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Driving Down the Road in Chennai at 6AM

Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Deb Bailey

We are driving to the airport in the early am.  I decide to take note of the complexities of Chennai’s streets as we travel along.  There is a slight breeze-the temp has not worked its way up to a blistering 38 degrees yet….

Lone cow wanders up the road….Chickens stacked in cages……not the best day to be a chicken.

Family of three passes on a motorbike….a common sight, dad driving, kid perched on front or in the middle, mom in sari.

Thatched roof house next to new IT company building…juxtapositions are plentiful here.

Empty cricket pitch … next an empty lot strewn with garbage.

Man collecting water in colorful plastic urns.

New building being constructed with long, small logs lashed together for scaffolding.

Small group of men drinking tea and reading paper at a tire store; woman in a fluttering red and green sari walks by.

Four on a motor bike…two adults, two kids, helmets recommended but clearly optional.

Flower woman stringing bright flower garlands…these are worn in the hair by many women, used for funerals and other special occasions.

Now an almost finished apartment complex next to a large pile of rubble, concrete and rebar, flowing onto the roadway.

Four men bouncing along in the back of a truck…

Herd of cows crossing  the road…cows are the only things that seem to have the right of way.

Small Hindi temple with bright and beautifully painted statues.

Tall pile of stacked brick-red bricks, newly made by hand.

Electrical wires cascading onto street….. work unfinished yet…walking on sidewalks here can be very hazardous.

Double gold and black wrought iron gate and beside this, a rusting corrugated metal gate.

Lush grove of trees- abandoned rusted bike;

Outside a store, garlands made of squashed empty plastic bottles…we’ve been concerned about our contribution to the plastic water bottle situation here- what does happen to them?

Fruit stand resplendent with fruit, limes, mangoes, papaya, watermelon, pomegranates, hanging bananas…

Closed stores with rickety metal fronts…the economies of these rickety 8 foot stores supports it owners.

Cellular stores..Airtel…Vodaphone…MTS costs 1.50 for a sim card, no sign up fee, and I can phone Canada and talk for 10 minutes for about on dollar…think we pay too much?

Dogs sleeping on sand pile.

Bright yellow auto ricks expelling smoke put by.

Goats wandering on side of street.

Tea stall with steaming pots …..

….King coconut stall with several customers; an oasis of refreshment in the heat.

Cluster of smiling politician’s signs.

Shopkeeper sweeping her storefront with a broom of long straws.

Cows sorting through street garbage and also munching on a resident’s plants.

Stray dogs strolling along street………… there are many, many stray dogs on the street here.

Housewares…rainbows of plastic dishes, mops, dusters, strainers hanging in bunches.


The streets of Chennai are a metaphor for the India I have seen- complex, colourful, modern and ancient, sometimes beautiful and at other times shabby, crumbling and new, complex and confusing.  It is always to my Canadian eye, strange, busy, and fascinating.