30 Mar - 31 Mar 2011 Chennai

South Asia
Republic of Incredible India, the world's biggest democrazy
Tamil Nadu
Chennai aka Madras
Kennet Lane 15
Hotel Regal +914428191122
Adequate double room for INR 520.- or US$ 11.50 per night.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Hotel Regal in Chennai, which we would recommend, and for directions:
N 13° 04.53' E 080° 15.73'

Meeting up with saffron-clad Nepal Baba, a travelling sadhu/sannyasin/operative aus Kathmandu, heavily deodorised with incense, and exploring together Mylapore’s large Kapalishvara Temple with its soaring gopuram, dedicated to Shiva, which stands proudly out from the rather prosaic neighbourhood which surrounds the temple and consists of a colourful array of shops selling (i) cookware, bakeware, skillets, casseroles, pots and sauce pans which make it a treat for each Indian housewife to sautée, steam and boil her way through to her in-laws' favorite thalis, (ii) religious paraphernalia and non-religious vegetables, (iii) golden wedding jewellery and exquisite silk saris (up to INR 30,000.- or US$ 500.- for embroidered ones in top quality "...made of fabrics whose designers had clearly set out to prove that it was possible to incorporate every colour known to man in a single pattern...", at least according to Salman Rushdie).

Visiting the Universal Temple of Sri Ramakrishna, an elegant construction combining architectural motifs from Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples, as well as Christian churches, while the manicured forecourt echoes the Islamic themes of the Mughals, discussing religion and confirming our personal belief that all religions are nothing more than very profitable multi-billion dollar businesses (i) which sell hope to their hopeless customers with a diversity of competitive trade marks (e.g. Jesus, Zarathustra, Buddha), (ii) which use the common sales techniques (e.g. branding, relationship selling, merchandising), from soft sell (e.g. Buddhism) to hard sell (e.g. Islam), (iii) which operate from diversified head offices all over the planet (e.g. Rome, Jerusalem, Mecca), (iv) which maintain very distinctive sales outlets to meet the expectations of their specific customer base (e.g. churches, temples, mosques), and (v) which apply team-based, efficient and flat organisational charts; since hope is such a pricey good, we would love to put our money into any of the religions if they were only listed on the stock exchange where they were obliged to file annual reports and to disclose their spread sheets to the regulator’s scrutiny.
"Religion has convinced people that there's an invisible man ... living in the sky. Who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn't want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer, and suffer, and burn, and scream, until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you and he needs your money."

Leaving scruffy, dusty and noisy, but always friendly and relaxed Chennai and taking the Kanyakumari overnight express (742 km, 14 hours, INR 315.- or US$ 7.- per person for non a/c sleeper class) from Chennai’s Egmore station to Kanyakumari, situated at the southernmost extremity of India, and the meeting point of (i) the treacherous Bay of Bengal (see: 11 Sep - 13 Sep 2008 Ao Chalong), (ii) the mighty Indian Ocean (see: 15 Apr - 07 Jun 2008 Chagos and (iii) the pirate-infested Arabian Sea (see: 26 Aug - 11 Sep 2007 Aden), three different seas which we had crossed with our sailing ship SY "Kamu II", only a few years ago.

"The only safe ship in a storm is leadership."

Click below for more blog posts about our encounters with religions

Click below for a summary of this year's travels