The photoshoot in the morning in Marina Beach would happen only if it didn’t rain, Suzanne had said last night. Abraham had warned me to be at the location in time because Suzanne and Tushara would be there as the clock strikes, he was sure. With light to medium rain clouds gathering in the distant I forewent breakfast and reached the Gandhi Statue on Marine Drive a half hour before the appointed time. With the beach and the Police headquarters in the background, I was taking a few selfies when a police constable requested me to park the car parallel to the kerb. I had not realised that the length of the car would be an obstruction to through traffic during peak time. Watching the calm sea that morning I could not fathom the destruction that tsunami waves had caused there that fateful Christmas Eve.
Ashok Thomas, Tushara and the photographer arrived just when the sun shone brightly and the light was right for the photoshoot. Suzanne informed that she was on the way and that the shoot could proceed. In between positioning the car and posing for pictures I caught up on matters personal and professional with Ashok. In about an hour’s time we were almost done with the session when Susanne arrived by her two wheeler, drenched from head to toe. Apparently, she had been delayed en route by heavy rain and later she just braved it and landed up at the location. She brought rain to Marina Beach along with her. We all sought refuge in the car till a slight let up permitted us to say goodbyes and clamber into our own transports to head back to where we wanted to.
My immediate task was to get to Saravana Bhavan for breakfast. I seldom miss an opportunity to have ‘tiffin’ in the restaurant when I visit Chennai. Over the years the restaurant chain has spread its wings far and wide, with branches in the Gulf, USA and Europe. My personal favourite in the city is the one on Dr Radhakrishnan Salai. Parking is often a problem there during peak hours. But I managed a slot this time without having to wait. The interior of the restaurant has remained the same over the past fifteen years, as also the taste of ‘sambar’, which is the best in the country to me. I ordered mini tiffin, which had small portions of 14 idlis, masala dosa, pongal and rava kesari. The strong coffee shook off any lethargy that may have crept up, willy nilly, in the wet weather.
The additional day was scheduled in Chennai to complete redemption formalities of the Bank Guarantee in the office of the Automobile Association of Southern India. The car will be inspected as part of the process and the Carnet papers examined before the BG is returned. I had informed the Secretary of the AASI in advance and he had already done the preliminary work by the time I reached the office. In less than an hour the redeemed BG was in my possession. As I was leaving the office Shanmughum, the Secretary, told me that he had two visitors who wanted to drive a three wheeler from India to Europe. I met them on the way out and wished them well.
Thereafter, I had two business meetings, one over lunch, exploring consultancy options. When I was in the first, Rahul and Naveen, the duo who were preparing to travel to Europe by a solar tuk-tuk, sought an appointment. I met them halfway through the luncheon meeting at the Taj Vivanta. I was fascinated by the efforts of the two planning a zero emission drive. The vehicle is being put together by them from scratch and that is posing them a problem about obtaining Carnet since the original specs of the vehicle is totally altered and it also does not have registration details, which the AASI was insisting on. I passed on whatever information I had based on my two overseas expedition experiences. They have planned to ship the tuk-tuk to Bander Abbas in Iran and drive on through 10 countries and 10,000 kms in Europe. Such initiatives, I suggested to AASI, must be encouraged.
I got back to Perungudi to spend time with Mrs and Mr Pius Joseph, Peechappan Uncle and Mariamma Elayamma to me. They have been more like parents to me and they have always treated me as their own. I had proposed to go out for dinner, but Peechappan Uncle suggested that we spend time at home. The hospitality of the couple is legendary and you get the best food in Chennai in their home. He also organised a lovely cake to celebrate my 57th birthday.