Chocolate and Gold Coins

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Accord Metropolitan in Chennai

I have to hand it too my wife, her business acumen is very sharp. We needed to find a hotel to stay at and we wanted a nice place. Well, hotels in India of the quality of the ones my wife and son enjoy are about as expensive as the one in the Washington D.C. area. We really had not planned to spend that kind of money (but we could afford it).

She had a driver take us around to check out some hotels. We really liked the Accord Metropolitan in Chennai (35,36,37 G.N. Chetty Road, T. Nagar, Chennai 600017 Tel (91 44) 2816 1000). The hotel room was about as many sq. ft as my wife's parents' house. It was recently built and they spared no expense. Marble is everywhere.

What my wife figured out immediately was that the hotel was nearly empty. They had troubles marketing themselves (no web page is a clue) and the price was too high for the demand the marketing had produced. So she sensed (correctly) that they would cut her a deal. She got them to reduce the tariff from $400 down to $260! At that price, it was merely expensive, but well worth it.

My son just loves the new hotel.

My son has been so good. He did not complain on the long flight. During dinner, he was so jet-lagged that he fell asleep in his chair. When I'm that tired, I am really a bear, but he hasn't acted up at all.

The restaurant at the Accord has the dumbest name I have ever seen or heard for an Indian restaurant: Indiana. If you are going to name yourself after a U.S. state, at least choose one someone might want to visit, (my apologies to any readers from that fine state but my impression from driving though it many times that it was simply a place you needed to drive through to get to someplace you wanted to go).

The restaurant was nice and inexpensive and the service was very attentive. However, I remember Madhu Menon (the famous Shiok restauranteur) writing once that Americans prefer if the service is prompt but more invisible - and he's right, I don't like people spooning food on my plate. Really, there is no value-added to having someone spoon food on your plate.

One thing that has struck me as very odd (or atleast very different) is that I cannot leave a tip on the bill. I'm sure the wait staff expects a tip after serving us but when I got the bill, there was only a space for my room number. I expected that I could add a tip onto the bill and leave it that way. Perhaps that isn't the way it's done in India. I didn't have a chance to convert any dollars into rupees, so I have no cash to tip anyone. I feel bad about this. I will figure out something tomorrow.


  • I am going to Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in a few weeks, and am curious about the prices... Is the rent you mention $260 per day or per week?

    I have never seen anybody place tips other than in the upper crust restaurants. One of the saddest things I used to witness was rich old men leaving no tips, while wearing they were wearing a lot of gold and diamond studded jewelery.

    By Blogger Amit Kulkarni, at 11:00 PM  

  • This was originally called The Traders Hotel. It was launched with lot of fanfare. I heard recently that the management has changed it is now under the control of a Singapore based hotel group. the location is quite ideal...have not been inside.

    Residency, Residency Towers and Grand Days should also be good choices. They are located in the same area.

    By Blogger Kaps, at 5:24 AM  

  • Michael,
    This site tells me that Indiana (so named by the US Congress) means "Land of Indians." So the name of the restaurant is probably not way too off mark... Of course the Congress were referring to a different kind of "Indians."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:02 AM  

  • Maybe the guys at the hotel have no idea that Indiana is a state in the US? it could have been Indian-a :- the way everyone in Madras says - after every word. Michael-a? :)
    you in Bombay sometime...?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:02 AM  

  • that was - "the way everyone in Madras says - aa? after every word." as in a question.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:09 AM  

  • now you need to "un-spoil" your son....and it's not going to be easy :-)

    By Blogger Sunil, at 1:09 PM  

  • Hmm. Quite a few times Americans get accused of being clueless about how the 'rest' of the world lives. Maybe some causes lie in parenting?
    It is also interesting that Indians don't get along with ABCD's (mostly) because of their lack of understanding about what India is truely about. FOr eg: an Indian 7 year old would probably have been expected to not insult his own family by throwing such "I am so miserable here" fits. Its not like there are expected to spend a lifetime in that place, but if you have to spend 10 days, one should be able to do it with grace. And yes - the messages are passed from childhood.
    Its also interesting to note that you actually expected it. If you did - did you then prepare your son in anyway for the place he was heading for. Did you show pictures? videos etc? Did you say to him "that you may not like it, but it will hurt Nana if you say it" ? etc etc etc. If not I wonder why.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:19 PM  

  • Umm.. anonymous, you haven't dealt much with Indian 7 year-olds have you?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:23 AM  

  • Hmm,
    Well, from what I gather your wife's parents live near T.Nagar, Mahalingapuram area. If that is the case and your son still finds it "unacceptable", I suggest you take him on a tour to Triplicane,Saidapet and Royapuram.

    Thats the easier way of telling him 'mate! we ain't that bad'.

    By Blogger Nilu, at 4:01 PM  

  • Umm.. Ravikiran,
    Maybe you have dealt with a lot of Indian 7 year olds with similar emotional displays. I have indeed - not. After 30 years, I can recall a lot of kids, both of Indian parentage and NRI parentage, crying. Because - they are not getting a particular thing they want; they are hungry; they are tired and miserable; either one or both parents are missing from direct visual range; they are being handed over to strangers who scare them or they don't like; they are sick; they want attention etc etc. Try as I might, I don't recall a single kid crying saying "I don't like this place" and the been taken away from that place. But then as you have astutely pointed out - I still may have not dealt with enough Indian kids and I may yet live to see this. I also don't recall a lot of parents leaving a place they are visiting especially with the specific intention of meeting people/family, just because a kid is crying. But then as you said...

    This, seems to me a classic clase, of West vs East. Research has shown time and again that easterners bring up their children differently than westerners (duh). One of the classic difference is that western kids are fed a steady stream of "I, me, myself" messages that is all about an individual. Easterners, on the other hand from day one are taught to or receive sublimal messages about recognizing the larger picture/context of "which they are but a small part". Both approaches have undesirable cultural results. But this is one of root causes of cultural traits such as "American arrogance" . Finally, hence, for a western parent the choice is whether they want to bring up another "I, me, myself" prick or someone who begins to understand that they are not the only ones that count.

    Finally, I may have not seen enough kids, but I what I have seen are a few parents. Whether they are in India or US, parents often use childern as an excuse to do what "they" want. They give in to children only when it is convenient for the parents or it is what the parents themselves desire. Sadly, it not really about the kids, but about the parents. For eg in this case think about what would have happened if no hotel room was available or the cost was too steep to bear. You would have a different experience and a different message.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:06 AM  

  • Wow Anon thats seems a tad unfair. I would love to think that as a child brought up in India I was perfectly behaved, but I am sure my parents would most probably turn around and say otherwise. I most probably had difficulties adjusting at my grandparents and great grandparents during summer holidays in the villages. The culture was different to what I was used to in Chennai. And if I found that a culture shock, I don't blame a young child travelling all the way from a totally different culture, probably for the first time to India finding things difficult.

    Michael, hope you and your wife plan on taking the little one back to Chennai on holidays regularly. He will eventually get used to it, my one did when he found out that he had no choice :)

    By Blogger Unknown, at 9:00 AM  

  • I think its got something to do with "Americanizing", maybe thats why the restaurant's name was "Indiana" :) It's sometimes crazy, how people (not just in India, but many parts of Asia) try to imitate America in any form they can!

    Meanwhile, Welcome to India :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:43 AM  

  • No doubt the hotel people have never heard of 'Indiana' ---adding the ana is purely exotica.

    An interesting point about the highly obtrusive service---its standard in upper scale food places that waiters will pull your chair for you (in some real posh places stand behind you as you eat--a throwback to the Raj days) and of course the putting food on your plate. I would think that tipping is almost exclusively done through cash left on the bill tray.

    Do keep blogging about your impressions of India.

    By Blogger greatbong, at 4:04 PM  

  • Please e-mail me, jay at accidentalverbosity dot com, ASAP so I know that you are aware you are doing this week's CotC and got the info about it from me. Thanks!

    By Blogger Jay Solo, at 11:40 AM  

  • Hi Everyone
    A few general comments.
    I may have given the impression that my son was badly behaved - nothing could be further from the truth. He was an angel during the entire trip. He didn't complain about having to sleep on the sleeper in the train (which I hated). He didn't complain about the long flight. He was a good sport about everything.

    He was only upset because my wife's parent's house was in somewhat poor shape due to a recent flood. There was a very heavy mildew odor in the house and it might not have been safe to stay there. Two weeks later, much of the bad odor left. He was okay staying with his grandparents, but he still preferred sleeping in the Accord (and so did his parents).

    Amit: Sorry this reply is too late to help. $260 per week for a 5-star? You must be joking?

    Kaps: Thanks for this background info. Actually, the hotel was funded by a member of parliament.

    Srikanth: No doubt you are correct. Still an odd name I think.

    Charu: I did fly over Mumbai on the way from Chennai to Frankfurt. Did you see me wave?

    Next time we visit India, I hope to visit Mumbai. But we didn't do much visiting on this trip. My wife didn't even have time to visit all of here aunts and uncles.

    Sunil: He's really a very good boy. He complained very little during the whole trip. That one night was the exception.

    Anon: I think we prepared him for the sights, but not the smells. The odor there was the real issue. It was simply because of the flood. He was fine after that night.

    To be honest, my wife was not going to stay there at her parents' place in that condition anyway. It needed to dry out.

    Also, he cried privately to his mother, not publicly to his grandparents. He is very polite.

    Ravikiran: Indeed.

    Nilu: Yes, my wife's parents' home is in T. Nagar, just a short walk from the Accord. It is a nicer (but older) neighborhood. There are some very much less nice places in other parts of Chennai.

    Anyway, he is better prepared for visiting India again. He adjusted to the trip quite well and was generally very cheerful.

    Wicked Angel: Very well said. I could see his adjustment already in just a few weeks. He really felt sorry to leave India. And, yes, we need to visit more often.

    Truman: The restaurant needed more than a name change. They we absolutely empty. Often, we were the sole diners in the restaurant. The food was only so-so - a little on the oily side for my taste. Plus not much selection.

    Greatbong: Great to see you here. I will have to post about the service in India. It is very interesting and I think that the Raj experience still flavors much of it.

    The frustrating thing is that you have waiters standing around always ready to spoon your dal on your plate but if you want something like a cup of chai, you can never get their attention.

    Jay: Yes, Yes, and don't worry.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 7:11 AM  

  • I'm staying at the Metropolitan for a few days, and happened to have dinner at Indiana earlier tonight. So the name does sound silly, but I'll let that slide - the food's really, really good. This is as authentic as it gets people. 2 drinks (non-alchoholic) + 1 bottle water + one appetizer + one entree + bread = $30
    Not bad, really.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:44 AM  

  • By Blogger Yuesir, at 5:04 AM  

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