fun to see what the differences are. We are familiar with the Veggie Delight sandwich in the U.S., and the Indian version did not include salt and pepper, nor vinegar which left our sandwiches pretty tasteless. They did offer two sauces in addition to mayonaise and mustard which we didn't try. The chips were all the masala variety common in India, which we don't care for.

Our friend Govindharajan had made arrangements for us to stay at a nice guest house in Chennai. Around the corner from our room was the Valluvar Kottam, an auditorium and museum honoring the poet and thinker, Tiruvalluvar. So, on Thursday we spent some time there. It was really impressive, and quiet.

Here's a description I found on the web: Valluvar Kottam is a memorial to the great Tamil poet-saint Tiruvalluvar, who wrote the famous Thirukkural. This monument was constructed in 1976. The memorial is shaped like a temple chariot and is the replica of the temple chariot in Thiruvarur. The temple chariot has been installed with a life-size statue of Thiruvalluvar. The Valluvar Kottam is one of the modern day landmarks of the Chennai city. All the 133 chapters of Tiruvalluvar's famous work, Thirukkural, have been depicted in bas-relief in the front hall corridors of the chariot. The Valluvar Kottam has an auditorium also, which is said to be the largest in Asia and can house about 4000 people. The Valluvar Kottam is a modern memorial to the great Tamil poet who represents the glorious culture of the Tamils. Over 3,000 blocks of stone were used to create this memorial to Tamil culture.

Courtyard just inside the gate

Across the courtyard is the threshold. A sign reads: "ornate threshold in the pattern of Thorana Vayil of the ancient Tamil Culture welcomes visitors to the auditorium"

Portrait of Tiruvalluvar ('tiru' is a respectful prefix)

"The Stone Car," the replica of the temple chariot at Thiruvarur

The base of the temple chariot

The walkway to the top of the temple chariot (the roof of the auditorium)

The auditorium (notice, no supporting pillars)

All 133 chapters of the 'Kural" carved on black marble

From the Valluvar Kottam, we decided to go to the Marina Beach, where Gopal had many good memories. He had studied at Madras University forty years ago. He slept on the beach a few times. There was no development near the beach, and it was very clean. Things are different now.

Ghandi sculpture at Marina Beach at Chennai

Gopal, with a handkerchief tied over his bald head in the heat, preparing to wade in the surf, remembering how it used to be

From the beach, we went to Santhome, the cathedral built as a shrine to Saint Thomas. Here's what Wikipedia says about it: San Thome Basilica is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Santhome, in the city of Chennai (Madras), India. It was built in the 16th century by Portuguese explorers, and rebuilt again with the status of a cathedral by the British in 1893. The British version still stands today. It was designed in neo-Gothic style, favored by British architects in the late 19th century.
It is supposedly built atop the tomb of one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, St. Thomas. It is believed that St. Thomas arrived in Kerala from Palestine in 52 A.D. The apostle is believed to have preached in Chennai (formerly Madras) between 52 A.D. and 72 A.D., when he is said to have been killed on St. Thomas Mount. About 1000 years later his remains were moved inland and a church was built close to the site of his death.[1] The church was renovated around 16th century by the Portuguese, who took most of his remains when they left India. All that is left is his toe.

This beautiful little grotto was across the parking lot from the cathedral.

There's a window in the floor where you can look down onto St. Thomas' burial site
Friday night, we went to the Chennai airport so I could start my journey to the U.S. Besides being apprehensive about traveling that far alone, going through immigration was a little intimidating because all my documents (passport, PIO card/visa) had all been stolen and replaced, and I was expecting difficulties. It turned out OK, but it took a while because of the complexities.
Chennai Airport, waiting to check in for flight to S.F. Gopal couldn't come in with me.

Flying toward Dubai from Chennai, flying from sunrise into night

Waiting for Customs at Dubai

"Starbucks" in Arabic
Well, after a hideously long flight, I finally landed at SFO at around 2:30pm Saturday, the 28th, into the loving arms of my family (Suzie, Ramon, Dexter, and Todd). Never got pictures!

Suzie created this most cozy and classy little nest for me. This picture does nt do it justice.

"We (heart) Grandma" on the front sidewalk

Suzie and Ramon's house

Dexter and puppy in the front yard (see the kolam?)

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