Thursday, March 21, 2013

Chennai's Marina Beach - World's Second Longest Natural Beach

Marina Beach carries a record of sorts. This Madrasi stretch is a daunting, albeit inviting 13 kilometers making it India’s longest natural urban beach. It faces the Bay of Bengal and drains further into the immense Indian Ocean. But I didn't know all these before I went there. The beach is the single most important itinerary for tourists in this area. Who doesn't like the wind against his face? Or the seductive dipping of your feet on a cascading ripple of water on powdery sand? This natural beauty is stuff that inspires poetry. And the wind that blows continuously on the coast dissipate all your cares in the world.

From my hotel (Anitha Towers), I leisurely walked several blocks before finally reaching the beach. The roads were punctuated by uneven ground, and 50 meters before the promenade, I saw a machine siphoning sewage by the roadside, the hose was spewing grimed excreta all over the road. I froze when I saw the brownish puddle occupying a good part of the road.

What is with Chennai (Madras) and her utter disregard to keeping feces contained in places where people couldn't see, touch or smell them? I am just baffled. I was barely two hours in the city and I've already encountered fecal displacement in a very public manner. First, at the rail tracks then here.


I proceeded to walk, trying hard to ignore the unhygienic and gut-churning display. The beach will be a better scene, I was sure. The sand at the Marina was fine, unlike Mumbai’s rocky formations. Its beige color would glisten like gold in the bright sun, but for now, it was just a wind-swept seaside locality with few people. It had been drizzling all day. Had it been sunny, this place would have been filled with daytime revelers. This after all is India’s most crowded, with throngs reaching 50,000 during summer weekends.

Marina, it turns out, has always been popular. In fact, a picture (shown in this page) taken in long forgotten 1913 showed a musical parade trooping the ground. The waves here are supposedly cantankerous so swimming was discouraged, but what I witnessed wasn't so. Water was shallow and there were boats parked from a distance. 

A band parades at the Marina Beach in 1913. This photo only courtesy of wikipedia from the negatives of Messr. Nicolas and company.

A guy on a motorbike bumps against a CNG.

Later that day, I visited a restaurant for a bit of a snack. I wasn’t particularly hungry, but I needed to check-out the local gastronomic fare; nothing fancy. Just the usual everyday stuff that people order. I got Oman Uthappam (35 rupees), chicken omelet (45 rupees), and a pot of coffee (25 rupees). I liked the Uthappam (spelled differently in various places: uttapam, ooththappam, etc.) This dish isn't crisp nor crepe-like, but thick like a pancake, with toppings cooked right into the batter.

The chicken omelet was like any omelet with strips of chicken on it (which I ordered just in case the uttapam didn't agree with my gastronomical requirement). The smell of coffee was heady. Just when I thought I’d have a single cup, I was served a whole pot! But what caught my eyes were the little platters filled with different condiments (if you call them that). There’s jam, butter, dhal, etc. Beautifully arranged, like culinary toys. I couldn't take my eyes off them. There were 4 pieces of toast. I took note of the other items on the menu: idly, vada, pongal, sada dosai, etc. Each one sounded as exotic to my ears. Meanwhile I had a whole plate of uttapam to consume.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Utthappam (left), toast, chicken omelet and a pot of delicious coffee.


Chicken omelet

Like culinary toys

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