Amritraj in Woodlands: Through the (rear) looking glass

Media & Entertainment, Miscellaneous, Sports

This Sunday morning my wife and I drove into Woodlands restaurant on Chennai’s Cathedral Road. Not the Woodlands by the side of Hotel Savera, but Woodlands — the drive-in restaurant. Incidentally Woodlands seems to be a very popular name for restaurants in Chennai!

Coming back to Woodlands drive-in, Chennai is unique in that right in the heart of the city you can drive in to this moderately wooded parking lot, order your food and have it either sitting in the comfort of your car or hanging around it (of course depending on the kind of car you have!). (Incidentally, Chennai also has perhaps the last of drive-in movie theatres in India — Prarthana.)

There is Chhote Miyan in Mumbai which is a busy parking lot by the day and a busier outdoor eatery by the night. But I don’t recall too many people sitting in their cars to eat.

There are tandoori stalls all over Delhi, where you would find people parked by the side of a a busy road to blare out loud music with their windows rolled down and eating some chicken on the side. Of course there is Pandara Road, where the parking lots are used as eateries.

Then there is the famous chaat stall on Shahajahan Road, where people prefer to sit in their cars ony to escape being trampled by the mob that gathers around the serving counters!

Of course there are the McDonalds drive-through outlets, which technically speaking, are the thematic opposites of ‘drive-ins’.

So, this Sunday morning, when we drove in, we saw a familiar face — that of Vijay Amritraj (of course there was the rest of him too!). Once upon a time, Vijay Amritraj was the most looked-upto sportsman in India; of course after Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar!

It was indeed a delight to park our car close to him. However, we soon caught ourselves (and many others) gawking at Vijay’s entourage, which included his brother Ashok Amritraj. It was rude. So the conscientious me decided not to stare. Instead I turned my rear-view mirror at an angle, where I could see them without having to ostensibly turn my neck!

Vijay left in his Mercedes, while Ashok left in his Hyundai Sonnata. Ok, that’s an assumption of ownership, but had me wondering — who is the richer of the two brothers?

Of course Ashok struck it rich much later in life, when he and Jean Claude van Demme scripted a few successes in Hollywood. I heard him narrate his struggle story in 2004 at Frames, the annual media event organized by FICCI (read here).

In case you are still reading, we had our regular order of masala dosa followed by filter coffee!

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