Subject: Re: Madras, India
Hi Gretchen:

If you have only one day in Chennai/Madras don't try to see anything in particular; just get a feel for the town by doing ordinary things:

Brunch/lunch at the venerable Connemara Hotel on Binny Road, and look in the hotel to see if Giggles Bookshop is still there. It was one of the best bookstores in India, considering its diminutive size--owned and operated by an ex-academic. If not, there is a excellent bookstore further down on Anna Salai that is huge and carries hundreds of titles in English.

Walk down Anna Salai (Mount Road) and browse in all the shops; go to Spencer's department store (it wasn't a North American high-rise type when I was there, but it might be now; Chennai has some shiny new shopping malls, so people have told me). Somewhere on Anna Salai is an American-style restaurant where they serve sodas, pizzas, etc. and play American pop music on an old piano at lunchtime--at least, they used to. It was great fun--I ate there quite a lot.

Take a taxi to Adyar and visit the grounds of the Theosophical Society (usually open to visitors between 11 and 3, or similar hours) and see one of the oldest and largest banyan trees in the world. It's a lovely walk through the large, tree-shaded campus; ask at the central office if you can walk to the back of the grounds to the beach. Normally only residents are allowed that far, but they can only say no, can't they? Visit the bookstore on the grounds--it's near the front gate--mostly eastern religions and esoteria but still interesting. They have some attractive little bookmarks that make inexpensive and carryable souvenirs.

If you want to see something touristy, go to Fort St. George, built by the East India Company during the 17th century. It has a museum with East India Company artifacts, and also what is reputedly the first English church built in India, St. Mary's. Clive of India was married there.

Ajay Kumar can probably get you up-to-date information on any of these suggestions Have a great time in Chennai. Pity you don't have two days, because Mamallapuram is only about 40 miles away; it's a very special outdoor temple complex with awesome carved figures and scenes taken from Hindu mythology. The small but evocative Shore Temples were my favorites-- those, and the higher-than-a-person free-standing elephant, cut from a single rock.

Mary Anne

PS. If you have any extra time while in Agra, ask to go out of town ten miles to the deserted citadel of Fatehpur Sikri, once Emperor Akbar's capital. Now there is something to see! If you need any more info, or some India web sites, I'll be glad to suggest a few. You can email me privately if you like.