The Streets of Chennai - An Offbeat Perspective
January 1, 1970
‘Shopping’ is a word that excites almost all women in every nook and corner of the world. What comes to your mind first would be shopping malls, and brand names – Dolci & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, Van Heusen, Gucci, Zara, Aldo and the list never ends. But no, why would I talk about the brands that have already established themselves in the market. As a metropolitan city, Chennai is less than complete without these “street-shopping-centers” spread out all across the city. For those of you who aren’t based in Chennai, kindly allow me to lapse into local references. ‘Street shopping’ -the word might not sound as exciting as the actual procedure does. There is a reason why I used the term “procedure”. There are certain do’s and don’ts for street shopping without which you would never get to know the true spirit of it. It isn’t a cakewalk as it does seem to be while shopping in the malls.
So, if you are in Chennai, or planning to visit Chennai any time soon, then maybe this one is for you.
WHERE TO GO?
Let’s talk about Georgetown. History says that the esplanade here was used for military purposes back then providing unhindered view right upto the Bay of Bengal. However, at present, it serves as a major trade hub of the city.
According to ‘Chennaiites’, there is nothing in this world that you cannot get in Georgetown. As an architecture student, and with the amount of weird things that we have to buy for college-level submissions, Broadway has always been a savior. If you think Broadway is just a place where you get specific stuff, nah! You are wrong, because the whole area consists of more than a hundred streets(that’s the result of a bunch of failed attempts in counting the number of streets there) which have specific names and sell specific stuff – and by specific, I mean really “specific”.
You have a street where shops mainly sell flowers, streets for stationery, textiles, food, electronics, optical goods, crackers, lighting, and what not.
The area is also famous for the special Burmese food that you get at the Burma Bazaar. The best part is where you can get things at a wholesale price here – at almost half the price that you buy within the city.
For the weather in Chennai, cotton clothing is best suited; and guess what, there is even a street named Cotton Street in Chennai, where you get the best cotton stuff at cheap prices for summer.
A must-try is the rickshaw rides within these streets, that gives you a glimpse of how exactly old-town feels like.
Another major street shopping hub in the city is T Nagar – also called Thyagaraya Nagar. Unlike Georgetown, this place is out-and-out for textile and jewelry shopping. If you are visiting the city during a festive season, be sure to find this entire place to be a hive of activity. For the amount of traffic here, most people prefer using public transport, and then explore the area by foot, instead of using their own vehicle.
Mylapore – the temple town within the city – is another sight one should not miss while visiting Chennai. Especially during the Mylapore festival – which comes during the start of every year(usually in the month of January). During this time, the streets are lit up with colorful lights, with food streets, women’s bazaar(where women from self-help groups sell handmade stuff), stages for drama, open air concerts, and traditional folk dances.
When talking about street shopping in Chennai, one could never miss out Spencer Plaza, where the entire feel of street shopping is brought under one roof. Here too, there are street-like corridors, with shops on either side, selling textiles, jewelry, electronics and FOOD. The emotions that one undergoes while street shopping can be experienced in this plaza. Textiles here are mainly of Kashmiri style – kurtas, Kashmere shawls, blockprinted pants and similar clothing.
THE DO’S & DONT’S
Unlike shopping in shopping malls where every commodity has a fixed price, street shopping in India is never complete without experiencing the whole ‘bargaining’ drama. For once at least, it would be fun to try it out in any of the places mentioned above. Just make sure that you sound really confident, but not harsh. The first step of striking a friendly conversation is truly an art. Personally, I am a beginner in the whole bargaining procedure. Also, make sure that you know what actually the product is worth for, and the price that you would be willing to pay. Oh yeah, and the walking-off technique. That usually never fails. But make sure it is executed in a realistic manner, so that the shop owner calls you back.
Secondly, be aware of your surroundings. The streets are going to be quite crowded, and therefore, it is really important that you are conscious of your belongings – but make sure that it doesn’t hinder you from enjoying the experience. Also, it is important that you don’t dress in a flashy manner, and produce an image of a wealthy person. That would also favor while bargaining. Lastly, just be ready to explore and try every single bit of it – meet new people, try new food, get lost within the streets, and shop unlimited.
For people who live in this city, these places have even more life, when one occasionally bumps into an old friend, or maybe even meet new people in such places – people whom you might never again meet in your life. These streets, bustling with activity and randomness, is what brings life to a city.