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Shopping in Chennai, India on my birthday...


Evelyn Hannon

This is an excerpt from my Semester At Sea diary when I circumnavigated the globe in 108 days. Our ship was docked in Chennai, India for 5 days...


Waiting at the dock...

It was boiling hot in Chennai today; I left the ship early to meet the two local women (I had met through who were coming to pick me up with a car and driver. I walked to the main gate with some of the students. As usual we were inundated with rickshaw drivers who wanted to take us into town. The other students left and I stood close to the harbour police waiting for my lift to show up. The police probably thought I was a bit strange but there was a method to my madness. Firstly, the police had a tiny tin roof to protect them from the blazing sun and I needed that protection. Also, if I stood beside a policeman the rickshaw drivers couldn't harass me which was a great relief.


I met my HERmail mentors...

Eventually my car came and I met Winnie and Shanti -- two lovely women of a certain age. Winnie spent a lot of time on her cell phone. She also spent a lot of time berating her driver who, she said, was very lazy. It was very amusing to me. Though their skin was darker than mine and one wore a sari, these two Indian women could have been middle aged women anywhere in the world. We worried about the same things, had the same problems with our cell phones and noted the same ongoing aging processes in our bodies. I was instantly comfortable in their company.


New girlfriends go shopping...

We talked non-stop, they took me shopping for clothes, showed me the correct ways to wear Indian clothing and bargained on my behalf. We met a lot of other Semester At Sea students and staff in the Spenser Plaza. Winnie and Shanti helped them as well. These two new 'girlfriends' sat outside the department store dressing room and commented on outfits. 'OK'ing some purchases and discouraging others. They were so generous with their time and energy as I dragged them from shop to shop to find exactly what I needed.

I will be eternally grateful for the way they dealt with the shopkeeper who was selling me a hand-embroidered pashmina from Kashmir. They went over that shawl with a fine-tooth comb. And when they were sure I was getting the 'real thing' they worked as a tag team to bargain the poor man down, down, down! I love my shawl. It is my birthday present to myself and the pashmina of my dreams.


Check out Spenser Plaza...

The shop I bought my shawl from in the Spenser Plaza (769, Mount Road, Chennai) was called Crafts Bazaar. Their address is G 109 A-2, Ground Floor, 2nd Phase. I recommend them highly. I've had my shawl for two years and it still looks as good as new. Please remember that you won't get a durable scarf for $10. I paid somewhere in the vicinity of $50 after some pretty hard bargaining. Use that as your shopping and spending guide. P.S. This shop also sold handicrafts, jewelry and hand knotted carpets.

Once I got all my shopping done I took Winnie and Shanti for brunch at the Taj Connemarra, next door to Spenser Plaza. It's one of the nicest hotels in town and since it was my birthday it was the perfect place to celebrate in style. That March 15th in Chennai was a memorable day that I won't soon forget.

We sailed from India that night; I left with loads of wonderful memories of people and places I won't soon forget.

A photo album of our shopping day together







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