Saturday, December 29, 2012

One tight slap

Some childhood memories stay with you for a life time. I remember one tight slap very vividly and I realize the effect it has had on me.

I was in preparatory school, a boys school (not sure which year of school) and one day playing near home I said something disrespectful to my cousin and my mum gave me one tight slap. That day she taught me that I had to respect girls as I respected her.

The lesson never left me all these days, today people have been surprised when I use the plural for my daughter (neenga, vaanga, ponga) but it is so much a part of me. Since when did children not merit the respect due to them? Respect begets respect.

Today when the nation is outraged I choose to keep my silence because nothing will change by making laws or enforcing them. It all begins with the upbringing. Children imitate their parents; if the father is abusive of the mother or child do not expect the child to grow up any different.

I sigh every time I see parents dropping their kids off to school driving on the wrong side, jumping traffic lights, in short being a public nuisance. I shudder to think what will happen to these kids tomorrow.

The rapists must have had some miserable upbringing; I was outraged when the parents said on camera that their sons deserved to be hanged if guilty. Had they done their duty when they were still kids one young lady will have still been with us today.

People spend money to get the best education but hardly spend time in ensuring that the children get the best values. The task becomes difficult when the parents lack the same values.

Sometimes one tight slap may just be answer.

RIP brave one. You have fought a good fight. I pray for you that the good Lord be with you till we meet again.

Friday, December 28, 2012

I am Po!!!

Why do I like Kung Fu Panda?

I ask myself this question despite watching it for the Nth time on TV because I just love the lines in the movie. They may not be original but they strike a chord and make the typical good winning over evil formula that much more enjoyable. And when you have a bumbling, stumbling, fat panda as the hero there is no reason to dislike it is there?

And having grown up on a feast of Chinese martial arts movies especially those of Jackie Chan, an animated martial arts movie piqued my imagination even before its release and i had a blast watching it.  Personally I prefer Jackie Chan to the master Lee simply because you can expect comedy and action in good measure and forget the plot. So here we have the typical "Master teach me kung fu" hero, who is so bumbling that it looks highly improbable and for a moment you actually empathize with master Shifu when he despairs at the state of his student Po. The novice is rigorously trained and he defeats the villain to claim his destiny. We have seen it all and yet there is a magic to Po and the movie.

You may have seen this many times but take a few minutes to watch this clip again and enjoy the lines. It can be truly inspiring…

P.S. You sometimes pay big money for a personal effectiveness class which is what you just saw

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The outcast

I am an outkast.

Spellcheck corrected it to outcast. Wait, Wikipedia says that means a person with social stigma. I meant to say, I am an outcaste, meaning I am no caste and I am so by choice.

Frankly it did not matter then for I do not remember getting any benefit from it during my schooling & college days and when I joined work. My CV does not require it and it was not mentioned in the profile my folks sneakily made when it was the day to do their duty. That I broke their dreams by taking the decision out of their hands only made them upset and it had nothing to do with the caste either.

My wife knows her caste but since she gets mine, she effectively got nothing and she has not shed any tears about it.

We encountered caste or its euphemism community in the application form for my daughter and the online system would not permit me to leave it blank which I think is a gross violation of my freedom so I opted for the NA.

Caste violence has taken many lives, shattered families and generally made life miserable for people on the receiving end. The other day a caste mob wanting to garland the statue of it long deceased leader clogged the traffic for better part of 2 hours and I really would not be surprised if that deceased leader is being tortured in his after life by the collective ill will of all the affected souls.

The point is has anyone actually gained from caste except for the politicians whose raison etre is their surname. That makes me wonder why do folks flaunt their caste in their names, is it to flaunt their exclusivity?

I always remember this scene…

What Chennai means to me? - The CBC tablog

This post has been published as a part of 'The CBC Tablog.'  The CBC Tablog where CBC stands for Chennai Bloggers Club. About 35 bloggers from Chennai are participating in this blog tag; everyone will write about their favourite city Chennai and what it means to them. Read previous post by Charan here ....

(Image from wikipedia) 

What is Chennai to me? In one word, Home.

If home is where the heart is, my heart is in the right place. Born in Coimbatore, lived in Chennai except for one thing that I miss about Coimbatore, Chennai is always home

So what do I like about Chennai:

-         History: She is a grand old lady, though the dated history of Chennai nee Madras is 360 odd years from the time of the East India Company, the heart of Chennai Mylapore predates it by 2 milleniums

-     Geography: An awe inspiring beach borders an expanding city but the city itself is abundant with various geographic landmarks that would be the envy of many, 3 waterways (now destroyed), several tanks (also being destroyed), hills, wetlands, reserve forests and even lush green farms all within city limits, I have not seen a similar city elsewhere

-      Diversity: Namma Chennai is a given, everyone is welcome and everyone lives here harmoniously; people have migrated from all parts of the country and years later they call this place home. The (in)famous Madras bashai is a kichidi of words from so many languages that it is a class of its own.

-        Culture: drawing from its history, diversity the city is a melting pot of cultures and can be safely said is the cultural capital of the country, though many may scoff,  the music festival that is happening currently is the largest of its kind in the world. Arts, music, dance, drama, cinema are all here and many artists made this city home for it is a veritable treasure trove of the arts. Think of Cholamandalam & Kalakshetra for an idea.

-         Religions: Chennai is home to many beautiful and ancient temples and the agraharams still hold on in the face of rampant developments, Christianity is also recorded in Chennai 2000 years ago when St. Thomas an apostle of Jesus lived in Mylapore and was martyred here. Incidentally the Santhome cathedral built over the tomb of St. Thomas is one of the few in the world and draws tourists / pilgrims from everywhere. Mamallapuram is part of a temple complex and though today there are more tourists than pilgrims it is part of the religious fabric of Chennai

-       Festivals: With a diverse population every month has its share of festivals and holidays  : ) , but the biggest festival here is Pongal when most of the migrants go home to celebrate the harvest festival.

-       Education: Home to some of the best educational institutions in the country both state and privately owned, Chennai is a magnet for people from other places both for schools and colleges.

-         Employment: The GDP of Chennai is more than the GDP of the rest of the state and Chennai has diverse industries and service organizations that provide employment to a booming population

-      Commerce & Industry: The home to many an entrepreneur from the vegetable vendor to some large home grown conglomerates, Chennai has given rise to many success stories and is a favoured destination for commerce & industry

-       Access: A rail terminal, a major rail junction, 3 sea ports, one airport and one more in the pipeline and large bus terminal ensures that access to any location is possible.

-         Healthcare: Medical tourism may be the fashionable thing now, but for years people visit Chennai for the enviable healthcare facilities, boasting of two of the oldest Medical colleges and a host of government & private hospitals, Chennai is the healthcare capital that draws people from both India and abroad. The concept of corporate hospitals developed from Chennai.

-         Sports: Cricket is a religion here as it is elsewhere in the country, MCC is one of the oldest cricket clubs in the country and the MAC ground has hosted several memorable matches over the years. There is a strong domestic cricket league, a divisional football league, Vishwanthan Anand came from here and has inspired a generation after him to excel in the 64 squares, the tennis heritage led by the Krishnans, the Amithraj brothers, the current young ladies of Squash Dipika & Jyotsna all lived, played and trained here. The facilities available may not be world class but they have provided world class talent.

-         Infrastructure: to the naysayers the infrastructure of Chennai is presently exhausted and stretched to the limit but it is still better than many other locations and with a suburban train service that links the suburbs to the business district distances are easily covered. Power supply is regular, roads are available, water supply to most locations is adequate, underground drains when not clogged handle the refuse of the city.

-        Conservative & traditional: people point their fingers and say that Chennai is a conservative city, but it is that which has stood the test of time. They may be conservative or shall we say prudent but they are usually grounded.

-     Entertainment & leisure: From the welcoming Marina the haven of many a love bird on an empty wallet to the numerous parks, cinemas, amusement parks and now malls. Entertainment & leisure options are many and are growing every day.

-      Shopping: Ranganathan Street is the mecca of festival shopping though today the shopping districts have spread and even Annanagar will rival T. Nagar for clothes and jewellery. The high street in KNK and the malls from the old Spencers to the massive EA give enough shopping options, but the thrill of haggling with the platform vendor is still unparalleled 

-     Food: From the 5 star restaurants to the countless stars thattukadai, the city is a foodie’s delight. KNK has some high end dining options; the city is the home of the internationally recognized Hotel Saravana Bhavan. The largest hotel of its kind the Grand Chola is also here.But nothing beats the food made at the homes, the food of the city is a delightful melange of the many cultures that are a part of the city. Indo-Chinese "gopi manjuri" is savoured as much as tandoori chicken or masala dosai. 

What I do not like:
-       People:  some of the worst people live in Chennai. Enough said. The city is liveable because the other half also live here.

-       Weather: the weather in Chennai would have been pleasant with the sea breeze and tree cover but today with increased pollution, decreased tree cover the weather of Chennai is hot, hotter & hottest

-         Traffic: need I say more?

-         Auto drivers:

-    Encroachments of public space: both by ordinary citizens and people in power making public spaces out of bounds for normal people

-         Sanitation: public defecation, spitting on the road, littering,

-     Government: the seat of the government is also the capital of corruption, public administration is pathetic and money works wonders

-     Infrastructure: this is about the insufficient infrastructure, unfinished projects, poor or no planning, diversion, collusion, theft and so many more that rob the people of  good infrastructure for which they are taxed

-         Pollution

-         Politicians & their accompanying sycophants

It may have its faults but it is home and there is no other place I would rather be. And oh yes the one thing I would prefer Coimbatore to Chennai is the people, some really wonderful and respectful people live there.

I am very happy to tag Deepa Iyer - a foodie, home chef, a voracious reader who can finish a book in a non-stop-one-night read and a die hard romantic, she blogs at and
@dipsiyer on twitter.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Tag - Reposted

I was tagged by a fellow blogger in 2008 for Christmas, I just thought I will re-post this with the updates for this year. This is an open tag for anyone interested, just copy the questions, add your answers pass the tag.

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Like the person who tagged me, I haven’t had egg nog. So, I will go for hot chocolate.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Back then during childhood Santa was fun, but now gifts are only from my loved ones and often from whoever picks me as their Chris Child

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
We have a real tree that was atleast 15 feet tall and every year we drape coloured lights on it, but the tree was cut down. : ( .This year I will give it a rest. Christmas did not sprout from a tree

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
No mistletoe. Haven’t seen one except in Tom and Jerry, when Jerry kicks Tom under it

5. When do you put your decorations up?
Usually at the start of advent, now D does it when she can

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
Biriyani any time, holiday or not

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child:
Going to my grand parents place in Coimbatore and having fun with cousins.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I guess early on when the guy who played Santa for a Christmas do pulled of his mask when he had his break

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Can’t remember getting a gift wrapped present on Christmas day in recent years, so I don’t remember

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
The usual stuff, lights, trinkets etc

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
The snow I have seen is nothing like what I see on TV, so no comments

12. Can you ice skate?
Nope. (Do I look like I can?)

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
D got me a watch I still wear, it ranks right up there though it was not for Christmas

14. What is the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
Family,  friends, food, fun.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
Ice cream holiday or not

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Sleep late

17. What tops your tree?

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
Joy to the world

20. Candy Canes: Yuck or Yum?
Don’t know haven’t tried one.

21. What do you want for Christmas?
World peace?!

22. Do you attend an annual Christmas Party?
Guess if, I’m invited by good friends, yes.

23. Do you dress up on Christmas or wear PJs?
I dress normally. Add a jacket for night mass, if its cold.

24. Do you own a Santa hat?
Yup, been searching for it though, haven’t found it this year.

25. Who do you normally spend Christmas with?
Family and friends.

Have yourselves a very merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Peshawri - ITC Grand Chola

There is something about the ITC Grand Chola, this will be the third post directly related to it and is a result of the Indiblogger meet hosted by them earlier. I got the complimentary meal for two at Peshawri their signature North West frontier cuisine restaurant and this post is about that lunch.

After much procrastination and faulty scheduling I thought that I should make the lunch occasion special and so decided to use the voucher on the birthday of my better half and so we went there on the 4th of this month. The fact that both our workplaces are in the vicinity helped our planning.

I remember that last time they inspected under the bonnet of my car at the gates but this time they stuck to the regular boot check and then the mandatory flag on by the many security staff led us to the porch, though this time we took a shorter route than my first visit.

We were greeted by a Namaste by the entire reception / security team and ushered in. I would have really loved a Vanakkam keeping with the theme and the local flavour. We entered the restaurant and handed over the letter to the hostess and we were escorted to our seats. There were around 4 groups of diners at the time so we had a cozy corner to ourselves. A point worth mention is the décor and the uniforms of the staff.

We were handed a menu and frankly I was overwhelmed since I did not expect to be given a choice so I informed the waiter that we were here for the set menu, they handed me one set and informed me there were others, I said that I will go by their guidance and so I did not bother to see much of the menu except the all important price which I will share a little later.

As mentioned it was a set platter and we had a choice of the breads and I preferred the roti while D went for the butter naan. The see through kitchen kept me occupied and I actually saw the flour being flattened and our rotis and naans being made in front of my eyes. (D was facing away so she had only the wall to amuse herself, besides me). Also the most popular order seemed to be the kababs and I saw several skewers being cooked at the same time.

The papads and pickled onions came first accompanied by the best green chutney I have eaten. Then we saw the platters before us. 3 cups of the thickest curd (raitha actually), black dhal and butter chicken, a vegetable salad and 2 pieces of chicken & mutton kababs made up the platter and the bread of choice. At first glance I wondered if it will be enough but all misgivings were soon dispelled.

Oh by the way we were politely informed by the waiter in the tradition of the Peshawri, we are recommended to eat with our fingers. This was very sound advice indeed and finger licking is way better than licking a spoon or fork. I was licking my fingers as the meal progressed the chicken curry was delicious with tender pieces of chicken, but the highlight was the murgh malai kababs, better than the ones at BBQ Nation I think.

The food was nice but what made the meal enjoyable was the wonderful service. We were constantly checked on the food and whether it met our expectations, the waiter even gave us a small explanation of the kababs which reminded me of “The Great Kabab Factory”. During one of my conversations with the friendly staff I mentioned that I would like to blog about the lunch and I asked for a soft copy of the menu. I later received the a la carte menu so I am unable to list the names of the dishes that we had.

As we finished the meal the chef called on our table and enquired again if the meal was good and if we were happy with the same. We nodded our appreciation then they asked us for the choice of dessert. Frankly I skip desserts nowadays (bored with the ice cream / gulab jamun combos) and we were full since the portions were filling and very rich, after much persuasion from their side we settled on a firni for both of us. The waiter who took the order was a trifle disappointed but we assured him that we only declined dessert because we could not eat any more.  The firni was light, smooth and very enjoyable and we managed to finish it with little guilt.

We left the place after thanking the team who again enquired if we were satisfied and if we liked the food, I wondered if this was the standard practice or it was because it was a lean day, but it made us feel very good. One photo op at the lotus pool which was my favourite photo in my earlier visit after the massive stairway we left the ITC Grand Chola. But I know that this will not be my last visit.

Before I forget I tweeted to the ITCGrandChola handle about our visit and about my feedback on the Vanakkam and they promptly responded. I know with this responsiveness and thoughtful service they will go far. I was informed that their rooms were fully booked!!!

And oh before I sign off the set meal was 1450 plus taxes and I think it is quite good.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Grandest Chola(s)

(This is not a description or a travel guide but my experiences at the temples)

I was part of the ITC Grand Chola blog meet and the venue sparked in me a desire to see the inspirations behind the jaw dropping hotel that left all of us awestruck. The inspirations of course are the magnificent architectural marvels of the Chola dynasty of which the temples are the highlights.

I had to visit Kumbakonam and Thanjavur on work and since two Chola dynasty marvels are in the vicinity I combined work with pleasure and drove down to soak again in the wonders of our heritage. I decided to drive down via Ulundurpet which was an additional 30 odd kilometers than the shorter Vadalur route though the better roads made the trip smoother. The Ulundurpet route will take you through Jayankondan and then to Gangaikondacholapuram.

The town’s name is a mouthful but commemorates the empire of Rajendra Chola that stretched up to the Ganga. The monarch built a capital in this town sadly the only sign of it is the magnificent Brihadeshwara temple which is a partial replica of the temple in Thanjavur. And this temple was our first stop.

You cannot help feeling overawed by the temple and it is disappointing that there is hardly anyone around even tourists. This is a splendid edifice and I believe that a day may not be enough to fully soak into the beauty of the temple and its sculptures. The construction itself that has survived most of a millennium is testament to the architectural skills of our forefathers and the mathematical accuracy and precision that is visible makes you hang your head in shame, for these were days without computers, calculators and even log books & tables.

The Archeological Survey of India has done a decent job of maintaining the temples and its environs and it is such a pleasure to walk around bare feet on the lush grass or sit in the shade of the trees. You can just admire the sculptures that adorn the walls of the temple, the nandi that is uncovered unlike the one in Thanjavur, you can run your hands over the stone structure and get a feel of history and you will end up feeling undeniably proud of the heritage of this land.

The main temple is surrounded as is usual by the temples to the other deities, it was sad to see that one such structure was used only as a store room for junk, not sure what the back ground of that structure was. The lion that stood over the old tank and the impressive nandi make for good photo ops.

The inside of the temple is another thing altogether, the cavernous interior further darkened by the infamous power cuts makes it very difficult to find a sure footing. The poorly illuminated sanctorum, the priest on the mobile phone and the omnipresent invertor are last memories of the temple. We then set out to the big brother of this edifice in the earlier Chola capital of Thanjavur.

The temple at Thajavur is proudly proclaimed as a living temple on all the information boards, I am not very sure of the reference to the context but it is fair to say that a millennium of history abides in the confines of this temple. This temple is also dedicated to Brihadeshwara and is a wonder of ancient architecture. Built of stone mined around 50 kms and built using interlocking techniques this temple has survived wars, nature and much more to stand proudly as a sentinel of this town.

I learnt from the displays that there are numerous additions to the temple by later dynasties including the Nayaks who built among others one beautiful temple and the shelter for the nandi.

The temple celebrated 1000 years of its existence recently and has been touched up for the same. The structure appears to be sand blasted or painted over and has a dull sandy shade to it.

Also some modern additions appear rather incongruous and mar the overall appearance of the temple. The complex is again well maintained and unlike the other temple is much frequented by tourists. Again a day may not suffice to completely capture the temple into ones senses there is so much to see, feel and savour. The displays in the hall nearby are wonderful and explain the temple, the history of Cholas, the architecture, sculpture and the paintings and can be a real eye opener.

Time was a constraint and we managed to see what we could outside the temple in the available time and finally entered the sanctum. There was so much of jostling and pushing in the line to the sanctum sanctorum and it was a very unpleasant experience. I suspect that the interiors of these temples are poorly lit to conceal the poor upkeep inside, junk strewn everywhere, poorly erected electrical fixtures are a big disappointment in this wonderful complex.

On the way out of the complex the temple elephant was obliging tourists by posing for photographs alongside for a fee. Its keeper kept telling that pay up if you want to be blessed or take photos, sad state of affairs for such a majestic animal.

If you have not visited these temples, I suggest you make plans ASAP!

P.S. One  memorable and puzzling discovery at the temple, let me know your understanding of this...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The ITC Grand Chola - IndiBlogger meet

This is the second part of the post, the blogger meet itself.

I was probably the last entrant for the meet due to a review in office and by the time I entered the Rajendra hall the 60 secs of fame was over. Personally this is the highlight of any blog meet as you can get a brief on the diverse participants. Since I am not good at anything in particular and since my blog is not a specialist blog I try to seek out similar bloggers.

I was the last to introduce myself and my twitter handle (@vadapoche) brought a few smiles and some acknowledgements from old faces. Then the choo choo train which left me a little winded and the musical chairs which I moved aside so as to not create any damage to my fellow men or women. I shudder to think what would have happened if I tried to sit on a chair with some unfortunate in between.

Since I had no time to break ice and as I could not spot any familiar faces nearby I looked for any team that would have me when the assembly was asked to break up into teams of 10. One team in the making that seemed to like the spotlight (they were on the dias) needed a member and had Chriz wearing shorts. Chriz was motivation enough to ask to join and I joined the team. Please note it was not because Chriz was in shorts.

We were asked to name our team and true to from Chriz proposed Poonam Pandey, after much deliberation, soul searching, head scratching, searching for reference to the context we came up with Poonam Pandya in the hotel called Chola. So then to answer the question why Poonam Pandya, one young woman was titled Poonam and she would fall in love with Pandya who was the leader of the pack. Now armed with a name we had to build up a story of our tour around the Grand Chola. You may know of the “room pottu yosikkarathu” behaviour of movie makers where on the pretext of making a hotel room is used to generate creativity, at least from some English DVDs and high spirits. We had a huge room, and a high tea. The high tea was just that, lots of Indian snacks from vazhapoo vadai to gluten free desserts. Since I have enough calories to spare for some, I fought temptation and stuck to a few nibbles and went about meeting folks. Nothing bonds folks like food and over food a lot of URLs were exchanged and old acquaintances met.

We were asked to develop a story as we toured the grand chola and we had to think on our feet as we walked around as there was so much to see. Before I forget the friendly guide we chose was Vivek, with 6 women I guess it was fair.

The Poonampandyas in full form with the guide

The story started off with a typical boy meet girl plot and then it got confused in typical masala movie style. We had 6 women and 4 men (I had to look at the photo to confirm) and since it was a team effort everyone was in. We planned on an evil mother in law, some woman on woman romance (the French kiss on the stairway was not part of our plan), a villain, the other woman in our story, but by then the tour did not give us enough time to think. Despite the cumbersome hashtagging  (#itcgrandchola, #tweetsfortreats, #poonampandya) I managed to send some relevant, irrelevant, photo tweets making up the story on the way and won a gift voucher (they didn’t tell me for which tweet). The story evolved, revolved, convulted itself to a point that nobody knew what was happening and then the wifi died on corridor 33, so some tweets failed. We made it back to the Rajendra for the result.

I knew that if I did not understand what I tweeted then the possibility of those reading would either result in them having some Eureka moments and make sense of nonsense or just accept it as nonsense and move on. We won the activity simply because we had fun and threw logic out of the window, (actually we couldn’t throw as all windows were sealed for security reasons, but you understand).

ITC made everyone happy by handing out dinner vouchers to all and ensured that all were happy, of course the tees were missed but since they never fit me, I guess it is acceptable. Caught up with some more folks on the way out especially Sylvian whose reviews I frequent.

Old contacts include @narayanh, @preetikag, @ramaswamyn, @vasantG, @Sylvianism, @chrony

A big thanks for Indiblogger for getting folks together like this. I have noticed that these events rekindle my blogging urge and my posts pick up. I think it may be for many others too.

Looking forward to more such meets and smaller gatherings elsewhere.

Oh and by the way since I have the dinner voucher for two in Peshawri, atleast I have one more reason to blog soon.


The team chilling after the meet

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The ITC Grand Chola – a visitor’s view

ITC Grand Chola

The ITC Grand Chola – a visitor’s view

Was a part of the Indiblogger meet and have been a part of all but one of their meets and as part of the meet am posting the venue and the meet as two separate posts. This is about the venue…

The first visit to the Grand Chola is akin to a visit to the Taj Mahal, it can be anticlimactic. Do not get me wrong, there are reams written about both that a certain expectation gets created that may lead to an anticlimax when you actually reach there. The Grand Chola is a 5 star hotel and the Taj Mahal a tomb.

First things first, the Grand Chola holds back no punches in its attempt to be the best in its class and it has come out on top. It overwhelms you with sheer presence and the architecture is jaw dropping from whatever angle you may look and it will give you a stiff neck while you are at it. Everything is grand and grand in French is Big, so there!

I could help being puzzled by a couple of things when I entered the hotel, in no particular order:

  •   Built a shout away from Pallavapuram (now Pallavaram) and in close quarters to the erstwhile capital of    the   Pallava dynasty, why Chola? This question was partly answered by the brochure that explains that the Chola empire was the most glorious of the Southern India. But still the doubt lingers…
  • The Cheras had the bow, the Pandyas the fish, the Pallavas the Lion and the Cholas the Tiger as their emblems, however the motif that dominated the hotel was the elephant. I did not get the connect for the same.

The security detail asked for both the bonnet and the hatch (a first) to be opened at the gate which I learnt was not the only one. At least 7 security guards flagged me on as I circulated the massive property and reached a reception. The mandatory security check and I was welcomed into the lobby and directed to the hall where the meet was held.
This Rajendra hall (apparently named after Rajendra Chola or Gangaikondan) is probably the largest pillar free hall of its kind in the country and comfortably dwarfs the Grand Madras Ball Room. This hall can be configured into multiple options and can hold 8000 guests at full capacity. The hall is simply breath taking!

A partitioned section of Rajendra hall

A few points of note gleaned from a member of the pastry chef team and our guide Vivek before our tour started:
-          The kitchen which we could not see is massive and can feed 8000 banquet guests at one time and runs parallel to the Rajendra hall
-          The Grand Chola is a LEED certified Green hotel and among other things produces its own power from a wind farm and the surplus goes to the grid. Salute!

The start of the tour was preceded by a lingering doubt from the press release earlier which mentioned that the staff walked 25K odd steps daily; we wondered how many we would require for the tour.
The entire building is inspired by the temple building styles of the Chola empire and the structure reminds us of the old temples.

 The motifs on the wall are beautiful and the pillars are colossal. The chandeliers in the lobby took my breath away for a brief moment.

We saw a standard room that is Ipad controlled, everything is on the Ipad and is just a touch away. The room set a high standard and at 10K or thereabouts is a steal.

The room
The pool area (was informed that there are 6 pools, we saw 3) is at the risk of sounding monotonous and repetitive grand (in both English and French) and is a highlight of the hotel.”

The largest pool is in the background
We also saw a gym and the outside of a spa as a treatment was in progress and since it was impolite to intrude we moved on. We learnt of the RFID pillars that tracks client movement and enables the staff to prepare for the guests even before they actually arrive and we were assured that the privacy would not be violated.

I loved the small lotus pool and wondered why it was restricted to just that. Water is very therapeutic and maybe they missed out on more water based installations in the hotel.

The lotus pool I liked
I liked one 3D painting on the wall and was informed that there are many more in the hotel but we did not have the time to check them out. And since the hallmark of Chola architecture is sculptures another thing that was missed was sculptures or art installations around.

“Follow me or you will get lost” said Vivek our helpful guide and what I missed very badly was the directions that is required everywhere. Like in a ship a map everywhere would be much appreciated.
There are several restaurants & bars inside the Grand Chola and thanks to the gift vouchers I can reel off a few:
Café Mercara
Madras Pavilion
For want of time we passed by and did not spend time in any except for a photo op in one bar.

Overhead view of one restauran                                 

 Some points to note:

  •         The absence or relative weak wi-fi signal in corridors 33 
  •           We noticed the incomplete or broken light fixtures in the corridor, for a new hotel looked like an oversight

The ITC Grand Chola lives upto its name as grand (I said it again), however I felt something missing. A grand temple is crowned by a gopuram and everything will converge towards the gopuram, the absence of a central atrium to which the entire hotel can converge has resulted in several insular sections that branch off from different corners. Marble is alien to traditional construction and maybe standards may not permit the use of stone but stone would have made a difference. Carpet, paneling and all rob the hotel of any unique characteristics since this is standard for any big hotel.

Size may not be everything and the sheer size overwhelms and maybe can tire also, wonder how unsuspecting guests will traverse the span of the hotel.

Finally the hotel is only as good as the people and in that aspect I think Grand Chola scores high from what I saw today. Courteous, highly trained, competent and a diverse workforce can take the hotel to great heights. 

                               Our guide Vivek

My best wishes to the team at ITC Grand Chola and a big thanks for having me over.