Saturday, 30 January 2010

India Revisited - Chennai & Mamallapuram

In January I returned to India for a little more than two weeks, some six months after my last visit. This trip took me to Chennai and also back to Bangalore. After the very mixed impressions I took home with me from Bangalore last time, Chennai turned out to be a very positive surprise. The city is the fourth largest in India, but it feels a lot less crowded than Bangalore. Traffic has its hiccups, but it's nowhere near as congested. There are other differences: I saw less extreme poverty and less destruction of old buildings to make way for shiny new glass palaces. There are still all the negative points which one has come to associate with India, the most noticeable of which is the extreme pollution: garbage and dirt that is just everywhere, accompanied by an all pervading stench; something which, I think, not only speaks of an utter disrespect of nature, but chiefly of other people's living space.


Still, I can truly say that I enjoyed my time in Chennai. As always, much of the joy of being in a foreign place is tied to the people you meet, and I found again that the hospitality and friendliness of the people in India is outstanding. Some of the best time I had was spending time at the beach in the evening during the week-end of Pongal (a South Indian harvest festival celebrated in mid-January), surrounded by thousands of people came out there en masse to enjoy themselves. In India, the residents of Tamil Naidu are renowned to be more religious and spiritual than elsewhere, and one of Chennai's striking characteristics is the large amount of temples and shrines encountered everywhere. Typical are also the large amount people wearing traces of Vibhuti, the sacred ash used in religious worship in Hinduism, on their brows. I don't know if it is their spirituality, or the climate (which can be extremely hot, I heard, but was a pleasant 30 degrees when I was there), or just the general laissez-faire attitude which I've come to associate with the residents of most seaside cities, but there was something of a very pleasantly laid-back feeling to the place.


I took several rolls of films in and around Chennai, all of which are away to be developed. Meantime, however, here is a link to two galleries of photos I took on the iPhone: one of Chennai (which includes some video footage), and one of Bangalore. Enjoy.


PS: more photos of Chennai and also of Bangalore can be found at my daily photoblog, Seasons of Glass.