Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rambling about Chennai

I've been kind of restless lately.  Very aware that I'll be leaving here, what has come to feel like home, in about two weeks.  I'm trying not to get ahead of myself.  After all, I am still here and have some pretty interesting things planned.  Continued studies of the Yoga Sutras, an all night walk along the beach looking for turtle eggs with a conservation group.  A "pink ride" on bikes for a belated celebration of International Women's Day, and an overnight bike ride, if things go as planned.  And even when I leave here, March 29, I still have 5 more weeks in India.  But last night I couldn't sleep, and after 2 cups of coffee this morning, I realized why.  It's time to start planning my return trip!  More about that later.  I do miss some things about home.  I miss my friends and family.  And as I told my friend Brian, I miss doing things like cooking meals, washing clothes, grocery shopping.  (Then he mentioned Walmart, and I had to think twice about that.)  All this being waited on is really too much sometimes.  I'm not complaining, just sayin'.

This is called the Natesa, better known to most of us as the Dancing Shiva.  This is one of hundreds of beautiful bronze statues we viewed yesterday.  No photography was allowed.  This comes from the museum website, where there are many more.

Ravi and I spent a very enjoyable few hours yesterday at the Government Art Miseum.  The bronze gallery was impressive.  Lots of very well preserved, very old beautiful bronze statues of Shiva in all his manifestations, of his consort Parvati  in all her manifestations, of Ganesh, of Murugan, of Vishnu, of Lakshmi, of Rama.  The whole bunch of them.  I'm still trying to figure out who they all are.  A very western thing to do I'm sure.  They aren't meant to be figured out.  I hate to admit it, but I want to draw a chart and put them all in categories.  

We also went to the state library, which is located on the same grounds as the museum.  I wondered out loud.  How much overlap is there between the books in this library and the state library in Columbus, OH, for example.  How many of these books have never been checked out?  They still use the old-fashioned way of stamping the due date on a flap in the book, so we started looking to see.  We did find a few, just in our short investigation, that had never been checked out.  And there were ones that had been checked out many times that made us shrug our shoulders or chuckle.  Like "Care and Feeding of Your Husband" which had been quite popular.

I've collected quite a few pictures of Chennai that don't necessarily fit a topic.  They just show life here, in all it's chaos, vibrancy, noise, insanity, creativity, resilience.  I could go on and on with adjectives.  Chennai is everything I dislike about cities.  I'll be glad to go, and yet I want to stay.  I will miss it.  I am experiencing  all the contradictions that are India.  They are real.  

So, about that return trip.  I'm thinking probably the fall of 2015.  A couple weeks in Chennai doing a yoga workshop with Ravi, then a couple weeks trekking in the Himalayas, then a couple weeks in Bhutan, where they measure Gross National Happiness rather than GDP.  I ran it past Ravi, and he thinks it sounds like a great idea.  Anybody want to come along?  Seriously.  It will be an adventure you will never forget!

So on to the pictures.  Some speak for themselves.  Others will have commentary.  Many were taken from the car.  Most are pretty ordinary scenes of people just living their lives here in Chennai.  First a few more from the museum and library.

The museum buildings and grounds are magnificent.

There were statues located outside as well as inside.  This one was labeled Jheshta.  There were several others that were similar and had the same label.  Ravi didn't know anything about it, and I couldn't find anything very helpful online either.  If you know, please comment.

This book had actually been checked out a couple times, but not as much as the one about care and feeding of your husband.

One of the groups performing at the women's day celebration.  It was interesting to see how much he was able to communicate through hand gestures.

It's not a trek or a surly, but it has been very nice to have to ride here.

Indrani looking particularly beautiful again.  Today she showed me how to make vegetable Koothu. And she just now gave me a glass of watermelon juice, which is very refreshing in this heat.  I will miss her, and not just because of her cooking.

Every day I walk or ride past the press wallah, the guy who does all the ironing, including for the Shankars.  This day I asked him if I could take a picture, and he agreed.  He heats his iron with coal.  Ravi said that it would cost more to have the ironing done at home due to the cost of electricity.

This is the house right behind the press wallah.  Did I mention that India is a land of contradictions?

Nap time.  Look closely.

Retired from its days of being a carousel for small children on the beach.

India would be a safer place if people followed this advice.  I read not too long ago that there are no atheists on Indian roads.  We are all praying we will make it to our destination safely.


  1. Posts always raise more questions about this fascinating place... Re the traffic sign, your comment about following this advice made me think "well yeah, bet it's just seen as advice and not The Law" - so, any thoughts about law enforcement? Are police viewed the same as here, by the young? by elders? Always more questions! :)

    1. Not sure how others view the police. From behavior, it's obvious that traffic laws are seen as guidelines at best. The few people I know view them with cynicism. I did hear about one instance someone seeing a person stopped for a traffic violation. I'd say it's pretty rare. I don't know where they would begin! I rarely see police cars. I've seen a few out directing traffic, but they don't seem to help much. Mostly they stand there in their uniforms and people do what they always do. Go figure.

  2. Nice bike! Did you buy it or borrow it? Do you get a chance to ride much? As usual, great photos!!!