Living In Chennai

Chennai, a city of nearly 10 million people, is an energetic, vibrant metropolitan community where the ancient traditions of South India thrive alongside the contemporary attractions of a city the size of Chicago or Seoul, and larger than Paris or Berlin. Residents can tour a thousand year old Hindu temple in the morning; sample a lunch of spicy pani puri on the street for pennies; then indulge for dinner at a cutting-edge five star bistro for a fraction of the cost outside India.

Neighborhoods for the expat community vary from the chic, urban Besant Nagar, with its cafes and shops and popular Elliot’s Beach; to the more suburban neighborhoods farther south along the East Coast Road where private, walled yards and swimming pools are typical; all the way to the tallest buildings in Chennai at the luxurious new Hiranandani multiplex. No matter where one lives, people are open and friendly, and safety should rarely be a concern. Banks, groceries, pharmacies, and all the daily needs are usually within walking distance or a short drive.

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As an historic city, Chennai (formerly Madras) is home to several unique museums that offer a sense of history and charm, while the kids can enjoy taking lessons in surfing or challenging each other at the go-kart track, and the whole family can always catch the latest blockbusters at an opulent movie theater. For more adventurous shopping, one can browse the local markets for hand-printed kurtas, stunning pashminas, and even Rajasthani wall hangings--or head to a shopping mall for high-end shops from around the world.

Travel from Chennai is inexpensive and convenient, whether seeking culture, cuisine, adventure trekking, or pure relaxation. Southern Tamil Nadu and neighboring Kerala offer years’ worth of fascinating temples, palaces, and lush backwater lagoons to explore, while the hill stations of the Western Ghats and the secluded beaches of Goa are only a bit farther north. The ancient traditions of Rajasthan, the mysteries of Dharamshala and Varanasi, and the mountainous heights of Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir are another world yet directly accessible. Flights to Sri Lanka are just over an hour and Bangkok and Dubai are both under four hours, so all of Asia and the Middle East are easily explored.

Chennai offers all the best of India, with a less frenetic pace and far cleaner air than the northern cities, so it can be the perfect home for an extended expat adventure for singles, couples, and families.

Some reflections about former faculty on their time in Chennai and AISC.

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