As I sit in my room on the beautiful SRMC campus and attempt to compile my thoughts and insights over this past week, a whirlwind of images come to mind, including leaving the comfort and familiarity of Boston behind and being plunged into a colorful, chaotic and energetic city. Upon exiting the Chennai airport on the night of our arrival, we were met with a blast of steamy air, a mass of friends/families/drivers trying to locate their loved ones/riders, and the intimidating, fear-provoking activity that is driving in Chennai. After having lived in this vibrant city for almost a week now, I can tell you that none of those things has changed and they remain some of reasons Chennai is such an invigorating place to visit.
To begin with, the heat is overwhelmingly tropical and encompassing. It has provided me with an opportunity to purchase several varieties of linen pants, take multiple showers daily and drink liters of water per day without batting an eye (I’m usually a Diet Coke/Diet Mountain Dew drinker). It also gives me a great deal of respect for the adaptability of the Indian population who continue on with their daily lives. They work, they go to school, they’re out doors and the women wear their beautiful sarees, all despite the heat.
The people of India! Several adjectives come to mind when I think about the interactions I’ve had with the people of Chennai: passionate, proud, kind, colorful. After our arrival, I recall waiting in the breakfast line, trying to figure out how to pronounce my breakfast of choice, the amount of rupees owed and why I was getting cut off by eager customers left and right (I’ll come back to this on posts to come). The woman behind the counter smiled after my mispronunciation of the food item and guided me to the area to wait for the breakfast to be prepared. I remember being relieved that I made it through my first ordering (!) and impressed that I was treated with such kindness. Given the aforementioned vibrant culture, I can’t help but briefly mention the beautiful city, ornate temples, colorful fabrics and cows meandering through town (one of my favorite things about Chennai).
Lastly, the traffic situation…my admiration for Balaji grows stronger every day as he navigates the masses of cars, crowded buses, helmetless motorcyclists/scooterists, daring pedestrians, and the occasional cow. The traffic is intense and chaotic, intermixed with the ever-present horn beeping. I’ve always wanted to drive in a foreign country, but for the time being, I’ll leave it those more skilled than me!