Immersing ourselves in our Chennai neighborhood has been made more interesting by the onset of the Northeast Monsoon. We dodged the main monsoon in the far north and the west of India, well most of it, but didn’t even know there was a monsoon on the east side. It started with a cyclone, which missed us, but the rains have come hard, making walking the muddy, cow shit and trash strewn streets a bit of a challenge.
People here take it in stride, they have to, they know the drill, keep to the less dirty narrow pavement as much as buses, trucks, cars and motos allow, wade the mud and poop when you have to, rinse your sandaled feet in the least muddy water you find, carry an umbrella at all times; it’s a hard rain that falls brother.
Claire’s Walk in Chennai
We followed blogs of many independent travelers in India, cyclists and non, and many of them cut their trips short because of the intensity of the experience: crowds everywhere, no personal space, gastric illnesses, noise and filth. Some very experienced travelers have not been able to take it, and left early. There were times that tested our resolve, or reason for being here, but as is often the case, when one of us is down, the other bucks them up and we soldier on until we feel comfortable.
Mostly we avoided large cities in favor of villages and agricultural districts. But now we are embracing the Indian urban experience of huge Chennai with some measure of enthusiasm, enjoying the cacophony of street noise, the color and relaxed intensity (yes, I meant those words to go together) of the people. We’re even used to getting ripped off (rarely) because each instance is made up for by a dozen smiles and small gestures of welcome. Even cow shit between the toes doesn’t bother us anymore.
We fly home soon, and are ready after three months, but we’re enjoying opening our senses and memories to an India we’ll most likely never see again. But as with all of our adventures, we come home with an overflowing storehouse of memories.