So over a nice dinner, on the third night of our workshop, our friend Venu was telling us that Chennai, formerly known as Madras, was an important British outpost in south India. Many of the more modern buildings have hidden those built in the old colonial style from view. But one can still find some of these old architectural structures today being used as government offices and business centers. Too bad we were not able to go around the city much except the areas around the hotel and the workshop venue. Walking back to the hotel, Venu told us this story of how people near the city's coast saw portions of a submerged temple when waters receded prior to the 26 December tsunami.
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Thanks to the "enterprising" auto rickshaw drivers that we contracted to take us to this famous shopping mall, we had the the chance to visit some of these high-end arts and crafts shops around the city. As what became clear to us later, the drivers had some agreement with the shop owners to take the unsuspecting passengers first to these places before dropping them off to their preferred destination. Problem is, prices of goods in these shops were way too high for poor development workers like us. And the shopkeepers (all men who look like characters straight from Coppola's Godfather film) were simply too eager to sell their wares that they sometimes sound threatening to customers. But one shop that we visited (before taking those rickshaws) had a very different atmosphere. Customers were free to look around, handle the goods and even take pictures. And the sales people were all women.