Gargi began the day by sweeping our apartment (called a flat here) with an Indian broom. We bring in grit and sand from our comings and goings. Gargi was inspired by our neighbor lady, whose floors all cleaned up by 5:30 in the morning, and then she draws a design with rice powder at the entrance to her flat (in your imagination, replace a doormat with a hand-designed rice powder pattern).
We had lunch with our host family and their extended family of grandparents and a great grandmother. As is the cultural norm here, we took gifts for the family and candy and sweets. We had a traditional home-cooked, vegetarian meal, which we totally loved. The two little girls gave us a tour of their new bedroom and furniture. They showed us their artwork. In addition to regular school, the girls attend private classes on art and classical Indian music. We took lots of pictures with our host family.
Karthik, whose family we visited for lunch, drove us to Mahabalipuram, which is about 30 miles south of Chennai. There we saw areas of Mahabalipuram beach that were leveled off by the tsunami. Some of these spots are still strewn with trash left behind by the waves. Clusters of fishermen’s huts have been re-located to higher grounds, which governmental action the fishermen don’t like.
Karthik’s parents gave us South Indian munchies to take in the train from Tambaram to Nagapattinam. It was an eight-hour train journey. Among us, the two younger, thinner girls climbed on to the bunker seats, while the older, bigger women (guess who?) eased into the lower seats. Kristen slept like a baby to the swaying motion of the train, which kept Gargi wide awake.
Upon arriving at Nagapattinam, the taxi driver took us to Hotel Sea Gate, and then turned around, going back to the station and some more miles in the opposite direction to Hotel Sea Horse, where we had reservations.