Our last real stop in India on our way to Nepal was in Chennai. The reason for the stop was two-fold: say hello to a friend from home who is currently volunteering in India for the year, and to look for my great great uncle. Earlier this year, my Uncle Mike told me about Reverend Samuel Hamel, my great grandmother’s favorite uncle. He was a missionary in India, and believed to be buried in Chennai. The story was pretty vague, but after Matt and I decided for sure to stop through Chennai, I emailed my uncle to see if he knew of any other information about our distant relative. He was able to locate an obituary in the NY Times that let us know Samuel Hamel died of acute appendicitis on a train en route to Ramapatnam, AP, in 1912. Despite the lack of conclusive info on where he may have been buried, being the first member of my mom’s family to be in Chennai since Samuel Hamel, I wanted to at least make an attempt to find him, or at least more information as to his whereabouts. So our second day in Chennai, Matt and I headed to the Madras Cemeteries Board (also a tip from my Uncle Mike). They have a database of burials for several cemeteries in the city. I waited anxiously as the worker looked up my relatives name—could it be so easy? Just a search on an excel spreadsheet and viola! I would know the location of his gravesite? Unfortunately not. There was no information as to where he would be. Nonetheless, it was an interesting day—playing detective for a few hours as I looked up the location of the Cemeteries Board and waited for them to look up information on my request. Afterward, Matt and I walked around the cemetery to see what it might look like, wherever Samuel Hamel is buried.
As for the other part of our Chennai stop, visiting our friend Krishna, it was fun as expected. For the first time since leaving home, we spent the night in a normal residence rather than a guesthouse or in transit. Even before we got to his neighborhood, we were impressed upon arrival at the main train station, which seemed to have everything: multiple restaurants, book shop, pharmacy, even a medical station with a defilibrator. We discovered the convenience of luggage storage as we checked our bags for the day while we wandered around until Krishna was done with work. Not only was it fun to see a little bit of Krishna’s daily life as a volunteer…it was nice to just hang out in a residential part of town. Luckily for us, Krishna is no stranger to carnivorous ways, so when we went out to eat, there was always plenty of meat on the table. After seeing “Chicken 65” on the menu for the past month, we finally ordered it on Krishna’s recommendation. Like “Chicken Lollipops,” another Indian chicken dish, “Chicken 65” just didn’t sound too appealing to me, but it turned out to be great. A fulfilling visit to a Keralan restaurant and of course lots of chais completed our quick stopover in Chennai. We didn’t see any “sights” in Chennai, but hanging out with Krishna and his upstairs neighbors was all we needed to make the stop in Chennai fun and memorable. Thanks guys!