Good afternoon everyone! This is Garrett, one of our Maryville College bloggers. Currently, we are at the Ideal Beach Resort near Mahabalipuram, and it is late in the evening. This place is absolutely gorgeous, but you will get to hear more about that later. For this entry in our blog, I will be telling you all about the adventure we took yesterday into Chennai’s sprawling bazaar. So far, I believe that this outing has quite possibly been my favorite activity of the entire trip, and I know that many other group members share these sentiments.
Yesterday, we took a trip through the bazaar with a storyteller. Chennai’s bazaar is a massive area of the city where you can basically shop for nearly anything. Vegetables, fruits, clothing, bicycle parts, coffee, tea, jewelry, and…well basically anything else you can possibly think of! The bazaar is divided by streets with each street selling the same type of item. Obviously, this is a hot shopping destination for many citizens of this large city, and the streets were absolutely packed with people, vehicles, and cows. Yes, I did say cows.
We met our storytellers in front of the Madras High Court. This judicial complex is actually the second largest in the world, and the buildings are all in the Indo-Saracenic architectural style. This is the highest court in Tamil Nadu, and its decisions can only be overturned by the Supreme Court of India. From this location, we were introduced to our storytellers, and we ventured into the bazaar.
One of our first stops was the Armenian Church. This gorgeous building was constructed in 1712, and it is one of the oldest churches in India. This church was actually started by Armenians who traveled all the way from their homeland by foot to trade silk, spices, and gems. This church was a peaceful paradise in the middle of this incredibly busy marketplace.
After we left the church, we moved into the actual bazaar with auto rickshaws. For the record, these vehicles are possibly one of my favorite things about India. They are extremely fun to ride in. The bazaar is an extremely crowded place. Many of us thought that the streets of Chennai were crowded, but they could not possibly compare to the clogged narrows streets in the bazaar. After making it into the middle of the bazaar, our first stop was the street where vendors had piles and piles of vegetables.
With our storyteller’s assistance, we learned quite a bit about veggies used in Indian cuisine, and we actually got to sample raw curry leaves. They were absolutely delicious. Also, on this street I quickly discovered that I am a cow magnet. Many cows were wandering down this street to try and sneak a snack from the vendors, and nearly every single one would waggle its head in my direction. Needless to say, this got quite a laugh out of my group.
After dodging several cows and vehicles, we headed further into the bazaar. We visited vendors that sold oils, tea, tobacco, fruits, and so much more. However, one of my favorite stops had to be the coffee vendor. The coffee here in India is absolutely delicious, and many of us are addicted to it. Though, it is typically served in small amounts which, for people like Jay and Charlie, are not nearly enough. Coffee vendors in this bazaar allow consumers to make their own special blends, so each family has its unique coffee blend.
We also visited the North Indian section of the bazaar. This area was clearly identifiable by the bright colors that many of the women were wearing, the excessive amounts of jewelry, and the facial features of many of the people wandering along the streets. It was quite interesting to see some of these distinct differences between those who live in North India and those who live in South India.
From that point, we headed back to the beginning of our tour via auto rickshaw. Dr. Allocco, Miles, and I shared one of these speedy little vehicles, and enjoyed a bit of conversation on our way back out of the bazaar. We learned what Dr. Allocco’s favorite Indian sweet is, which I am not even going to try to spell, and that she really enjoys the odd red bananas they have here. I am hoping to try both of these things.
The bazaar was an absolutely amazing trip. This area has been in Chennai for centuries, and many of the shops have been owned by the same families for years and years. It provided us with a great picture of how some traditions still remain strong here in Chennai amidst a clearly growing and modernizing city. However, I believe that we are now all thrilled to receive a break from the bustling city to enjoy the beach south of Chennai. Expect some stories about our adventures here in Mahabalipuram soon, and, for now, I am going to enjoy the beautiful night sky with the sound of waves crashing in the background.