I’m renting an apartment in Chennai from a gracious host whose family comes from the Chettinad area and the Chettiar community. This community were wealthy moneylenders before the British brought banks to India and conducted sea trade with Southeast Asian countries, including Burma and Thailand. Their now crumbling mansions, built with giant teak logs and stained glass and beautiful tile, stand testament to their wealth, the beauty of their homes and the talent of the local craftspeople. Some mansions are still maintained as historic museums and hotels, while others have been dismantled for their carvings and intricate structures and art. Today I’m invited for lunch with Mrs. Ramanswami and hope to enjoy some traditionally Chettinad cuisine. It’s known for elegant use of spices, hot flavors, and wonderful combinations.
I have my own entrance, a lovely bedroom, and a shared bathroom, dining area and kitchen. I’m hoping that another Fulbrighter, who arrives in mid-January, will share the apartment with me. The two rooms also share a small bedroom with a bunk bed- for visitors! Here are some photos: simple, comfortable, and roomy. The bedrooms are air conditioned = yeah!