Very first thing a person thinks after hearing word "Chennai" is its climate, which has only three seasons - Hot, Hotter and Hottest!
Whatever people say, but for me, this city has seen a major portion of my life since my school days. Some of the things which I could associate with it would include my school completion, my under grad engineering days, my first job, meeting my fiancee, my daily evening walks on beach side, and many more...
Life was never easy then, especially beyond the boundaries of Kendriya Vidyalaya and Air Force (or be it any defense area per se). It is not just the language which people might feel is difficult to adjust to, but it is also some of the cultural changes and eating habits that makes a difference. Sudden rise in temperature and humidity just adds to your uneasiness, which goes without saying. Climate is deigned in Chennai in such a manner that people sweat a lot, not only that, it also sticks to your body and doesn't go easily. If you stand near the sea, you would feel heaven in Chennai but as soon as you go away from it, you would start feeling the layer of salt deposition on your skin. Feeling the pinch??
Marina Beach is counted as one of the longest and largest beaches in the world. Few years back, this could have also been one of the dirtiest beaches on earth. My recent visit changed my perception a bit as I could see some cleanliness around with nice places cropping up like parks, fountain, skating ground, shops with dustbins and cleaning vehicles. Within its cleanliness, people were enjoying the heat and the water touching their feet with jeans folded up to their knees. Touching the knee portion of the jeans wasn't a tough task for the waves, though how difficult you make it would all depend upon how much Doppler effect you studied in your school/college - just to gauge the speed and height.
Other place which you can go around is our famous Elliot's beach (aka Besant Nagar Beach, aka Lovers' Beach), which is one of the hang out places for young crowds ;). This place is mostly filled with people from North and also a resting ground for some of the hawkers (bhajjiwalas) and shops. Mumbai's Marine drive can always oust any beach side in the world but when you are in Chennai, this could be your preffered location to feel that thunder with bikes racing around, road side bajjis, CCDs and Idli Corner shops with tea stalls... Punjabi Dhaaba is one stop which is always seen with a line going outside its shop at night times. Ideal place is the stretch where you can sit and have good talk with your partner or friends. Family people come here for jogging in morning and evening and see sun rising from sea. Come at 5:30 in morning and catch a glimpse of red sun with cool breeze touching your face and cold water touching your feet. Amazing experience!! I did it twice in my ten years Chennai life time.
If you are a movie freak then you must not miss places like Sathyam theater (Near Spencer Plaza, Mount Road) and Inox (Chennai City Center, Marina Beach). Tickets start getting sold on Wednesdays early morning, 12 midnight on internet. Catch your tickets by this time else you would only crave for a good movie release. I would have suggested you to see most of the movies in Sathyam but Inox has also come up really well with its Mall type culture. If you go to Inox, you will be inside a Mall, which is new and modernly designed on some European architecture. It has places to eat, shop and watch movies - an entertaining place near the sea shore that would satiate your desires even after your shopping/eating is done. Sit beside the statue of Gandhi Ji and see kids playing in park or fountain. There is also an area where these kids pass their time and that is their skating ground, which is very close to the fountain. You should see their spirit and enthusiasm to learn skating. They fall everytime they take a turn , but get up again to be ahead of adjascent losers.
For me, these two days were full of fun and excitement as I visited this place after three years. Major thing that comforts me here is the language which I tend to understand to some level and can also converse in the same. I learnt about reading and writing Tamil in my college, at least it helps me in understanding which Tamil movie poster is displayed, which bus goes where as most of the buses will have only Tamil written destination boards (if not the final, at least the "via" portion of it). Communication with autowalas for the bargain part had also become easy those days; even this time I felt the same easiness in me. I would suggest any new person to first read and understand Tamil.
How can we leave Chennai without talking about south indian cuisine? First thing people ask whenever they meet each other is "Saaptiya?", which means "Had food?". Food is something which you can very well rely to be adjusting to. South indian cuisine has a wonderful flavor in it, which can be noticed with its aroma. Some which could be found on any menu here are Curd Rice, Sambar Rice, Idlis, Dosas, Utthapam, Tea, Vadas, Lemon Rice, Rasam, Sambar, Varieties of Poriyals, Appalam (papad), Pickles and More (Chhach - Curd Water), etc that will become friends of your food habits sooner than you expect :)
You should also visit theaters for movies of Vijay, Rajnikanth, Vikram and Kamalahasan. If you miss even a slightest thrill in your life, just purchase a ticket in black or book at 12 midnight on internet and sit in a theater for their movies - "first day, first show". You may miss out on language, but you would not miss on the excitement which is no less than a stadium cricket match of India Vs Pakistan ;). Story line is understood automatically, as least by the moving reels and common sense :P These actors are treated like Gods here and any word against them could lead to small massacre. No movie goes flop here if you have these actors in your movie. Gravity is one thing which you would find missing in their movies, esp i fight and song scenes :P
For women, Jayachandran Textiles, Sarvana Stores, Nalli Sarees, Chennai Silks are some of the exclusive places in T Nagar (Mambalam Station). You would find sarees ranging from Rs 100 to Rs 10,00,000 also here of umpteen varieties. BEWARE HUSBANDS, strict NO NO if you are planning to go with your saree philic wives!! If this is not enough, then save your credit cards as this place is also a hub for the jewellers of Platinum, Diamonds, Gold and Silver. Especially during days when golds are cheap, please avoid. Apart from these two things, you will also find shops for every damn thing for your house - fruits, vegetables, utensils, shoes, sandals, clothes, bags, suitcases - think for one and you would get is here.
Though it was tiring, this trip has slightly rejuvenated my desires to be a Tamilian, but for the time being I should be rather concentrating on my work and not hope for a posting in Chennai, which is one of the strong contenders now.
Sorry Humidity, people can be Chennai's friend only if you shift your place somewhere else!! Please Kunj Gavani (in English - Please give some thought) :)