Sunday, July 6, 2008

Pictures from May 18 - 22 in Chennai

We thought we'd show a few pictures from past blog descriptions.

Kapaleeshwara Temple--one of the most popular Hindu temples in Chennai, and one of the two we visited on Dad's first full day in India. Take a look at all those carvings all over the temple roof. Each carving tells a story. The carvings are so detailed and intricate, and I was just dying to sit and listen to a few dozen stories right then (as long as I could sit in the shade). But, surprisingly, they don't employ story-tellers around these temples. One wonders if the Hindus just know all the stories already, something like we know the Bible stories?

A closer look at the same Temple roof. Our guide said that the figures get re-painted every couple of years. This particular temple had so many different temple roofs that I think the guide said one roof is being repainted at all times. Some rather scanty-looking scaffolding was up around one portion of the roof where some painters had been working.

Sahji surprised us one morning at breakfast with fresh coconut-juice. Each of us had our own coconut, and Sahji poked a hole big enough for a straw in each one for us to drink. Heidi and I didn't like it much--it wasn't very sweet, and was room-temperature (WARM). To remedy that, Sahji dumped the girls' and my coconut juice into cups, stirred in some sugar, and put it in the fridge. The taste is MUCH improved when it's sweet and chilled!

One of the scenes from the back alleys of T. Nagar shopping district. This is the part of Chennai I'd been looking for ever since we arrived--these abundant fruit stands where the Chennaites do their shopping for good deals on the best fruit and other goods in town.
See that lady shopping--the one in the yellow and red chudy-da? That's the way the ladies dress everyday--wearing an elegant, colorful sari or chudy-da. They look all dressed up, but this is everyday clothing. We, in contrast, looked quite dull in our pastel, white, or grey t-shirts and black, tan, or denim jeans.

Another scene from the back alleys of T. Nagar. The huge green leaves underneath the goods are banana leaves--the same leaves that people eat from as plates. I think this lady is selling spices.

A sari-shop. Notice the plethora of fabric, all in bright colors. Sari shops were as common as street-signs in Kansas. There seemed to be one on every block in Chennai.

Sahji (in the blue shirt) and Chandra-shake-uh (in the white shirt) serving up our special South Indian meal, complete with banana leaf plates, and no silverware allowed, except a spoon for the "sweet," (that's what they called the dessert. Dessert was usually a bread-pudding, or a sweetened rice-sort of concocotion. The girls and I never really got too excited about the "sweet," but Byron generally enjoyed it.).

A typical South Indian meal. Look at the size of the banana leaf-plate--it's as big as a cafeteria tray! You were to pick up a pinch of rice in your hands, then dip the rice in the yellow sauce or in the yellow vegetable (above the rice) and pop it into your mouth. The fried bread on the top right (it was crispy, like a corn-chip) was also good for dipping in the sauce. The orange item is a slice of mango, and the small red portion near the top left is a very, very hot pepper sauce, that made you sweat and gasp for breath, but which was pretty tasty. The bowl at the top left was our "sweet," to be eaten with a spoon. It was a sweet rice dish, sort of like tapioca pudding.

The girls on their bed playing Uno with Grandfafa and Daddy. Because all three girls share a bedroom in Kansas, we didn't think they would like to be split up between two bedrooms in Chennai. So, we put them all into one bed and waited to see how it would work. They loved it--it all seemed like part of the adventure of India. Now that we're home, Heidi, in particular, is having a hard time getting used to sleeping "all by herself" in her own bed!

The star-struck girls with the dancer at the Raintree Restaurant in the Taj Commodore Hotel in Chennai. She took a break between her dances (probably to get a drink and cool down--it was HOT even in the evening), and seemed surprised when summoned to meet some adoring young American fans. The girls were enchanted with her, and she seemed to be just as pleased with them. Notice Erin and Lily are holding their papers for her autograph. Heidi is sporting her chudy-da, bangles, and jasmine flower in her hair, and feeling quite Indian for the evening. The dancer wore heavy makeup, and beautiful jewelry--the girls and I particularly think the jewelry that the dancers and brides wear down the middle of the top of their heads and foreheads is very pretty. The dancer wore four or five layers of jingle-jangle ankle bracelets (almost looked like jingle-bells on a leather base) around her ankles for the dancing, but she took them off for her break. Probably so she wouldn't make so much noise walking around! Stomping her feet was an important part of her dancing--she would point her feet and stomp them flat on the ground for emphasis many, many times in the dance. That was the only part of her costume that made noise. She would move her hands, arms, neck, legs and feet in ways that would tell a story--every move conveyed some sort of meaning or portion of the story (so explained our hostess). The dancer was very expressive with her face, too. Indian dancing is so interesting to watch, even if you don't know what story is being portrayed. It's very different from any other kind of dancing I've seen in the U.S. (which admittably is mostly limited to ballrom, ballet, and tap-dance!).

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