The Chennai Chapter: The Good, The Bad and The Masala Popcorn

There are certain things, both good and bad, that I never really got used to during my time in India. And there are a ton of things I miss sorely. Here are the Top 10.

There are certain things, both good and bad, that I never really got used to during my time in India. And there are a ton of things I miss sorely. Here are the Top 10:

1.It took me at least 2 months of being there to get comfortable crossing the road in Nungambakkam by myself. And only in the daytime - while I was wearing running shoes that would help me leap to save my life as needed.

It’s like playing live action “Frogger”
2. Naturally, working in the Indian film industry, one of the things I did most while in Chennai was go to the movies! But it’s also something that everyone does the most of over there, thanks to their low, government controlled ticket pricing, that ranks as the lowest in India, and likely the whole world! It’s no wonder that films are the medium that reaches every nook and cranny of Tamil Nadu, when they’re so affordable and accessible. Cineplex, with your ever-climbing rates, please take note!

3. My friend and I met some of the last weavers in Kanchipuram, the birthplace of traditional silk sarees and watched them create beautiful golden-thread-laden works of art. I still do not understand the complicated process even after a 1-hour demonstration. Just goes to prove how much history and artistry goes into every 6 yards of material, which we adorn as a representation of our rich culture.

4. Absolutely no popcorn, no matter how fresh or buttery, can compare to the masala powdered popcorn of Chennai’s iconic Sathyam Theatre.

I actually looked into sneaking back bottles of masala powder in my luggage
5. One of the things I miss most about India (second to the popcorn) is its extensive offering of beauty rituals at affordable pricing. Except for the many, harmful bleaching treatments offered everywhere, it saddens me that I can no longer get my eyebrows threaded for less than a Canadian dollar.
When your eyebrows are freshly done
6. On July 22, 2016 I attended my first ever Rajinikanth film in theatres in Chennai, on opening day! The noise in that theatre was nothing short of deafening, and that was just when the ‘Super Star…’ title card began to appear on screen. I am so grateful for the experience and, one day, hope to regain full hearing abilities in my right ear.

7. Despite the universal love for Tamil and other language films in Chennai, and the extremely affordable ticket prices, it still shocked me to see how easily people resorted to piracy. Within 1-2 days of major film releases there would be copies available on the internet. I was shocked to see people, especially those of middle-class means, watching these copies without any kind of remorse or guilt, and then immediately complaining about the lack of ‘good films’ right after, as though they didn’t understand the connection between piracy and its destruction of the industry as a whole.

How can they not see the irony?
8. “Friends” is still a really big thing there, for some reason. I mean now, 20 years after the show debuted, India celebrates it like it is still this Fall’s hit new series. I loved this.

9. The mall exists primarily for movie theatres, food courts, big-box grocery stores, and a central spot for social gatherings. It quite often feels like clothing boutiques and smaller chain retail stores are there purely to take up space, since the majority of traditional clothing is bought in T Nagar - the heart of sari shopping, and western clothing is shopped for online. On that note – I miss you dearly Myntra and Jabong.

10. And last but certainly not least – I will return for you crispy dosas, mini idlis, kesari, filter coffee, and roadside Burmese cuisine that is out of this world. I’m dreaming of you, mini tiffin meals at Sangeeta. Just hang in there; we’ll be together again soon.

Feature image courtesy of Rajesh Ram On Cinema.

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