Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Theosophical Society and A Palace

Saturday morning Elise had a photo shoot in one of the few large green spaces in Chennai, the Theosophical Society. Now, I'm not exactly sure what theosophy is or why it needs a society, but I am quite appreciative of their need for wide open spaces.

We put the boys' scooters in the back of the car along with the jogging stroller. The Theosophical Society is only open from 8:30 until 10:00 in the morning. They have afternoon hours, too, though I am not quite sure what they are. When we pulled up to the front gate, I had to hop out and sign in. I am not sure what the ancient theosophers are guarding, but they have impressive security for their open space, which I guess is not surprising given the paucity of it in the city.

It was easily 100 degrees out, though surprisingly bearable in the shade, and we headed down the path in search of the fabled banyan tree that was our requisite destination upon entry (the man guarding the log makes you select a destination. Never having been to the Theosophical Society before, I looked at him quizzically before he mumbled the reply, "Banyan tree."), leaving Elise behind with Sundar to wait for her client.

The first amazing thing, Sam, Pete, Clementine and I saw were these magical-looking bright red beetles marching across our path. They were as bright as fire trucks, and initially we only saw them one at a time. They walked on the path on tall, stilt-like legs and had white bulbs on the end of their antennae, like pom-poms.

We walked past cows grazing and men plouging the soil with spades. There was a coconut plantation that looked like it had come from Vietnam or a Polynesian island. We finally veered off the path and made it to the famous banyan tree. We sat down in the shade and looked up, and to our amazement noticed that the tree was full of hundreds of bats.

We were all under the impression that bats were nocturnal, but these bats defintiely were not sleeping. They chattered among themselves, wrestled and flew from branch to branch with but a few flaps of their leathery patagia. They were much larger than I think everyone expected them to me, and we sat there for nearly half an hour staring up into the tree, frozen with wonderment.

After we left the Theosophical Society, we stopped at our favorite breakfast place, Sangeetha, for dhosa, idlys, vada, chutneys, sambar, and coffee.

Saturday night is date night, and Elise and I headed to the nicest hotel in town, the Leela Palace, to have a drink at the Library Bar before stopping at a friend's party. Elise and I do not usually frequent hotel bars, but Tamil Nadu is a dry state, and the only place to go out for a drink is at an international hotel. Who knows? Maybe after we leave Chennai, we will go to hotel bars more frequently and pine for the days we would eat salted almonds and finish sentences over a manhatten or Kingfisher and a dirty martini.

The hotel is on the mouth of the Adyar River, and the river's delta--though undoubtedly polluted--looked pristine from a distance. White herons waded through the water, the sun set. Elise spotted a family making their way through the bay, pulling a fishing net behind them. We pulled ourselves from the hotel's opulence begrudingly. We should have stayed. There is no party that is as good as the one we throw for ourselves, where ever we are. Next time, we will. 

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