Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve in Chennai

Early on one of the coldest winter mornings yet, we left Delhi to go to Chennai. Look, cabin crew!

If you haven't recognised them already, they're from Indigo Airlines, pretty much the best-branded airlines in India. They all wore bright smiles and "Girl Power" badges, and our pilot was a woman. Their magazine looks right out of a Swedish design firm: simple, clean, and as much a treat to flip through as an Ikea catalogue.

Even their zippy staircase was cute! I mean, who wouldn't like to be a hot stepper?

The sky was a whole different story. I don't know if they specially arranged it for us to be greeted by miles and miles of perfectly sprinkled clouds, but that's what happened. And it was SO beautiful. I could see outer space from my plane seat. Imagine that. It was like 54 shades of blue.

Someone should write a book on that.

And then we landed and saw some of Chennai from the ground (and above). We had a food-tasting lunch at a yet-to-be-opened hotel. I didn't click too many pictures of the food because I  was too busy eating it (!), but there were: three colours of chicken tikkas, fresh watermelon juice, pepperoni pizza from a wood-fired oven, appams, two kinds of Malyali stew, prawn pad thai, melty chocolate cake with dulce de leche and ice-cream, and my favourite, key lime pie.

Everything was, needless to say, a-mazing.

Like the hotel! It's going to be a stunner when it's finally unveiled. Chennai, you watch out.

We also met a menagerie! Baby squirrels, pigeons, baby crows, a quail and the incredible lady who carries them across town on her bicycle (in baskets). One of my many favourite moments of the day by far was having a baby squirrel scamper up the length of my arm. Such big feet. So ticklish. I had to exercise all my restraint to not shake her off like a mad baboon.

But now I know what it would feel like to be a tree.

And we saw the sunset. Even with a construction site and its awful cranes in the foreground, it was absolutely breathtaking.

But that wasn't all! We also saw 1400 year-old temples, got blessed by at least five priests, listened to a stellar roadside Carnatic music performance...and ate, ate and ate. From hot fluorescent orange payasam eaten with spoons fashioned from a banana leaf bowl cheesecake with fresh strawberry stew. With an entire Marathi meal in between. And there were stories and wine (and midnight champagne!), and some of the people I care about most around me. A holiday couldn't start any better. Really.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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