Thursday, January 27, 2005

Backstreets of Chennai

When we returned to the auto after the temple, we had to pay a man 5 Rs for parking. I think there are more parking attendants in India than there are cars! Every one of them has a whistle and blows it constantly as he guides the car, motorbike or auto through a seemingly impassable maze of vehicles and slides it into the smallest of spaces. If you want investment advice from me, I'd say buy a whistle factory in India, a top earner for sure. They love blowing their whistles, even (especially) when it's not necessary. If it just so happens to be 5am and you can wake up all the hotel guests (those who survived the Titanic Theme taxi you're guiding), all the better!

The auto journey started taking us into more "interesting" neighbourhoods today, the backstreets we never saw sight of yesterday, and giving us a glimpse of the how the poorer half live. Try to imagine if someone took a whole farmer's market, mixed it with a few scrapyards, added in some street hawkers and then scattered the whole lot, animals roaming free of course, through a number of dusty dirty pot-holed narrow streets, where people are also doing their cooking, washing and cleaning. Just to add a bit of irony there are small shrines everywhere, with people (both here and in large temples) praying at every opportunity without fear of derision, or even notice, from anyone nearby. Their casual yet devotional attitude to worship is impressive, and perhaps explains their lack of unhappiness in the foul-smelling filthy conditions they inhabit.