My French encounter in Chennai

Source: Uncle John's Bathroom Reader
Source: Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader

When I started for work today afternoon, I left with the feeling that it was going to be another working Sunday – dull and boring. I booked UberPool as usual and started chatting with a lively driver about politics and current events. You would think that media know more about what is happening in your city. But talking to these drivers has made me feel otherwise. They are so knowledgeable and few even have questioned me things that media was supposed to do, yet it does not. 

Just 3 kilometre from my destination, we got another booking. And went thought, “Damn, another rider and here I was so close.”

At that time, little did I know this unsuspecting riders would add spice to my dull working Sunday.

The two people who boarded the cab was Laura and her boyfriend from France. Laura was a little more than 5 feet with short light brown hair and a sweet smile. She said, “Hi,” even as she was getting into the cab. She made it easier for me to start conversation. Her boyfriend, lets say his name was Lucas, was rather tall with blue eyes yet equally lively.

This is their story. Laura and Lucas are on a four month long trip to India. Chennai is first on their list and they are travelling across the country from Chennai. Laura said, “We will be in Chennai for three days and going to Pondicherry, where we will be there for close to 10 days.” After Pondicherry, they are going to Goa, Rajasthan and Varanasi. For the rest of the journey, their schedule is flexible. “When we travel, we meet a lot of people. They suggest us lot of places to visit. So we are keeping it open,” Lucas put in.

Laura is a banker, while Lucas is a Landscaper. They have taken 10 month off to travel in Southeast Asia. “We are going to other Southeast Asian countries. After India, we are going to Bangladesh. Then China, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and finishing off our trip with Indonesia,” Laura. “Then we are going back home to France,” she added, her voice wistful.

“I really like Chennai. It is hot. In France now the temperature would be zero degrees,” Laura said. “But I like the people, culture, temples and food,” Laura explained. “I think I’m really going to enjoy our trip in India. There is so much see and everything is so different from back home,” she said with a smile.

But there have been few not so good experience as well. Demonetisation was a culprit again. “We went to withdraw money from ATMs and they are all so crowded. While we were waiting for our turn, someone approached us and promised to give us cash. That man took us to an American restaurant where his friends were waiting and made us pay for the food there,” Laura recalled.

“Then he told us, pay for our food and I will give you money. So we paid using our MasterCard,” she said. “But we realised we need to be more careful. It also adds to our experience,” Lucas added.

“So where are you heading now,” I asked them. Lucas took a tour guide out of his backpack and gave it to Laura mumbling something in French. Laura skimmed the pages and pointed out, “This is where we are going.” They are going to our very own Hotel Saravana Bhavan for lunch or rather brunch.

“We are heading to beach next. Is it close by?” Lucas asked me. “Yes, you could just walk straight in this (Wallajah) road and you will reach there,” I told him.

“Oh ok. Good. It was great meeting you,” Lucas said and flashed a smile. Both entered the hotel, where I saw them getting a warm greeting from the security, who showed all of his teeth. .

Foreigners sure get a lot of attention in India, I thought to myself. For business establishments, white skin means more tips. And for people like me, it is interesting to see and talk to people of different cultures and understand what is it that attracts people to India. Though some I have met before are not as social as Laura and Lucas, talking to them kind of widens your horizon. It sometimes makes you look at the country differently than you did before and appreciate them.

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