Chennai: International city

That Chennai is on the global map is without question, with a large number on international visitors for both business and tourism. However, other than the stats released by the Airport Authority of arrivals growth in the 20s, there is very little public recognition that Chennai is indeed, an international city in its own right. So I was very pleased to see just this kind of recognition in the current issue of Newsweek. The magazine has a section towards the last few pages tiled ‘4 hours in’ where they profile different cities from across the globe for the international traveler. The purpose is to give such visitors an idea of what they can do that’s interesting and intrinsic to the local culture and life in just four hours. I’m reproducing what Newsweek had to say about spending four hours in Chennai. I’m sure you’ll find it interesting!

From Newsweek: 4 hours in Chennai

Chennai. Once known as Madras, India’s fourth largest city is known as the unofficial capital of the jasmine-and-sandalwood-scented South.

Visit: the ancient Kapaleeswarar temple, devoted to the Hindu god Shiva (Kutchery Road, Mylapore; 4 a.m.-noon and 4-8 p.m.

Eat: tiffen, the all-purpose South Indian meal of idlis (fluffy, steamed rice cakes), dosas (slightly sour pan cakes made from fermented rice and lentil flour) and vadas (tiny, spicy doughnuts) at Saravana Bhavan (77 Usman Road, T Nagar;

Stroll: through the botanical gardens of the Theosophical Society, which includes a 400 year old banyan tree, once thought to be the largest in the world (Adyar Bridge Road; 9.30 a.m.-12.30 p.m. and 2-4 p.m., Monday- Saturday)

Shop: for silk saris at Sri Kumaran Stores (45 Usman Road, T Nagar; or Nalli (100 Usman Road, T Nagar;

Pretty good, don’t you think? Brief, but manages to capture the flavour of the city. The part I liked the most? Without doubt the ‘tiny, spicy doughnuts!’

5 Comments so far

  1. Navneeth (unregistered) on June 18th, 2007 @ 10:55 pm

    The ladies might consider the last point debatable. :D

  2. raj (unregistered) on June 19th, 2007 @ 5:41 pm

    Chennai has little recognition on the world stage because the city is fast losing its culture I mean look at other major cities around the world they have there own culture and are not trying to kill it of like in Chennai. I don’t see people in Paris ashamed of there language and culture like in Chennai, the refuse to treat English as a superior language however the majority of people here die for English and forget there language and the city still has a large number of problems eg the foul stench found in and around Chennai, poor roads, water issues and a whole list of other things. It will never be an international city with these sorts of issues still to be addressed please let us not fool ourselves into thinking Chennai is an international city it is still a long way off.

  3. ramvaradan (unregistered) on June 20th, 2007 @ 7:30 am

    In an era when the whole world, not just India, has taken a fascination towards western ways — I think all things considered, Chennai still has retained its tradition in a charming way. Maybe its a little bit lost with English-loving folks who enjoy in reading, writing, speaking English. But for a lot of people English is rather a matter of convenience… and not a ‘fashion’. If not so, why are we still reading, writing, speaking, using lots of English in our daily life. I think its just unavoidable.

    The rationale behind the fervent flair for English lies in the deep-rooted English occupation of the sub-continent. The modern education system, after all, was designed in the British era and I think its a natural fallout.

    We should stop cursing ourselves a lot for frequent English usage and rather find innovative ways to lure ourselves back to roots.

  4. Anand Palaniswamy (unregistered) on June 21st, 2007 @ 7:26 am

    Recognition of Chennai’s cultural heritage, and in today’s world, as an important and serious player in 21st century India, has not been easily forthcoming even on the Indian stage.

    Whatever the reasons may be, I think it is certainly nothing to do with English, Western attitudes, etc as suggested above. In fact, Chennai as the capital city and as a major metropolis should become more comfortable and confident of itself as a cosmopolitan city. Change is inevitable. However, I do not think we need to worry that we are ever going to lose our identity or language either in Chennai or indeed anywhere else in the vast state of Tamil Nadu. Parochialism will lead us nowhere.

    The comrarision with Paris is only partially right. I agree that French as a people are proud of their language and culture but they are not backward looking. Paris, as much as any other major world city is truly cosmopolitan in its outlook. And as much as Paris has maintained its uniqueness, Chennai’s own unique identity will also remain forever.

  5. prashanth (unregistered) on June 23rd, 2007 @ 3:00 pm

    entirely disagree with the first poster. Chennai has managed to retain its culture much better than other cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad. What we need however is good marketing, we need to market what we have much better – including places like Mahabalipuram, Kanchipuram, Theosophical society, Dakshinchitra etc. And our infrastructure has to improve.

    One look at any place in the U.S. with any semblance of historical importance and you will know the ways how we are going wrong.

    And why is it that we want to attract international tourists, our city is SO tourist unfriendly that even Indians wouldn’t want to come here.

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