Chennai Thoughts

I was reminded yesterday that I had not written on my blog this week. Having had some time now in India, well what is it like.

Neyveli---women-wearI have seen only a very small part of India. I believe that Chennai is a very conservative part of India – as yet relatively untrammelled by the winds or americanism that has blown over other  parts of the world. 

  For example, Indian fashion can be described as a mix of traditional Indian saris and Western styles like jeans and t-shirts. The Indian sari dates back 5,000 years ago and can be described as a long strip of cloth draped in various styles over a choli (short sleeve blouse). The most common way to wear a sari is around the waist with one end draped over the shoulder, but they can be worn in manifold styles Chennai - sidesaddledepending on the region and one’s caste. It’s kind of romantic when you see women wearing vibrant saris riding their scooters around town with their silk shawls and long hair flying in the air.

Although a majority of the women are donned in Indian style clothing, most men I’ve seen wear trousers and button down shirts. Ladies, usually the more creative dresser, often incorporate both styles into one outfit: a kameez (tunic) and a shal(shawl) paired with jeans and sandals (as in the photo on the right above). But whatever you choose to wear, modesty is key so leave your mini skirts at home. Unless you’re in a big city like Mumbai, then apparently anything goes…

The next thing about Chennai is the noise. It is …well…deafening!! By the time I walk back to the hotel at night,my ears are ringing even more than normal. The roads are simply full of cars sounding horns for any reason at all. It is quite dangerous to walk, but it is even more dangerous when you are being driven. The first rule of the road here is that there are no rules! Cars move within centimetres of each other, sound horns and simply play chicken…until one of them backs down. Chennai - Tuk-tuk The ubiquitous Tuk-tuk drivers  – the auto-rickshaw – think that they own the road. There are thousands of them on the road in Chennai. I even saw a few in a small village on my trip from Pondicherry back to Chennai.

If you look back at the picture of a woman in a sari on a motorcycle, notice that nobody wears helmets here – nor do they wear seatbelts in cars. She is perched, side-saddle, on a motorbike in the middle of traffic far worse than Auckland at its worst, where everybody darts for the nearest gap, in apparent war with everybody else – yet it is all done without any rancour. There is no road-rage here. Everybody just keeps moving.

When we leave our hotel in the morning, the driver has to exit and then shortly after do a u-turn at some traffic lights. He simply keeps slowly moving until somebody stops coming from the other direction and then he turns in to the lane he wants to travel in. Simple, effective …and highly frightening to novice passengers!!

Litter!! It is everywhere. Nobody seems to worry very much about it. They drop it, walk over it, around it. Don’t walk into it as you do not know what it might conceal. In Chennai, no matter where you go, you are accompanied by litter, noise and people. Claustrophobic? Well sometimes yes. Exciting, well that too  🙂

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About David Adlam

I am a conductor, composer, clarinettist and examiner for Trinity Guildhall working in Auckland, New Zealand and overseas
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