Living London, Loving Chennai

Friday, March 31, 2006


Brighton Beach

Brighton is a sea side town near London, like Mahabs (without the history) for Chennai. Come summer you can see most Londoners and thousands of bikers thronging the beach in Brigton. It is a typical western beach town with a famous pier full of tacky thrill rides, seafood restaurants, casinos abd video game parlors. Think Marina beach, Chennai organised in better looking shops. The beach is not sandy but full of pebbles and the water is too cold for the feet dipped in the warm waters of Bay of Bengal, but it is lot more clean.
We went to Brighton last weekend ignoring the weather predicting light showers, it all started warm and sunny. By the time we reached there it had become gloomy but still didnt rain enabling us to spend a decent amount of time in the beach. The sea is not as rough as in Chennai but we couldnt swim anyway. The rains started soon as we left the beach for the pier. We went thru longingly watching the thrill rides and spent time having coffee and ice creams.
Soon it was time to come back. As the rain intensified, we were just waiting in the entrance of the pier for the rains to stop, when we saw a new drama unfold on the beach below. A man (lets call him madmax) was standing knee deep in the sea in biting cold and rain. He wasn't moving as the waves lashed against him. I even thought it was a log seeing thru my rain splattered specs. After some time he did move a little, by the time some guards came around and pier was filled with onlookers. We couldnt hear anything but it looked like this guy was refusing to come out. He should have been drunk, drugged or plain insane to be able to stand that long in the water. The life-guard called for more reinforcement but he did not enter the water himself. He got a few more assistance but when one of the guards took a step forward, madmax moved further into the sea. He fell down, was totally drenched but got back up. He started walking in the water, none of the guards were getting in. The guy was moving along the beach but still in the water while the guards were moving along the edge. At some point the guards were just a step away from him but still step in the water to reach him. We couldnt hear or understand why. This went on for over 15 minutes. Finally the guy got tired and latched on to the offered hand of a guard (when they were close enough). He couldnt stand in the surface probably his legs were too cold and he was picked up in an ambulance. One more story in my life ended without me knowing what happened or why.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Chennai vs Kovai

No this post is not about which is a better city (my bias should be obvious) nor my intention to divide the people of Tamilnadu. This is about the potential of Coimbatore (Kovai) to seriously rival Chennai as an industrial and economic powerhouse of Tamilnadu in some distant future. Even today if we consider the extended urban area, Coimbatore is the closest rival to Chennai economically. It's per capita income, affluence and consumption is on par with Chennai, more so on the luxury goods. On absolute terms however, the comparison is skewed due to the sheer difference in size, with Chennai being 5 times larger. Any talk of rivalry will have to wait.

Coimbatore has many things going for it to get there. The entrepreneurial nature of its people is well known. Almost all the developments in the region has happened because of its people with minimal government / PSU support. It is a major educational centre with excellent emphasis on engineering. Weatherwise, it is the most livable city in TN and one of the best in India. It is already well known for its engineering and manufacturing prowess. Textile Industry, the traditional strength of Kovai is seeing huge investments post quota abolition. But more than any other factor, what is really causing all this
new buzz around Kovai is its potential as the next big thing in IT and services sector. Its been there for the last couple of years without really fructifying into anything meaningful. Last year however saw two biggies CTS and TCS finally getting in (in a small way) and hopefully kickstart the deluge that has been threatening. The real estate market has already jumped ahead and started constructing the apartments for techies to come and live. It is getting good media coverage on its potential as a medical tourism centre. Although not a tourist centre by itself, it is strategically located for easy access to ooty belt and Kerala belt. The airlines may not be making a beeline, but there is quite a queue to expand in Coimbatore. The ingredients are there, the impetus is there. All it requires is a good chef to put all the ingredients together and cook up a great dish.

I personally would like to see alternate commercial centres develop in Tamilnadu apart from Chennai. Kovai by all accounts has the possibility to become one.