A journey to the land of celebration
Men in uniform carrying long firearms, media, photographers, adults and youth spilled over the entrance. Men in tuxedo exchanging handshakes. The uneventful lobby is now crammed but a pathway leading to the lift has been cleared. Huh, has the hotel found out Dutchess Catherine of Cambridge is billeted in Sheraton Park Chennai? She has to find out what the hullabaloo is all about. Stopping by on the way to the lift she asked the lady with two teen age girls on her sides the other holding a camera
'Excuse me, what is going on here?' the Duchess inquired.
"Oh, another cricket team is coming" the lady excitedly told her.
'I see, is cricket a national sport in India?" the Duchess followed up.
"No, hockey is the national sport but cricket is more popular here" she said.
What do you know of India? Bollywood, spicy food, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Calcutta, Slumdog Millionaire?
The Duchess was instantly relieved knowing she can enjoy a life of anonymity away from the paparazzi. Yes, the Duchess had entered India quietly. On her first day she visited the Cambridge testing center but the students are currently on a furlough.
Gods in every nook and cranny
Armed with a cap and her trusted Nubac mini postman bag she traversed the road and streets of Chennai until the trip was halted. A barefooted young man with red bindi (mark on the forehead) holding a coconut husk with fire waving it in front and at the back of a motorcycle. Moments later he forcefully threw the coconut husk on the ground. He returned from the temple with half a lemon with red dye and squeezed the juice on the ground, again in front and at the back of the motorcycle. He must be a spiritual pundit. This is just one of the rituals for blessings and protection sought by Indians from their gods. After all, the Duchess is in India, a nation with hundreds of gods. The temple is a hierarchy (probably a depiction of caste system) of the many gods they worship. One prime god of India has human body with elephant head, with four arms, a huge belly and a snake adorning it. The Duchess thank the LORD for the assurance that she was made in His image, in His likeness. Indians are religious people who go to the temple morning and afternoon. It is common to see in street corners vendors stringing flowers that people bring to the temple. The Duchess see them as hardworking people.
Just before her rise to royalty the Duchess was a commoner who had to earn her own keeps. Business has brought her to India, a trip that led her to scout the Quiapo-like places of Chennai looking for suppliers. A thumbs up for ditching the stiletto to flipflop but thumbs down for failing to change the corporate clothes into a comfy one.
God favors the Duchess for she found a supplier who obligingly did extra work to her satisfaction and endured her demands in such a short notice. Oh, what a bloody reliable man!
The cab driver must be lacking decent sleep or it could be the Duchess took hours working with the supplier that he slept in the side walk with newspaper as his mat.
"Chandru, let's go look for computer shop!" She said.
The search for computer shop that could accommodate her demands was too wearisome and frustrating. Skip that part.
At the end of a long day the Duchess was too happy to accomplished her mission.
The Duchess tried to engage him in a conversation but the man instantly put up a fence
'no English' he said.
She stood by and watched him skillfully flatten the dough then bring it up and swirl it to a coil. He has to finished all the batches before he could begin to fry them. She left curious as to its taste.
Hopped to another hole in the wall eatery she caught the man dropping flat round pieces of Indian food (similar to a communion bread but six times bigger) in a wok filled with boiling oil. Seconds later it grew to become pappadum, a junk food similar to kropeck. Two Rupees for a piece of pappadum. Here's a tip, if you want a taste of India at its best just watch him strut his stuff as he reach for pieces of pappadum with his hand and wrap them in a newspaper. If you are squeamish then forget it.
The nearby burger cum coffee joint became her saving grace for some quick meals. One dinner she ditched the thought she's on a sabbatical leave drinking coffee and went on to order an Irish frap. A bloody good tasting Irish frap! The Duchess though well acquainted with spicy food found herself sniffing while gorging on grilled Mexican chicken burger prepared the Indian way.
The hotel receptionist ever looking elegant in her saree with hair neatly tied in a bun. The Duchess pressed the lift's button to fourteenth floor. Swiped the key card, plopped herself on the couch and turned on the TV. The woman in the music video is gyrating to the sound of Jai Ho (which means 'may victory be yours').