A Week in Chennai

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Year ending is usually the time to visit my family back in Chennai. It’s generally a time of pure relaxation, fun, chilling out, pigging out – pure bliss in fact. The whole extended family is around, and it’s great to catch up with cousins, uncles, aunts, and so on.

2017 Christmas was going to be yet another such time. We all drove down to Chennai and had a pleasant couple of days before my father-in-law suddenly turned dangerously ill. His sugar levels dropped drastically (he’s diabetic), and the rest of the holiday was spent with him in hospital, and all of us under a lot of stress.

Thankfully, once hospitalized, he recovered fast and was back on his feet within the week. However, it was generally a bit of a rough time for all of us. And for the most part, we didn’t do anything beyond the first couple of days.

Both Snubnose and Piglet’s first port of call when we go to Chennai is to visit Crocodile Bank. I have blogged about it here, here, and here.

However many times we go though, Snubnose and Piglet are never bored. It’s not very far from our house, the drive there is super-pleasant, and it’s a very peaceful walk meeting our old friends – the crocodiles (some of whom have been in the park since I was a kid). What is the lifespan of these creatures again?

Our old friend – the 17 foot Jaws crocodile was sunning himself and we went a little nuts with the photography. He is a rarely seen creature preferring to hide himself under the water. However, of late he seems to be less shy. We have seen him and got nice clicks these past couple of visits.

On the whole, we weren’t that click-happy (considering it’s our umpteenth visit to the place), but there were a couple of click-worthy moments.

For one, we were surprised to see the vast numbers of birds hanging around the place. Most of them were on trees overhanging the crocodile bank, but there were some quite dangerously close to the crocodiles.

Fearless bird

Fearless bird

You can’t see it in the photo above, but there was a crocodile pretty darn close to it. I stopped for a few minutes waiting to see what would happen, but there was nothing. The bird moved around without a qualm, and the crocodile just emerged out of the water and then sank back in again.

The croc emerging out of the water

The croc emerging out of the water

The Crocodile Bank isn’t just about crocodiles. There are all sorts of reptiles. The gila monitor – another reclusive animal was also sunning himself as was the iguana. Probably the reason why we saw so many animals this visit was because the weather was really mild, so they had all come out from their shelters.

The Gila monitor

The Gila monitor

The color-changing iguana

The color-changing iguana

The gharial also was pretty friendly coming close to us and showing us his sharp teeth. For some reason, this gharial gave me flashbacks to that old Roald Dahl poem – The Dentist and the Crocodile. It used to be one of my favorites as a kid, and I still love it for its whimsicality.

The grinning gharial

The grinning gharial

The only disappointment was the latest addition to Crocodile Bank – the infamous Komodo Dragon. We waited around for almost half an hour but he/she refused to come out of the enclosure. It also looked pretty small in the distance. Piglet who has unrealistic fire-breathing expectations was quite disappointed.

We eventually gave up and consoled ourselves by posing with the much more dramatic looking Komodo dragon painted on the wall, and the crocodile pointing the way to the exit.

Posing with the painted dragon

Posing with the painted dragon

At the exit

At the exit

In spite of the disappointment of the Komodo dragon, this was probably one of the best visits we had to the place. The weather was absolutely beautiful. There was no crowd, and we just had a wonderful walk around the place.

Vandalur Zoo should technically be one of our favorite attractions. After all, as a family we love to visit a zoo. Unfortunately, Vandalur Zoo has always been a bit of a hit or miss experience. We first took Snubnose to Vandalur when she was one, and we had a whale of a time – such a great time that I kick-started my blog talking about all the fun we had.

Since then, though something or the other has jinxed our Vandalur experience. The second time we visited, the lion safari was very disappointing. The third time, it rained and we had to head back home. This time too (our fourth), it was a bit of a mixed bag.

The reason why Vandalur is so difficult is because it’s such a huge place. Unlike our favorite Mysore Zoo (here also), which is compact and easily walkable, Vandalur is a large sprawling expanse. The animal enclosures are really huge (good for the animals), but it makes it very difficult for us to spot too many. The heat can also be sapping.

Invariably we have to queue for the buses to take us around the zoo, and that one-hour plus wait always spoils the fun. In addition, going by bus is never satisfactory as you are on a schedule decided by someone else.

Anyway, this time, all the buses were booked by the time we reached. K decided that walking all the way was just not an option, and he and Snubnose stood in a queue to hire cycles for themselves. Piglet can’t ride a cycle without training wheels, so we thought Piglet and I would walk the distance with K and Snubnose cycling. If Piglet got tired, he could sit in front of K’s cycle.

Seems reasonable, right? Unfortunately not to Piglet. He threw one massive tantrum saying he wanted a cycle of his own. Unfortunately, there was none around with training wheels, or none even remotely his size. That didn’t matter to Piglet though. If he couldn’t get a cycle, then no one could. Finally he would only be placated when K gave up his cycle, let him ride it, and hold it at the back (without letting Piglet know) to prevent him from falling off.

In spite of all this circus, Piglet fell twice – hurting his knee, and spraining his ankle, and was very cranky afterwards.

We still managed a few cheery shots, and got to see all the animals – cranky or no.

Here’s a shot of our smug Piglet when he finally got to sit on the cycle. I love the expression on his face, and K’s relieved expression that his son was no longer making a public spectacle of himself is even more priceless, I think 🙂 .

Smug Piglet after getting his cycle

Smug Piglet after getting his cycle

Well, Piglet’s happiness didn’t last too long. He fell off the cycle in his excitement on seeing the lion enclosure, and then fell off it again in front of a donkey (this time spraining his ankle). The rest of the zoo was simply downhill from then on.

We still had a lovely time at the lion and tiger enclosures though. Piglet was awed enough to keep his mind off his troubles, and just enjoy these magnificent animals.

Gorgeous lioness

Gorgeous lioness

The majestic white tiger

The majestic white tiger

After the lions and tigers, came a string of unsatisfactory (to Piglet animals). The deers, the donkeys (seriously, why are they even in an enclosure?), and the water buffaloes were too boring. And the pain in his leg started hurting, and so we had to dash the remaining 2.5 km as quickly as possible.

I did stop to take a photo of this beautiful deer.

The deer grazing

The deer grazing

It was only once we saw the elephants that Piglet smiled again. K took him up on his shoulders to get a better look, and we all heaved a sigh of relief when we saw we were almost at the sight of the exit gate.

Father, son, and elephant in the background

Father, son, and elephant in the background

The relief once we were out, and finally in the car was something else altogether.

The next day was a family get together at a cousin’s wedding. We all had a great time catching up with each other and childhood reminiscences and everything.

No extended family photos to share here but here’s a click of all four of us in our Indian formals. It’s been ages since we all dressed ourselves to the nines and we definitely had to take a photo.

Wedding photo

Wedding photo

Alas! This was our last happy day in Chennai. After the wedding my FIL got sick, and the rest of our days passed in a whirl of hospitals and doctors.

Thankfully everything eventually ended well, and we are all back in Bangalore – happy and healthy. All’s well that ends well.

How was your Christmas holiday? Did you do anything interesting?

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