Friday, 12 June 2015
I had certain preconceptions of India before I travelled that turned out to be not entirely untrue. I expected chaos and dust and rubbish and heat and people everywhere. There was certainly that. I was also expecting to see confronting things I could never unsee, such as slums and street kids & beggars & poverty & downtrodden animals and a kind of class system we would not tolerate at home. And I saw all of that too.
What I wasn't expecting was the weird charm that the place has.
People do the best they can to go about their business without causing harm to others. Amongst other things this means they avoid running each other over in the chaos of the road. Five lanes of traffic regularly comes to a standstill for animals who dare to cross. Horns are sounded constantly, but rarely in anger. There's a sort of calmness of spirit amongst the crazy chaos of the vehicles and general and complete disregard of road rules.
I loved the colour of the locals. At least 50% of the women wore colourful saris, no matter their place in the world. The younger women also wore bright outfits but in the form of a more casual long tunic and leggings. Only a very small percentage of the wealthy women wore western clothing. Everyone who possibly could (right down to babies) wore gold jewellery. All through the day there are small stalls by the side of the road where women thread jasmine flowers onto strings for ladies to buy and put in their hair. This means that the smell of jasmine would drift through the air whenever someone walked by with them. I know I've mentioned it before but Indians take such pride in their appearance (which is such a contrast to the appearance of the environment - no-one cares about the rubbish piling up on every spare space or the fact that even new buildings never look finished as the building waste is still scattered around the ground outside, never to be removed).
Chennai presented many questions. Who owns the cows which were tied up on the street outside the studio some days? Why do so many Chennai locals go to Singapore to buy smart TVs and then take them as baggage back to Chennai - In a city of 10 million is it not possible to buy a TV? Why don't they ever finish a building, or clean up the rubbish? Will the overhead train system ever be finished or would the support posts and the overhead train stations simply fall to the ground before it was able to be joined together by track? How does anyone get any exercise? Even walking is a challenge. Why are there no swimming pools but there was an indoor snow centre somewhere. And although they have a huge beach, no-one ever swims there either. How does the city even manage to get enough water to supply it? I'm guessing the water consumption per head is a fraction of our own. So many questions.
So, would I return to India? Well no. It's unlikely I'll be returning for work. And I wouldn't come here for a holiday. But I'm really glad I got to experience it and I'll remember it forever. Arriving home will feel quiet and clean and beautiful (although the people will look a bit scruffy!) but whenever I think of India, I'll think of it with a smile.