Filed under: Daily life
That’s the Ministry of Tourism’s most recent campaign, and I think it fits okay. “Incredible,” one says, stepping out of the airport. And then BAM!, mid-thought, an exclamation point. “I’m in !ndia.”
An auto-rickshaw. BAM! And is that a guy holding a twenty-foot PVC pipe out the side? BAM! A silk shop, and a burka shop. Restaurants in “veg” or “non-veg.” BAM BAM! A trapezoidal temple, and…a shrine to a plump Virgin Mary. Huh, BAM! People adjusting their saris and retucking their lungis, people pushing carts of split watermelons and spiky jackfruits, people fixing bicycles in the alley and splitting bamboo on the sidewalk, people pissing, people sleeping, people arguing, people, people, people. BAM bamity BAM!
I’ve been here nearly three weeks now, and the first exclamation points have worn off only a little. I keep thinking of Senegal, as that seems to be my basis for comparison for every foreign place, and much of the feeling here is the same. Right hand only for eating, taking off shoes at the door, political rallies with blasting music, little shops with a little of everything, religious icons on walls, dangling charms on back bumpers, disgusting bathrooms, friendly faces, spicy smells, packed buses in crazy traffic, mosquitoes that are problematic, constantly oppressive heat and just…the feeling of the street.
Until yesterday, I was staying in the Triplicane neighborhood of Chennai, a densely populated mixed-income area near the city center.
For some reason I noticed dress right away. Few women in Western dress, but most men. Sandals for everyone. I’m happy to see that men almost uniformly sport cotton pants and button-up shirts, so I should fit right in. Some men prefer their hair parted severely and slicked, and mustaches are the hot thing. I dig that, too.
I feel like I’m sweating in the shower. My scalp is like a squeezed sponge, and the droplets become ants as they roll off.
So there’ the dress and the heat, but it was the feeling of safety that really hit me. I can walk around worrying about remembering a few Tamil words, worrying about not getting run over, feeling culture-shocked at all the people, senses, stores, sure. But to not worry about being mugged? After seven months in South Africa, thank goodness most of all for that. What a great relief.
As I finish old posts re: South Africa, they’ll appear below, so keep an eye peeked for those. New videos at the left, too.
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