“Clandestine” applies to the lovers, not to the guide, in case you thought otherwise.
If you and your clandestine louw partner are the twin towers of romance, The city of Chennai is the metaphorical plane (or plain) that is likely to crash into the both of you. The city’s conservatism is mostly harmless, but when it comes to matters of amour, it almost forces lovers to say “So long and thanks for all the fish” and escape to the restaurant at the end of the universe. It’s almost as if most of the maamaas in Chennai are like Zaphod Beeblebrox, one head solving the Hindu newspaper crossword while the other is busy scanning beaches and parks for any public displays of affection with an extremely critical eye. In Chennai, the presence of unmarried girl and unmarried boy within a distance of 10 metres from each other is considered to be a public display of affection.
Of course I am exaggerating a bit. Quite a bit actually. But then that’s what this blog is about – Jilpa. In reality, the place has changed quite a lot over the years. I mean, 15 years ago, if you had 2 X chromosomes, you wouldn’t be allowed out of your house after 6 pm. Today, you probably will be, but the policeman patrolling Marina beach is likely to make polite enquiries about your Big4 status (Vekkam, Maanam, Soodu, Soranai) and generally haul you back home. Big difference.
The real irony is that the puritanical maamas and maamis of yore are slowly getting used to the fact that there exists this sane middle ground between the extremes of Satyabhama University boy-girl rules on the one hand and teenage pregnancies on the other. But with almost every engineering college doing practically everything short of neutering male students before admission, Chennai is entering this new weird era where young boys have no clue how to talk to a girl, let alone ask her out.
But if you are the rare breed that has gone beyond staring at your college girls’ profile photos on Orkut (because any real world contact is punishable by medieval torture and slow painful death), and actually want to go out with a girl and not get into trouble with Chennai’s Beeblebroxian-second-head, this guide is for you.
Update: After several comments on this post, I realized that there are broadly 3 levels of clandestinity (cough cough) that people look for. Level 1 – where boy and girl only indulge in conversation and require a small degree of privacy. Level 2 – where a small amount of safe physical intimacy is desired and Level 3 – where, um, hotel rooms are required. This post mostly deals with Level 2 requirements. Chenthil has a nice post on Level 1 here.
Where to go:
Central section of Marina Beach, opposite the Ice House. For some reason, this is the de-facto lovers zone, and you will find couples seated at strategically discreet distances from each other. The presence of several pairs generally discourages roving bands of shady guys who tend to consider the passing of lewd comments to be on par with . The only invasion of privacy one has to deal with is the Sundal-boy, who operates on the logic that if you want to put kadalai, you might as well buy some ammunition from him.
The Northern side of Besant Nagar beach – closer to the Orur Alcott fisherman’s village.
Where not to go:
Any other part of Marina Beach. Not a good idea.
The Southern side of Elliots beach – There is a police checkpost and the cops play mangaatha and lay bets based on the number of couples they break up on a daily basis. I am serious, but kidding.
Any other beach, especially on East Coast Road – Very dangerous. Quite a few kidnappings/molestations have happened there in the recent past.
See Chennai map here
What to do if caught by a cop:
1. Wear rings on the ring finger of the left hand before going to the beach. Claim to be recently married and act a little offended (just a little) at cop’s invasion of privacy, but commiserate with his overall crusade/struggle against the heinous crime of sitting next to each other on sand without wearing rings/thalis/toerings etc.
2. Additionally create a contact on your mobile phone (preferably girl’s) named “Appa” that actually connects to a close friend who can confirm your “married” status. Don’t use this unless absolutely necessary. Sometimes, just acting as if one is dialing that number and handing the phone to the cop is enough to convince him that you are not the typical thiruttu lover case.
Ever since Chennai maamas and maamis have started wearing NRI-children-gifted New Balance sneakers and become health freaks, most parks have become way too crowded for couples. But one safe haven remains – the Adyar Banyan Tree, in the Theosophical Society. That place has ridiculous timings – open only for about 2-3 hours a day, only in the afternoons, and is closed on Sunday. But the place is quiet, uncrowded, filled with tall, beautiful trees and offers any sensible couple an hour (at most) of solitude and togetherness. Advice to guys – go easy on the PDAs. The security guards there are mostly old, myopic men but don’t push your luck.
Giridhar additionally recommends the descriptively named UI Colony Anna Circular Walker’s park near Liberty Theatre, where evenings are particularly free of disapproving maamas and other moral policemen.
10yearslate adds that the Guindy Snake park is a nice place to hang out, as long as it’s not a school-picnic day when there is likely to be an army of kids enquiring “Akka akka, loving-aa”.
Chennai discs are usually filled with large groups of single men who come to get drunk and look out for the occasional, rare (and bold) couple who happen to visit. As a guy, you might not notice anything, but your girl will feel extremely uncomfortable at all that open-mouthed attention. And one other thing – Chennai discs play only English dubchick and Hindi dance music. If you are the types that considers that to be “music”, then I am sorry. No cure has been found yet.
Mocha, in Nungambakkam is one of the few coffee shops with reasonably dim lighting and secluded alcoves. I am not aware of any other non-5-star place with a similar ambience. The Shansi Kerala Tandoori Chinese Restaurant does have extremely dim lighting (to hide the unwashed and stained tablecloths) but is probably not a good place for couples because the waiters don’t tolerate any hangy-pangy while serving gobi menjoorian.
Giridhar recommends Ram’s Milky way complex on Usman road, T Nagar where the cozy basement chaat restaurant is a nice getaway, although he does warn against the very likely possibility of running into an assortment of aunts who could be shopping right next door.
But as Ramsu rightly points out, The Efficient Jalsa Hypothesis states that: No place is sustainably peaceful for thiruttu-kaadhal. So my recommendation to pairs – get together, start a chennailouwerswiki.com and create a constantly updated encyclopaedia of “safe spots” in this city.
Overall, Chennai is not an unmarried-couple-friendly place. But unlike some other cities in India, you are not likely to get killed. So be smart, and have fun.