I arrived in Chennai at 5am. I knew the historic San Thome basilica church would be open for mass service at 6, so I hid out there.
When the sun appeared as my safety cue to leave, I began walking towards the beach as I had planned. It was creepy, but also 7am and I had no idea where I was in the town or on a map in general. I tried to hide in a schoolyard but the guard said "permission no" and waved his hand out towards the desolate street. So, I walked and saw a man in what appeared to be a kilt a la 90s grunge plaid with the typical 'middle-aged-Indian-guy' laissez-faire regarding garments. A man in a plaid skirt.
But- then I saw another, and another, and a third, convincing evidence enough to support a solid "men here wear plaids with stripes and skirts and it is badass"
This "skirt" is in fact known as the lungi. It's popular in south Asian cultures as it's pretty uncomfortable to wear pants in the heat and humidity down here. I became obsessed with it- the silhouette is great! I love the functional effortless ease of the garment, a climate created necessity that defies a ludicrous ideal of masculinity. I hadn't considered plaid for the collection initially, but now it's on the radar.
Other than the surprisingly fantastic menswear, Chennai wasn't my favorite. They speak the Tamil language, no Hindi, no English. I had mistakenly assumed that- like Gujarati speakers -people in Chennai would know some Hindi and maybe a bit of English. I couldn't communicate with anyone, and I didn't know anything about the city, and it was 7:30 in the morning. Normally I'm not a trip adviser sort of lady, but desperate times call for lame measures so I took advice from the Internet (always the best idea!) and headed to the Kapaleeswarar temple. Which was severely under construction and surrounded by a clearly developing area that wasn't interested in foreigners.
I found a hostel, hid in the lobby (thanks guy who I couldn't communicate with, but knew I was lost and took me in!), then planned my escape to Pondicherry.