To Be Young and Cosmopolitan in Chennai

The Raintree is a high-rise luxury hotel on St. Mary’s Road, just a few dusty streets away from where I stay. From the polished lobby, one boards an extraordinarily quiet elevator and emerges onto a rooftop bar with a swimming pool, dining tables, and a perimeter bar underlit by blue neon and with an airy view of the city. The effect is striking because the bar is sleek and modern, while the street is strewn with piles of rubble. I was here to meet a new acquaintance, Ben, an thirty-something American who has been living in Chennai for a year and who took eagerly to my suggestion of the Raintree as a place to meet — a little too eagerly, I thought, considering that I had suggested it only because I knew of nothing else. I figured Ben would know of grottoes and pubs much cooler than a hotel bar. [...]