Sun, sand, Saravana
Go to the beach
At 13km, it is one of the longest in the world. Nobody who comes to Chennai leaves without going to Marina Beach. Life in the city almost revolves around the beach. It is one of the cleanest city beaches in India and is soft and sandy, unlike the ones in Mumbai, say. Don't expect a peaceful stroll, though. It is crowded, and on Sunday evenings it seems like everyone in the city has descended there. Enjoy the food sold by hawkers, jog there in the mornings, when it is more peaceful, and take in the history of Chennai through the old buildings around the area.
Eat at a Saravana Bhavan
Don't leave Chennai without having eaten at the ubiquitous Saravana Bhavan restaurants. Have the idli, the dosa, the good old set meals and the filter coffee. You will see the concept of quick eating in action here: there are always people waiting for those eating to leave - that's how popular these places are.
Take a trip to Pondicherry
For more peaceful times, head out of Chennai, three or so hours' drive, to Pondicherry, the former French colony. From idle sunbathing to swimming to water sport, the beaches and backwaters here have it all. There's also the famous Auroville township, an idyllic sort of place where about 2000 people from more than 40 different countries live together peacefully.
Another port town 60km south of Chennai, Mahabalipuram is famous for its monolithic monuments that have been carved out of one single stone each. These include events from the Mahabharata depicted in sculpture. There are temples here all right, but the sculptures outside are not dedicated to just gods and goddesses.
Get some Thai food
For some international flavour, don't forget to eat at the Lotus restaurant in The Park Hotel. I like Thai, so I go there often. They serve some of the best Thai food in India. Their green curry with chicken is very good.
As told to Sidharth Monga