On the First Day of . . .

What a delightful whirlwind of the joys and sharing and exploring and treasuring with Anna and Elise visiting us in Chennai for over two weeks through Hanukkwanzafestimas and New Year’s!

Selfie along the Pondicherry Promenade

The double-time agenda included temple tours and an avant-garde dance performance, pongal and idli and dosa and elegant rooftop dining, walkabouts of Besant Nagar and Elliot’s Beach and the Theosophical Society and Pondicherry/Auroville and Mylapore (led by Storytrails and their outstanding Peacock Trail experience.) BTW, the header photo is on the Beach Promenade at Pondicherry with “Flat Stanley” on his worldwide adventures.

The baobab tree at the Theosophical Society
Whispering her secret prayer to Shiva’s bull, Nandi, at Kapaleeshwarar Temple in Mylapore
A thrill to meet artist Teju Behan at Tara Books and to savor a signed copy of her inspiring book, Drawing from the City

Of course we covered shopping at FabIndia and Kalpa Druma and Nicobar and Good Earth and Ritu Kumar and Tara Books where we met Teju Behan, a woman who rose from utter poverty to a career as musician, artist, and author; sifting through treasures of color at a neighborhood fabric stall with ever-energetic new sister Priya Venugopal followed by a trip to her tailor up a flight of stairs meant for billy goats and topped off with our first experience of chaat—street food; bargaining for footwear at a stall in Auroville where Anna masterfully played the ever-winning “walk away” card; and even negotiating with Khan, the sultan of negotiation, to buy Kashmir shawls and pashminas (okay, Sarah and I succumbed as well) in the deep caverns of Spencer Plaza, the first mall in India. (You know how much we must have overpaid since he “gifted” Sarah an extra pashmina for bringing him new customers.)

Elise falls in love with Good Earth and their hand stitched ornate pillows
Anna discovers Ritu Kumar
Fabric shopping with new Indian sister Priya whose birthday falls perfectly between Elise’s and Anna’s

A highlight was the harrowing drive (okay, Anna and Elise found it somewhat humorous and invigorating) on that two lane obstacle course from the Mahabs down to Pondy that was then soothed with lunch at Bread and Chocolate followed by our rooftop dinner at Palais de Mahe. And kudos to Marc’s Cafe, just down the Auroville Main Road, where we trotted in and ordered three cappuccinos for takeaway. Matilda, Marc Tormo’s wife, smiled and asked me, in her lilting Barcelona accent, “You can’t sit for five minutes and enjoy your cappuccinos here?” We could and we did and indeed we enjoyed.

Ahhh, relaxing with the best cappucino at Marcs Cafe in Auroville
Chia bowl at Bread and Chocolate in Auroville
Bread and Chocoate in Auroville for lunch . . . Yes, that’s Mason Chocolates fresh bon bons for an appetizer

Of course, for anyone experiencing India for the first time, there are always the walkabouts and the discovery of the new faces and new details . . .

Anna and I discovered this young one intent on her morning snack on one of our walkabouts in Besant Nagar
Casting call for the next Stephen King film . . . Elise and I stumbled onto several of these . . . things . . . down a shadowy two-wheeler lane . . .
Fortune teller at Kapaleeshwarar Temple . . . Sorry, the crowds were such that I wasn’t able to get a wider shot . . . so you can’t really see his parakeet in the cage . . . But when he has a customer, the bird is released and chooses a tarot type card from the deck . . . and the future is yours . . .
We finally reconnected with the grinder man who then came by and sharpened our knives

All in all, a holiday whirlwind of sharing with Elise and Anna through Chennai and Pondy and Auroville and the Mahabs. So, on the 14th day . . .

A colorful kolam welcomes all to step in and share . . . And is washed away tomorrow for another new design

. . . we wish you a happy new year full of light and peace . . .

Author: David Hassler

David M. Hassler was fortunate enough to have become a relatively rare male Trailing Spouse when his talented wife Sarah accepted a job teaching music in the elementary division of the American International School in Chennai, India. His role includes, first of all, serving as her everything wallah, but also allows him time for exploring, discovering, and sharing new places, new faces, and new tastes around Chennai, throughout south India, and beyond. David M. Hassler is a long-time member of the Indiana Writers Center Faculty and holds an MFA from Spalding University. His work has been published in Maize and the Santa Fe Writers' Project. He served as a Student Editor for The Louisville Review and as Technical Editor for Writing Fiction for Dummies. He is currently Managing Editor for Flying Island, an online literary journal. He is co-author of Muse: An Ekphrastic Trio, and Warp, a Speculative Trio, and future projects include A Distant Polyphony, a collection of linked stories about music and love, memories and loss; And on the Eighth Day, A Tale of the Last Time Traveler, a riff on classic Sci Fi; and To Strike a Single Hour, a Civil War novel that seeks the truth in one of P T Barnum's creations. He is a founding partner in Boulevard Press.

16 thoughts on “On the First Day of . . .

  1. Amazing journey as always. I hope the holidays were even more wonderful than they look from here. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Most interesting read — and pictures always warm my heart, I am a huge picture-taker. I enjoyed and never did I realize just how my classmate Sarah would blossom into such a talented person and experience this adventure. How blessed. The lives you both have touched is priceless. Thanks for this blog. You go Sarah.

    1. Awwwww Susan , thank you for your kind words. We are having a very unique and s[ecial life here in India. Truly the ancient world meets the modern world here nd they function together seamlessly. I’m learning that as different as we might seem, there are people everywhere with big hearts who love to make connections.

    2. Awwwww Susan , thank you for your kind words. We are having a very unique and special life here in India. Truly the ancient world meets the modern world here and they function together seamlessly. I’m learning that as different as we might seem, there are people everywhere with big hearts who love to make connections.

  3. Enjoyed the pictures much. Sarah has such beautiful eyes! For years I have been involved with Flat Stanley. Just so much fun for the kids. Please keep the pictures and stories coming.

    1. Happy New Year to you and Jim as well! Alas, I don’t think Anna ended up with that one . . . But she and Elise found plenty of others to fill up their suitcases! A wonderful time with them.

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