A Journey Through Time
It was a dark, warm morning as I left Bangalore on the six-hour bus trip to Chennai. Crammed into the back of the bus with all the men (they separate men and women on buses), my backpack growing heavier with each city I visit, my was heart full of excitement as I journeyed back to where my family originated almost three generations ago.The scenes as we began to approach the city were dotted with agricultural land, painted in gold and green from the sugar cane and grass, illustrating an epic backdrop to what my past ancestors’ lives were. The smell of burning fields caught the back of my throat as I entered what is famed as the doorway to South India, the
Land of Tamil Nadu. Chennai is a city that truly embraces ‘unity in diversity’ and almost immediately you come face to face with a place with a rich cultural heritage. The Tamil people are certainly some of the friendliest and helpful people I have ever met. With temples on every corner, I had a skip in my step as I strolled down the vibrant streets, sipping my Juma, a banana flavoured milkshake filled with almonds.
Before coming to India, I had often heard that the Tamil Nadu region is known for its gracious hospitality and traditional food, and Chennai lives up to this reputation. My grandfather always told me that serving food is seen as the ultimate pious deed in the entire South India, and I certainly was blessed with nothing but unforgettable moments in this beautiful place. I have always seen my life’s purpose as that of serving others and back in the home of my ancestors, it is evident why I’ve always felt this way.
This truly is a place that shows the world that people of different cultures and backgrounds, can in fact, live together in harmony. If there is one thing that I wish I could bottle up and take back with me to South Africa, it is this feeling of unity. I would release it into the air in hopes we would all feel the same way. Perhaps this is what my cuisine at my new restaurant will represent: culture, tradition and unity, all important parts of Indian heritage and perhaps, one day, South African.
Chennai truly is the soul of India. If you have time to explore Chennai (formerly Madras), this conglomerate of urban villages and diverse neighbourhoods making up Tamil Nadu’s capital will pleasantly surprise you. Its role is as keeper of South Indian artistic, religious and culinary traditions.