Over the past 4 days I feel as though I have been living an episode of the Qatsi Trilogy, Baraka or Samsara. These documentaries without scripts and words show the natural beauty of the world and the destruction humans rage upon it. Though I would not recommend any one to visit Chennai and I doubt I will ever visit again, I am glad I had the opportunity to experience the madness of this city.
Arriving in the middle of the night being the only white people on the plane into a dark dirty airport with few shops and filthy toilets could only start setting the scene of what to expect the next few days. There was a tap in the airport for people to get water on arrival, however there was only one cup there so after each person had a drink they would leave the disposable cup for the next person. Chennai airport, 1 cup could be seen almost as gross as 2 girls 1 cup, instead I decided to take in the beauty that this act of leaving the cup was the opposite to the mindless consumption we see elsewhere in the world.
The midnight ride in the taxi was an interesting experience, I thought that we were just driving through a poor industrial area in the city, though I soon learnt most of the city we would see over the next few days was just as run down, except a few places such as the temples, the high end shopping centre and the ministers house. Most of the buildings looked a cross between abandoned and under construction. The windows were smashed, they were surrounded by rubbish, but there was still the beauty of the brightly coloured clothes hanging out to dry. Arriving in our room I learnt that trusting online ratings for hotels in the developing world is not the best idea. Though our hotel had good ratings, the people who rated the hotel must never have enjoyed the comforts that I have. The place had a strange smell, appliances didn’t work properly and it looked pretty ghetto. Saying that, all the little difficulties we had really just added more moments to laugh and reflect.
Finding food the next day became a mission as we walked out into the busy daylight through the cows and dogs walking around the street. There had been plenty of rain and massive puddles everywhere. We soon noticed there was no drain system along this main road. On top of that I loved the fact many of the locals didn’t wear shoes and would just walk through these puddles without a thought crossing their mind. I am not sure if the locals were looking at us because we were white, or because I was a man with my hair tied up and a nose ring. We eventually found a store to eat, though we were really scared we would get sick. We really were far from comfortable in our new surroundings. The workers laughed at me complaining my deep fried mushroom was actually chicken, when it was in fact delicious mushroom. We soon learnt it was easy to eat as vegetarians or vegans in India. All the food outlets clearly specify if they serve “veg” or “non veg”. Even the subway is split into two different sections. Just for a laugh we even eat from the KFC veg menu. I will possibly try the veg McDonalds one another time.
As is the case when visiting other countries for the first time, tasks that should be simple such as buying a sim card drag out. We had to fill out a massive application with passport and visa photo copies, along with passport photos that required us to go for a 15 minute walk outside the massive shopping complex that really is like a Myers back home and requires you to be bomb screened before you enter. Following our new telecommunications expert 19 year old Raja down through dirty, puddles and busy roads we ended up in a tin shed that our passport photos were taken, photo shopped and printed out. It was an interesting trivial experience. Over a week later and our phones are still not connected…
When driving around Chennai you can see the western influence, possibly from when India was governed under the british and had influence from other countries such as France and Portugal. I felt as if technology along with the other madness off the developed world progresses at a rate to fast for a country like India to keep up. Many will see the advertisements for products such as Iphone’s and gold jewellery that line the streets, but of those thousands that see these advertisement’s only a fraction would be able to make a purchase and participate in the forever advancing world. They have these extra jobs in India, like a man that operates a lift that is already operated by a computer. Not a fancy lift in a 5 star hotel, but a banged up lift in a shopping centre. Also like other parts of Asia when you order a service it is like everyone around you works at the place and all spring into action of their specific task which could be as simple as getting a cup of water. This can be confusing at times as more often than not no one is wearing a uniform. There is a few beggars in the street, but not many. I wonder if this is because everyone is generally that poor in the city they don’t give money, or do they simply look after each other?
The most confronting part of Chennai is the rubbish. It is everywhere. It lines the roads no matter where you are. I got the vibe that anywhere there is water it is ok to go to the toilet or offload rubbish. There is rivers that the banks instead of being lined with sand are just mountains of rubbish. When you drive along the roads and get to a bridge or a fence near water that is where the side of the road is lined with stopped motorcycles and everyone urinating as such beautiful people in amazing outfits just fly past on motorcycles.
The most daunting thought I must of had while being shocked in Chennai is that this city, though it is the poorest place I have ever been, it is no where near the poorest, I can’t imagine the lifestyles people must have in some of these poorer places. Only spending 3 days there has easily motivated me to be happy with a lot less in life.
Hi, I’m Ian and I have made it my life mission to travel and experience everything this world has to offer. Follow me on my quest to live outside the boundaries of conventional society and see the world through the eyes of all our fellow inhabitants. I hope to inspire and motivate you to make your own path in life and push your own limits.