Day 2: Jasmin in the back Streets

Morning swim on the roof of the hotel which is quite amazing with giant pied wagtails chirping their noisy song along-side the pool. The crows that sit on the pool-side chairs are a bit more sinister with beaks like machetes. With Mark still not feeling quite right Remya one of Xchange’s team helps us out with some iodine gargle and the more traditional Strepsils. Remya lives in Mumbai and is originally from Bangalore emphasising the breadth of geographical make up of Sonya’s team. So with Mark out of action for the afternoon Rian and I take a trip over to the KM College of music and technology to meet up with Adam Greig who I met last time. Sonya’s Australian partners are here busy working on a recording project with emerging bands called Indie 100. Some of the bands we meet and hear or interrupt as they develop their music under the guidance of the Australian partners will play at Xchange on Sunday. By chance we meet a Carnatic violinist who offers to play a short piece for us and we get our first field recording. Shravan Sridhar is a young talented violinist who collaborates with all sorts of musicians. The obligatory cards exchanged we go for coffee and leave the music project to develop. At coffee I ask Adam for a quick summary of how the school began. Fascinating stuff. A very positive story of how one Bollywood music composer’s success is helping to give back to the people of Chennai. The school’s founder actually composed the score for Slumdog Millionaire.

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The evening, with Mark back with us we venture out for dinner with our first treacherous walk through the bustling streets of Chennai. We head for Peter Road and somewhere I’ve wanted to go to, the chain known as Hotel Sarvana Bhavan. In the dark backstreets of Chennai everything takes on a very different sensory experience. Most prominent is the scent of jasmine as the flowers tumble through the air and on to the parched tarmac. Saravana Bhavan is no disappointment. It is a canteen sort of affair where you order your food at a booth and then pick it up freshly cooked from another counter. My first Marsala Dhosa is amazing. I find out more about these food emporiums from Bhursa (sorry for the spelling) a little later. They were set up as places for the Brahman to eat. Strictly vegetarian and also cooked by Brahman’s for Brahmans. Brahman are an upper religious caste. Of course now these restaurants cater for all but as always in India the caste system (equally like the UK’s class system) is never far away despite our so called modern ways.

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