‘I think I’ll pack this yellow khadi suit,’ said Specky, my wife, ‘will be absolutely cool and go well with the blue skies in Goa.’
I smiled because this was the fifth yellow to go into her bag after yellow silk jootis, yellow cotton cap, her notebook with a textured yellow cover, and a pen that had bright yellow stripe running through its length. I laughed and replied, ‘lets call this our yellow trip then.’
How Chennai pops up as a surprise
And so we reached the airport with so much golden-yellow in our words and smiles that I’m rather glad the cab driver wasn’t a potential kidnapper with a penchant for gold. Once inside we were glad to find the airline counter with no queue and so we simply walked up and I presented the print-out. Soon enough the airline staffer flashed a golden smile and waved our boarding passes with a bright yellow band of some advert, ‘Gate 32 sir. Your seats are 32 G and 32 F. Enjoy your trip to Chennai.’
‘Thank you,’ I said and turned back but Specky gave me an alarmed look and asked, ‘Chennai? Some mistake there. We are going to Goa. Check the boarding pass.’ I did just that and sure enough the destination was Chennai. There was no alternative but to ask the airline staffer, ‘Why Chennai? Is every flight going there? I mean, do we get a connecting flight from Chennai?’
‘No, no, no sir,’ said the staffer with genuine puzzlement, ‘your tickets are for Chennai. Please check the print-out.’ So I checked the print-out and sure enough it had a large happy Chennai written there. We walked out and Specky asked, ‘Chennai? Phew! You booked tickets for Chennai? Not again…’
That trailing and rather nostalgic ‘not again…’ was because I had set the dubious precedence (now promoted to a dubious reputation) of having booked our hotel stay in Hanoi while our travel plans were for Havelock Island. ‘The resort has the same name,’ I had protested, but Specky simply said, ‘You are too careless on the internet.’
‘I guess I am careless on the internet,’ I admitted, ‘but hey, come on, your bag is anyway full of yellow stuff. I guess it is a good omen and the locals will love your love for yellow. Let’s have a fun stay in Chennai. Come on, let us #TravelToExplore and be #OpenMinded about sudden changes.’ We anyway had no hotel bookings and had decided to get them done once we reached Goa… oops! now it will be our first task when we reach Chennai.’
The blind date begins
‘Come on, smile and #SayYesToTheWorld as this is what matters,’ I told Specky, ‘Chennai is going to be our blind date. I’m sure we are going to have fun there.’
‘Fun,’ drawled Specky, ‘your internet slipups are more than fun.’ She smiled and I laughed and we were off to Gate 32 to board our flight to Chennai. The funny part of our flight is that there was an over-abundance of white all around. White kurtas, white dhotis, white shirts, white trousers, pearly white toothy smiles, white idlis for the free in-flight meal, and lots of passengers wearing white sandals or white shoes. There was so much white that I actually turned to Specky and whispered, ‘Yellow was probably a fad that is now over. I hope you have packed in a few white salwars.’
Frankly, I didn’t know what to expect in Chennai. Our entire trip research was for Goa and my notebook had five pages full of what we wanted to see and eat there. From the beaches to be visited to the forts, from the Konkan architecture to observing Konkan culture… and here we were now off to Chennai. All I had read somewhere is that Chennai was fond of yellow.
‘Yellow,’ I murmured, ‘this can’t be serious. I mean, how can there be too much of yellow anywhere?’ But then blind dates are not just full of surprises but also full of wide-eyed acceptance of factoids that appear like bolts from the blue.
The Bay of Bengal isn’t yellow
As we waited for the carousel to whirr to life and bring our checked-in bags, I looked around and wondered when I would see yellow. And so I sang:
When will my world be yellow
I wait with eager expectant eyes
For yellow sights for a yellow hello
Yellow idlis and even yellow pies!
Specky gave me a stern look and said, ‘Chill! Chennai is like any other city and has every colour. Stop your yellow rhymes now and let us book a hotel here.’ Well, Specky does all the simple work like booking hotel rooms, buying groceries, cooking, arguing with the maid and so on, while I pick the difficult tasks like finding the right spot for a selfie or a picture, the movie to be watched on the TV, humming impromptu rhymes, and joking with cab drivers. The most difficult task at the moment was finding all things yellow. So once our hotel room booking was done, we marched out… and straight inside a yellow cab. There were yellow autos alla round, and yellow hoardings, and even wall posters with yellow splashed generously. I chuckled and exulted, ‘We’re in yellow land now, Specky.’
‘Keep quiet…’ she said but I knew the way her words trailed away into a silent phase that she too had begun getting yellow pastings on all her nerve endings. There were bright yellow bananas in some store that I excitedly pointed out, the yellow external walls of houses, the yellow plastic shades on kiosks, men wearing yellow coloured helmets, yellow cars, yellow leaves, yellow boundary walls, yellow backs of oil-tankers, and even yellow reflections. As we drove on, we went by some beach and Specky said, ‘Look there! The Bay of Bengal isn’t yellow! Ha! Ha!’ But by this time our cab driver had somewhat caught on to our game and flashing a bright pearly white smile, he said, ‘Look to your right sir. The school boy with yellow goggles.’
‘Thank you,’ I said, and asked his name.
‘Call me yellow, sir,’ he replied sportingly, and pointed to a yellow pumpkin being sold by an old lady and said, ‘Parangi kai. Manjal poosani.’
‘Right,’ I said, ‘Interesting. Very interesting indeed.’
And then he explained, ‘We are the sun chasers, sir. Devoted to the sun God. Sun is yellow. So yellow is auspicious. You know auspicious? Good omen. Good. Right?’ Our learning had begun in earnest. We were told that this was why even the jersey of Chennai Super Kings was yellow. ‘We won so many matches. Sun God with us,’ he said, ‘Yellow is the best fellow.’
Now that last sentence was sheer poetry. There was no reason why I could let go the opportunity to show off my ability to produce rhymes at an instant and I said:
Yellow is the best fellow
Yellow never lets you mellow
God’s blessings are for yellow
You’re a good man, cabby fellow!
The four-liner was obviously dedicated to the cab driver and acknowledged it by saying, ‘Wait, I will take diversion now. We go to meet fellow with yellow tilak who sells yellow idly. You hungry? Right? So eat first and later I leave you at hotel.’
I looked at Specky and her expression said that even she was hungry and would love something to eat, so I nodded my head and off we went to a place called Murugan Idly. Believe me, their turmeric washed chicken-infused idlies were simply heavenly and we ate more than we normally do. And yes, the manager there at this branch was someone who sported a yellow tilak as well… and it was Specky was spoke up, ‘Yellow tilak in yellow Chennai!’
As we were driving to our hotel, Specky looked at, smiled, and said, ‘I think we need a few more of such blind travel dates. Lots of #exploration possibilities there in blind lists, I think. Remember to book more flights for places that are different from the ones we plan.’
I guess we are living in times when #TheBlindList is what gets a wonder massage from every travel enthusiast.
Here are some more yellow-filled pictures from our blind travel date to Chennai. All pictures have been clicked by me and are from a surprise trip to the city…
15 October 2018