In Chennai I ended up cracking under the sheer pressure of window-shopping for a day. I'd wandered into town with the intention of browsing through the shopping malls, checking out the street stalls and exploring the markets, but not necessarily to buy anything; after all, everything I buy I have to carry around, and I've got enough junk already.
The music shop came up and clubbed me on the back of the head before I could reach out to defend myself. 'Cassettes' it blurted from its windows; 'CDs', 'Latest Hits', 'Videos' it said; and realising that losing myself in the rows of tapes would be a good way to kill a couple of hours, I strolled in. I went in poor, and I came out rich.
Flipping over a tape to check the price, I balked. One hundred rupees for the latest Oasis album; that's £1.60, not a lot of money. I looked further. Classic tapes were Rs75, new ones around Rs100, and even double albums crammed onto single tapes were still Rs100. I considered buying a few to be able to play on borrowed Walkmans, and then I spotted an innocent and downright cheap-looking box in the 'Accessories' section; an Indian copy of a Walkman, clocking in at Rs400, begged me to give it a home, and for one heady moment I realised I could have a stereo and a bunch of tapes for little more than the price of one CD in London. I chose carefully, and walked out of the shop with an excitement akin to a child's Christmas Eve. The Walkman even had a speaker, perfect for those lazy afternoons sitting out on the veranda.
So, I'm back in the music. The range in the shop was pretty good, especially as far as classic from the 1960s and 1970s were concerned, and I walked out onto the street clutching the following albums in my mitts, ready for an afternoon of sun and song:
- The Beatles – Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
- Simon and Garfunkel – Greatest Hits
- U2 – Achtung Baby
- Pearl Jam – Vitalogy
- Oasis – Be Here Now
- Pink Floyd – The Wall
- Crowded House – Recurring Dream (Very Best Of...)
Armed with the above and a book, I managed to laze my way through Friday, and that night I ended up staying up into the wee hours with a wonderful group of other travellers, which radically altered my plans for an early Saturday departure. Madras might have been a bit mundane, but I loved every minute of it; thank goodness for other travellers in India. And when your schedule is as free as mine, changing your plans is as easy as rolling over and hitting the snooze button.