Chennai is a city of color and contrast. I took a quick trip to visit our friends, C and L. Wonderful hosts, we did the usual – visited their local market, toured the UNESCO World Heritage archaeological site, Mahabalipuram, dined alfresco at the beautiful Upper Deck overlooking the Bay of Bengal, and shopped at a local arts and crafts fair. But by far my favorite was our early morning walk with their dogs through the village enroute to the beach.
Color was everywhere from the surprising azure blue of the sky and the white, pink, and fuchsia of the delicate bougainvillea blooms to the vibrant lime green and purple buildings and the vivid array of saris.
Our walk to the village took us through a posh neighborhood – manicured lawns, flowering trees, formidable entrances, and an etched-in-stone street sign. Turn the corner and the manicured lawns become piles of dirt and litter, goats roaming the streets. Such a contradiction.
The beach was a confusion of activity. It extended for miles and miles, fishing nets strewn about, women filleting fish right there on the beach (can’t get any fresher than that!), boys playing cricket, dogs showing their interest, and annoyance, with our two labradors, and people just milling about, not seeming to have a care in the world.
Mahabalipuram, although magnificent, was nothing compared to the festivities happening on the beach. As we walked down the street, the energy and sheer number of people surprised even my hosts. They avoided the weekend so that we could have an uninterrupted, quiet experience, however, we seemed to arrive in the middle of a still unknown Hindu festival. The beach reminded me of a holiday weekend at the Indiana Dunes, though the beach umbrellas were replaced with saris fashioned as havens, coolers and picnic lunches replaced with bundles of wood for open-air fires. And thousands of people.
The Incredible People of India