We have never met a people more curious, more friendly, more helpful than the ones we met in Chennai. Everywhere we go, we were treated with a celeb-like fascination by the locals. Some pointed from a distant, the bolder would wave and holler a greeting while the boldest came up, shook hands and struck a conversation.
At Marina Beach, we were taking a leisurely stroll along the 7km coastline, surrounded by hundreds of merrimakers who sat in groups- families, friends, lovers, classmates. Heads turned as we walked. Those with camera phones would blatantly direct it at us to take a shot. Nobody asked if it was okay; God knows why they would want a photo of us and what they would use it for, but perhaps it was payback for the thousands of pictures we have taken in all our travels. For once, we were the attraction.
Two teenage boys came running towards us.
"Excuse me! Can I have your autograph please?" We laughed and he continued, "I am sorry but I am here with my friends and we are playing Truth or Dare. Basically if I lose I have to do something stupid. Now I cannot go back until I get your autograph." He spoke in Indian-accented but fluent English. We explained that we didn't have any pen or paper with us so we stood around awkwardly wondering what to do. Soon, the rest of his friends (and the odd bystander) gathered around us.
"What name your country?" one asked. "I am from Australia, and she is from Singapore..." we had answered this countless times. "So the two of you are from different parts of the world... wow!" he observed. "You pairrr?" another interrupted. "Yes, we are a couple." "Really? You really a pairrr?" he replied in utter disbelief, but so harmlessly that it wasn't offensive. I nodded and his eyes went wide with amazement. We said our goodbyes and departed from the group.
Minutes later, a topless Indian man who looked to be our age chased after us. He was completely wet from swimming in the sea, water still dripping from his hair and khaki bermudas.
"What is your name?" he inquired. "T." I smiled. "T," he echoed before breaking into a wide grin. And just as suddenly as he had approached us he shouted my name once more, carrying it with him as he ran back into the sea. His arms flailed in the water, creating splashes all around him and I don't know anyone who would be half as happy to know my name.