The Bombay-Delhi tug-of-war continues to rage, as cliches about which one of the two is the 'It' (happening) city guzzle newsprint. So absorbed in navel-gazing are the Mumbaikars and Delhiwalas that they barely notice the rapidly morphing cityscape south of the land. Take Chennai: arching flyovers, a flurry of new restaurants offering exotic cuisines, sleekly swanky glass-fronted mid-high-rises, multiplying beach houses, wider roads, even traffic jams—the ultimate test of cosmopolitanism. People grumble about 'Amma', but they are happy that their caped chief minister has cleaned up the city. The touts at the airport are more reticent and the smelly Kuvani river has been done away with. And the mamis
(auntyjis and behenjis to those of the north) are happily sipping Cuban coffee in Barista in their bright kanjivarams. That is, when they are not tucking in 'chicken manchuriam' in restaurants. Dishes of this ilk have also made their way on to the menus in the conservative heartland of Madurai. The invaders of rasamland are certainly teasing the local palate. Cedars (excellent Lebanese cuisine), Cornucopia (Mediterranean) and the deliciously named French restaurant, Le Madeleine, are among the new places opened this year.
Globalisation is changing more than just the taste buds. Just look around: there are fewer giant-sized cutouts of stars and more of resplendent bathrooms. My friend Lata tells me everybody is in a frenzy to demolish old bathrooms. The city's latest watering-hole for the trendies, the Park Hotel, is a nod in that direction. The minimalist and highly stylised new avatar of the Gemini Studio, spilling over with contemporary art, has a few floors that have rooms with see-through bathrooms. No one-way mirrors here, it's all about complete transparency.