Well, well, well… what a fortnight it has been! I am a hard-core nomad at heart, and few things in life give me more pleasure than travelling and exploring new lands, cultures and people.
This October saw me in Chennai and Kanchipuram, a temple town a two-hour road trip away. What did I do? Smell, see, touch, hear and feel. And laughed my glasses off at my nieces’ antics, turned a fiery red at people who are given to oggling at anything feminine, basked in the scorching tropical sun, went bargain-street hunting unsuccesfully and ended up in my refuge of a Mount Road mall, tried to be patient in a stuffy K-car in traffic measured in hours by the tonne (the operative word being tried). And visited many a temple to soak in the positive vibrations and intricately beautiful architechture, although I am still astounded at the way people walk complacently (and not interupt their talk, mind you) on granite and stone floors baked by the noon sun to reach the inner sanctum, while all elegance and samathu ponnu incognito forgotten, I jumped and skipped with more vigor than I ever remember possesing, complete with a flower basket, mobiles, handbag, the quintessential yellow tuni paii (cloth bag) with a red Lakshmi print and balancing naii-velaku (ghee or clarified butter lamps) on a tiny piece of cardboard
Shopping has always been a rather tedious activity in my case, unless it is for books, music, gadgets, flowers, or for Dad. Then comes the clause of prefering to shop only at night or late evenings, when my body clock pumps oodles of adernaline. And preferably..ah well..unless you are innately interested in my shopping inclination or lack thereof..back to Chennai..! Although Chennai offers a haven for buying all sorts of consumer goods, I found it quite ironical that there exists such an immense amount of disparity between the buying power of the general masses and the comparitively small neo-rich and palamui-palamui (gen after gen) money spinners. Yes- you may roll your eyes and wonder why I reached this glaring conclusion now– but this socio-economic stratification is highlighted in metros, unlike in my abode, Goa, where one tends to bustle around with rose-colored glasses, oblivious of, or rather too comfortable to bother about poverty and the 80-20 segmentation.
The influx of MNCs and IT-enabled services and sectors in Chennai have indeed raised the bar of the standard of living in many sections of the middle and upper middle class. But an fat paycheck to a twenty-something to be puffed off in discotheques and jazzy jackets translates into a lighter groceries bag for another twenty-something, thrust into the world with an entire clan to provide for. ‘Who is to be blamed?’ I hear that question all the time, especially in debates and dog-fights in councils of repute. What is to be achieved by apportioning blame? Are we not, as a nation and as a global order, inter-twined to such an extent that we can neither accept sole credit nor shoulder lone blame?
The crux of the matter lies in initiating action. When issues of Chennai’s problem areas are raised while casually conversing in public transport or informal get-togethers, people tend to avoid taking a stance: ‘Why do you have to bother about all that? Concentrate on getting a good degree.’ ‘Chennai has not changed for the better in all these years-what good is talking about all this?’ And perhaps the worst contender: ‘Chennai rocks, da. Don’t look at all that poverty and pollution. The Government should deal with that, not us. Look at the malls, clubs, designer boutiques, broad roads in our area, air condition everywhere we go.. and the green bucks! Keep it coming, I say!’
Sigh. This needs deep contemplation.
And meandering back to less sober reflections..
Shutter-crazy? You bet.
I was in Chennai during the Navratri festival, and the sights and sounds were truly unique. This is Mylapore, a mecca for kollu bomai (dolls arranged on steps during Navratri in southern parts of India).
The dolls are arranged in a step-like formation even while being exhibited for sale! Age-old concept of demos?! How I wonder!
Kanchipuram contains an astounding number of places of worship and a treasure-trove of architechture and history. A few shots of the famous Vardharaja Temple, reknowned for its spiritual ambience as well as an exmaple of the Vijayanagar empire construction style.
Ahh.. there is so much yet to be discovered about our cultural and national heritage……
Grub time, more in the next part!