Saturday, 23 January 2010

Touch down in Trichy, Tamil Nadu

Step out of the airport and into a taxi and you drive smack bang into India. The noise is deafening; horns blare continuously as drivers fight for a piece of the road, stopping for no one. The heat is sticky trapping fumes and dust and the aroma of sewage, and it clings to you like a shawl. Taxis dart among people unflinchingly, narrowly avoiding goats and rubbish and potholes; rickshaws jolt off the road to avoid buses, brush past cyclists and then give up on the left side of the road altogether. People are everywhere: brightly coloured saris emerge from the clouds of dust and the backcloth of ramshackle concrete buildings; men rearrange their sarongs, do business, fix motorbikes and spit out streams of phlegm as they do. Stalls draped in brightly coloured flower garlands (offerings for the Gods) are conspicuous among the chai stalls where chai wallahs pour sugary milky tea into small glasses from great heights and chat enigmatically to a crowd of punters. The smell of exotic spices and breads and smoke and sweat choke the air. Music erupts violently from passing buses followed by angry blasts on the horn. Rubbish fills every nook and cranny: it clogs up drains, swirls about in filthy puddles, builds up in corners or sits smouldering in little piles. People cling onto the buses, entire families cram onto a single motorcycle. People eat and talk and work and clean and wash and sleep oblivious to the noise or dirt around them. Mangy dogs sniff hopefully through rubbish, goat herders negotiate their herds through gridlocked traffic and cows, at one with their surroundings, meander at their own pace amongst the chaos. Every now and then the sparkle of gold catches your eye and you notice a vibrant Hindu temple protruding from the shacks and concrete office blocks – a little haven of peace where life slows down to a near halt and you can stop long enough to catch your breath.

India is filthy, frenetic and on some levels just utterly crazy and yet there is something deeply charming and truly mesmerizing by such a diverse and infinitely fascinating country. I'm looking forward to experiencing it!

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