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That is the #airindia plane I came in.

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Aah...cute little ‪#‎me‬ at Anna international terminal in chennai :) It's quite a short flight. You only have time to get in, eat and get out. I don't think I am a flying person cos I was feeling nauseous all the way. Was not comfortable at all. I couldn't understand the reason. So was pretty glad to be on the ground. It really didn't feel like I've left the country and have come to another. Hmmm..

The Anna airport in Chennai didn't have wifi. I was soooo hoping for airport wifi to stay in touch with my family in Colombo and mostly my couch host in Chennai. My Sri Lankan mobile sim automatically changed to roaming, but I knew it was going to cost me a massive lot if I use it, and decided to keep it for an emergency.

At the immigration, there were notices about the SIKA virus. OMG, I didn't do any research on what must be going on in India during these days. Is this like spreading fast here? Would I catch it? I really don't want to be sick in India and mostly, I really don't wanna DIE in India. Panic mode hits my thoughts. I asked the immigration officer who checked my details about any information he would know about the spread of the virus and the situation in India. He said that the notices are just for awareness and information, it is not spreading or no cases have been found inside India yet. Phew...relief. Now, done with the immigration, got my bag.

No wifi so no mode of contact. Maybe I could find a shop in the airport to buy an Indian mobile sim. But no such luck. Although the Anna airport has been renovated and massively constructed, services for a newly arriving tourist is minimal. You will find a pre paid taxi service to get to where ever you want to go from the airport. There were I think 2 of them. And a Foreign Exchange counter. I had already exchanged Indian rupees worth of USD20 before I left Colombo. Those are easily done at private money exchange shops in Colombo, don't even have to go to banks. These private shops do it without even charging a commission. So what you give is exactly what you will get in different currency. Though I had some cash with me, I wanted to exchange some more just in case. But the rate at the Anna airport, was lesser than what I got in Colombo, so, I didn't.

The pre paid taxi told me it was INR480/= to go to my friend's [host] place. Good thing I had her address on my whatsapp. I was planning on following Google maps to find her place, but with no internet that was out of the question. I didn't know where this place was. So, in my thought process, if something is INR480/= in the airport, it must be lesser outside. I asked the girl in the money exchange stall if I could catch the train. I remember the very first time I came to Chennai, my friend took me in the train from the airport. She showed me that its just in front of the airport. But all I could see was darkness and light bulbs. Just wasn't clear what she was talking about. The space from the airport building to the main road is so far that you can't see much from inside the airport. Besides it was dark and I didn't know my way around the place AND to make things worse I had no mode of communication. So maybe trying out unknown modes of travelling is not a very good idea at this point. Anyhow, I didn't take the pre paid taxi at the airport and just walked out.

Coming out of the Anna airport and into Chennai city, it was nostalgic. Or should I say Deja vu? Felt like the very first time I came to Chennai. The same memories came back. I turned around to see the new constructed airport building. My! Well done Chennai. It was beautiful. Quite impressed. Clean, nice, spacious, organized. And like how I remembered, people were not crowding up right at the arrivals asking if I wanted a taxi. I remember it being something more like a bus or train station rather than an International airport. But now things have certainly changed.

As I was walking out, a part of my brain told me to get a train as the girl in the exchange stall said its right opposite. But I still couldn't understand where exactly. And since it was Chennai and since it was dark I was a little afraid to ask anyone for directions. It was like jumping straight into the lion's mouth or I might as well. Showing that you are not familiar in the place is the first thing you SHOULD NOT DO. When you are travelling and especially alone, you should never show anyone that you are scared and lost. Both of which I was. And then I see my notification light blink on my phone. My sister had texted me "Where are you? Why have you not contacted us yet?!". Great! that is exactly what I needed right now, panicked family to deal with. First things first, I should get myself into a vehicle that would take me to my host's house. Since I don't know where it is or how to go there, I only had an address, I have to play this smart.

At the exit, another pre paid taxi stall. "How much to Besanth Nagar?" a little bit of Hindi and an Indian accent on the English, I ask the guy at the counter. Maybe that DID helped me on top of my unflattering Indian looks, the counter guy couldn't care less. With the least interest he said it's INR490/= So it was 10 bucks more than the airport shop. Hmmm... this is interesting, the shops inside the airport are cheaper. Nevermind, right now I just need to get over to a place with wifi and quickly put everyone at ease. The porter guy just took my bag, which wasn't even heavy and started walking out fast. I was practically running. What the...? I don't want to lose my bag on the first day! Then he stopped at a car and I showed my pre paid invoice. I got in, took my bag from the porter and waited for the taxi to start. But it wouldn't and the porter wouldn't close my door. Hmmm...I am supposed to give a tip...? Now, I didn't see THAT coming. I had only INR10/= from the balance got from the pre paid taxi and the rest of the money was just too much for a porter. Usually INR5 would have been good. So this porter was extremely happy when he got a INR10 ! His lucky day.

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The taxi started off. I was looking around and so much has developed. Probably I never got to see it like this before, because every time I came here it was raining. And Chennai is NOT a place you want to see wet! It is absolutely horrible when it rains. And also because I would always have a friend to pick me up from the airport and not gotten a chance to see around. So this time I am alone and have time to look around. While I was on the move I texted my host but it didn't go. I replied my sister's text and it cost me LKR9/= on Mobitel roaming. So no more using roaming. I told her that I will contact everyone once I get to a house.  As I looked around I was still in awe how big this country is. Maybe it was the realization how little Sri Lanka is. It was during this taxi ride that I truly felt that I have left my country. There were massive boards with the word "amma" written in Tamil. That is the little Tamil reading I know. Something to support Jayalalitha, the minister I think. So if she was back in power or if people were so into her maybe I should be more aware on things that happens around. Just relating to Sri Lankan and Chennai Tamil politics, so always better not to get involved in things and be on the safe side. And by this time I didn't know what type of a person my host is going to be. She has no references on the Couch surfer site. I selected her because she was the only female who responded to my request. So, pretty much I had no choice. I am getting a little worried and scared how things would turn out. This could even be a matter of life or death maybe, I mean I am going to a complete stranger's house. No one else but me and her knows about this. No one in my family has any clue who I'm going to stay with and who this person is or even to contact her. The only relief I had was the fact that, my father could track my location.

Yes! I was dog tagged !

My phone Sony Xperia E4 has a tracker, in case the phone is lost or stolen. Once I update the settings to my Google account, then from my email I can access the location of my phone. Ofcourse it was originally set up to my email address. But what was the point of me tracking my ownself? Also to ease my father's agony, I set it up to his account so that he could track me where ever I go. At-least now if I am killed and dumped somewhere, my dad can track the person who took my phone and that could help find my killer ... hmmm...yes as matter of fact, these thoughts did cross my mind when I was in the taxi.

At first the driver was like I know this place blah blah...but when we got to Besant Nagar, he was like, I don't know where this place is. WHAT?!! I remember something similar happening in Nepal when I went with 3 friends, then the driver just abandoned us and went missing! We had to find our own way! Now that is NOT something I am gonna do tonight! Definitely not! Besides, I have already paid this guy and I am certainly not hiring another taxi. So I got him to ask around and find his way. Stupid man! My host's apartment complex was pretty far from the airport. Maybe it felt like that because I had always stayed at hotels closer to the airport and main attractions. And also because like I said before, everything is so big, so things are much further than how it is in Sri Lanka.

Since I didn't have Google maps also, I couldn't help the driver find the way. First I asked him to find Appar Street. Once we got to that, Finding the apartment wasn't that hard. Finally! I am at the apartment! I am finally at a place and no longer on the road. It is about 8pm by the time I got there. There was major traffic on the road on our way. And I have been up and moving about from 1pm. My last meal was in the plane so I was not that hungry. Most importantly what I wanted was to call home and let everyone know I am ok. Now, finally I can do that.

Original Post on www.thesathiworld.wordpress.com

 

Published by SaThi