Mamallapuram

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A thirty something hour train ride from Kolkata to Chennai, a few hours spent sitting in the Chennai train station at four in the morning, a couple hour local bus ride from Chennai to Mamallapuram, and there we were taking our first daylight steps in southern India. It was quite a change of scenery to come from the cold Himalayas and busy big city feel of Kolkata to this little ocean side town with palm trees and a population of just over 12,000 people. We were pretty excited to be there.

We immediately dropped our bags off at the nearest hotel, which happened to have a deep, moderately clean pool, and walked

Shore Temple

Shore Temple

along the beach up to the Shore Temple. Our extreme cheapness didn’t allow us to purchase the US$5 entry fee and instead we walked around to the back of the temple and took some photos through the chain-link fence, sat with the locals watching the ocean, and slowly headed back to the hotel.

We spent the next couple of days in the usual style, reading, eating, swimming in the pool, and walking on the beach. Mamallapuram is a small town that caters to tourists, both foreign and domestic, and is a really relaxing place to spend a couple of days. Most of the tourists come to look at all the intricately carved rock temples that are scattered around town, some dating as far back as the 7th century, and on the second day we figured it was about time to see the sights.

Rock carvings of animals and people

Rock carvings of animals and people

The temples alone were well worth the stop over. Sculptors had carved spacious rooms into huge boulders and had adorned them all with carvings of deities and scenes from every day life, like women milking cows. Wandering around, we could almost ignore the mobs of Indian tourists and imagine that we were explorers happening upon ancient artifacts. We saw half finished sculptures and lines of holes that had been made for the sculptors to put wood pegs into which they would then fill with water so that when the wood expanded the huge boulder would split into a more manageable piece. My favorite was Krishna’s Butter Ball, a huge boulder that is almost perfectly round and looks like if a strong enough wind came along it could roll off of its perch from the top of a steep hill on down through the village below.

Krishna's Butter Ball

Krishna's Butter Ball

The next day we were eating lunch and someone asked us if we wanted to get paid 700 rupees each to get driven an hour away to Chennai where we would provide voices for a Tamil movie with some other foreigners. We decided there was no good reason not to and within the hour we were in a jeep headed north. After waiting around for an hour or so all of us foreigners were ushered into a sound studio to watch clips of a film for which we were supposed to provide voice overs. One of the clips was of two people fighting and we had to divide up into two groups and yell things like “I’ve got 200 bucks on Dragon Group!” and “Go White Coat, kick his ass!” We were given free reign to yell what ever we wanted to, which can be pretty entertaining when two Germans, two Czechs, one French, one Brit, one Aussie, and Andy and I start getting creative.

Later on in the movie Andy also has a couple lines as the chief of airport security in Berlin. “Attention everyone, a monkey has escaped from the zoo. He looks like a human and talks like a human, apprehend him when you see him.” When the security guards have the human monkey in custody Andy yells, “Lip print him!” The subordinate then smashes the ape-man’s face on the ink pad and then onto a piece of paper paper and after someone else compares the paper to the lip prints on file he yells “Perfect match!” The monkey then claims that he’s an Indian and the security guards demand that he perform a Bollywood dance to prove it. Hilarious!

An ad for 'Villu'.

An ad for 'Villu'.

In case anyone happens to be fluent in Tamil and wants to hear Andy’s voice over debut the movie is called ‘Villu’ and it stars a very famous Tamil actor named Vijay, but the review we read was not favorable. We made our grand exit from Mamallapuram feeling practically famous.

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