Chennai Observations – Beginning with ‘A’

I started out the day rather glum. Truth be told I can’t shake away London from my system. I do not want to shake away London or that when I have tried to bring aspects of my London life to the present I am reminded that it is not London.  It doesn’t help but it is surely incentive enough to work towards leaving as soon as possible. It is still early days and maybe my perspective right now is from a magnifying glass. I find it therapeutic to observe people in conversation with me and steer the dialogue to gain their perspective. So far people have warmed up to the idea. I have made some observations. They may not be distinct to Chennai alone. However, to me, at this time of my life it seems as though the conversations, reactions and reasons are distinct. It is unique because I am using them as a means to pay attention to the city and try to overcome a feeling of displacement. Displacement – not physically but mentally and emotionally. It has happened before, just that this time I am more mature.

Attire – The heat, sweat and dust definitely limit the presence of western styled outfits. And the all too well known lecherous men too. While elsewhere it may be a statement of style, on the streets of Chennai it is  your protection from both nature and other human beings. Interestingly, unlike in other countries, formal and informal clothing in India is the same. That is a positive! When travelling by public transport your choice of clothing may save you some money. A friend mentioned to me how if you dress low key,that is in the traditional manner, you may not be thought of as some one who is rich and can get away with a good bargain. Clothes here are not colourful prints and frills that make you feel beautiful, rather the first consideration while picking up your day’s wardrobe may include your mode of transport, the crowd, destination etc. A part of me feels this is the case anywhere in the world. Maybe it is and the difference is in their relative importance.

Alcohol – Enjoyed by so many and yet its distribution and discussions about it in Chennai morph it into something that is still highly gender blind, a taboo among some, an experiment and/or a rite of passage for some others. I have belonged to both groups at some point in my life but have had the good fortune to realise that neither of the two makes sense. Unlike in the years when I used to live in the city alcohol is served only at government outlets now. This means mostly men only crowds. Two stories to make clear this point. A friend of a friend had the ‘courage’ to go by herself to the outlet only to observe that the men moved to give way, more out of astonishment and surprise rather that respect. On another occassion, when dropped off in a taxi and having to call the cab driver later to check on lost property, a conversation on gender appropriate morals ensued from the driver. Everbody’s business is everyone’s business.

Coffee – On a more positive note I finally had the chance to make some filter coffee! I am officially a fan and it certainly does liven up my day!

Cooking – My housemates are avid cooks. One of them started cooking since she was in third grade. Coming from a household where half of us live to eat I am delighted. Also, I have learnt that I am not too bad myself. I wonder how much of the importance given to cooking is owing to the fact that all of us in the house are girls. But it has given me some good insights into the characters of my fellow housemates. The daily evening sessions have given me the chance to get to know them better. So far I have observed a leader, an earnest follower ( I was inclined to say ‘blind follower’ but realised the phrase didn’t give enough room for a change of character later) and a discretionary follower so far. It seems like a good spectrum of characters. It has until now allowed for smooth working together.

Dogs – In keeping with the tradition, I find myself in a household of non-dog lovers again!! I have one of a few that are owned by the land lords and I hear one often running just outside my window. I have a feeling that they have gotten used to my scent. The first few days when I moved here they were their loudest.



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