To me, the symbol of transformation, representing the importance of positive attitude, and a change in lifestyle.
One of my main whines while in Madurai was the lack of Chinese telas in the city.
Sure, some of them 'claim' to make Chinese food, most restaurants featured Chinese stuff in their menus. All nonsense, of course. Not even one of the "Authentic Chinese" standalone hotels could stand up to any of the Hyderabadi roadside telas.
So I decided to make Chinese at home.
Which actually meant I told my wife to make Chinese at home.
She shrugged, and asked me to get all the ingredients.
I called up a couple of expert cooks in my friends circle and made down a list
"wait.. Ajino-what ??"
"Ajinomoto. Chinese salt. Adds that Chinese zing to food."
"So ?? You think I'll get it in here in Madurai ??"
"U don't ? U want me to courier it for you ? Chahiye to bhej doongee !"
Now much as I like sympathy and help, obviously well intentioned, I couldn't imagine the idea of my friends thinking of me as a disaster victim and shipping supplies to my remote village.
I declined as gracefully as possible. Yeh meri jung hai. Khud hee ladunga
"Anyways, check out in the supermarkets,na ?"
I snorted mentally. Bas naam ke Supermarkets. Hardly any variety. I couldn't even find my brand of fruit juices here. Ajinomoto ghanta milega ??
The Spencers near my house here is a joke.They rarely keep change. Always offer me a couple of chewing gums instead of rupee coins.I only go there to get the refrigerated stuff like Frozen Peas and Sweet Corn.
I'm VERY sure that if I go there, the conversation would be the way I encounter almost every time
"Do you have Ajinomoto ?"
"Enna, sir ?"
"Chinese salt ?"
"Never mind. Forget it."
However, theres another supermarket near my office. Not Reliance, not Spencers, but one of those local chains-Remukis. In addition to the regular supermarket stuff..it also stocked homemade sweets,namkeens,
pickles, savouries etc. I figured that was my best bet.
It started on the predictable lines.
"Do you have Chinese salt ?"
"Chinese Salt aa, sir ??" The girl frowned
My hopes slipped away.
"Aama. Ajinomoto" I said resignedly
"O! Ajinomoto ? Aama-aama sir, third row left"
(Then in Tamil)"Oy! Show saar the Ajinomoto rack!"
This was the turning point of my life in Madurai.
If one can get Ajinomoto here, one can find a lot of things too ! My attitude towards the city/town took a positive fillip then onwards.
Within the same week, I discovered a Cafe' Coffee Day, a decent Chaat stall, and a good bakery in Madurai. And even found a couple of items I wanted in that good-for-nothing Spencers.
Now you can go back and read the first line of this post again. And nod in understanding. I hope.