Crossing the Street

It depends on the time of day, but crossing the street in front of our house in Chennai can be an adventure in itself.  It goes without saying that traffic in these parts is completely disorganized. The flow is a random process, with vehicles of all shapes and sizes trying to find a way through the confusion. Four-wheelers in all sizes – buses, trucks, construction vehicles, smaller vans, cars, etc.., compete for space with three-wheelers and two wheelers, both motorized and foot powered.  (I am a little surprised I have not yet seen a bullock cart on this road.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The concept of staying on your side of the road will get you nowhere when you are trying to get someplace.   And if you are on a two-wheeler, you may even try to maneuver sideways between two vehicles if there is enough space to find your way around stopped traffic.

The pedestrian is a forgotten entity in the midst of  all of this, but, because of the nature of the place, people have to cross the road all the time to take care of daily business.  These folks are looking for the break in the traffic to start walking across the street, hoping that no other vehicle appears on the road while they are in the process.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf one such vehicle were to appear, it is more than likely not going to stop for you.  Rather, the driver, in all likelihood, is going to try to find a way around you, trying to avoid slowing down.  This will happen even while you keep moving.  It is not clear what one is supposed to do.  Do you keep walking, do you halt in your tracks, or do you make a dash for it, not knowing how the speeding vehicle will respond.  You take your life in your own hands.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I have seen people put out their hands while stepping in front of a slowly moving vehicle like a bus, instructing it to stop.  That seems to work.  After all, bus drivers probably do not wish to be lynched by an angry mob if something untoward happens.  I once had to wait about 15 minutes to try to cross a busy road. My friend, who was waiting patiently in a car on the other side, finally stepped out on to the road, put his hand out, and proceeded to cross over to my side.  It was the work of a master of the craft.

My initial experience with trying to cross the road in front of our house during this trip nearly led to disaster.  I had lost all the skills I thought I had acquired from previous visits.  I was probably fortunate to not get injured.  But I am getting better.  What is required is a ton of patience.  And sudden moves to make a dash for it across the road are ill-advised.   Also, never try your luck crossing the street when your vision is partially blocked, especially by a bus or some similar sized vehicle.

Folks who live in these parts have been crossing busy Chennai roads like this for years. They are taking a calculated risk when they do this, and probably feel that the chances of not being hit under the circumstances are somewhat reasonable from a statistical perspective. People have no other choice, and you have to have a certain sense of fatalism ingrained in you if you are to survive under these circumstances.

I could not resist posting the picture below. The family is on a two-wheeler, probably waiting for mom to reappear from her shopping at the local store.  She will get on the back of the motor-bike, behind dad, and off they will go!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Faces In The Crowds

Places in India, especially in the cities, tend to become very crowded during the daytime.  We live in one such location in Chennai.   You can see a few  pictures illustrating the street scene in this older blog that I posted a while back.  I used to go up to the terrace of our house and look down on the activity in the street.  There were the pedestrians and the numerous two-wheelers – cycles, scooters and motorbikes, and then there were the heavier four-wheelers, be it the cars, the trucks, or the buses.  It could be chaos as they all jockeyed to occupy the same space.  I saw this person on a motorbike at one point at the corner of the street.  There was something about his face that got my attention.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is a second picture I am submitting for the weekly challenge.  Because of the effort level involved, our group tended to get separated as we were climbing Vidhyagiri hill in Shravanabelagola in Karnataka.  As illustrated in the picture below, we tended to get surrounded by other groups and sometimes become just another face in the crowd.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Shravanabelagola

Shravanabelagola is a town in the state of Karnataka in India.  It has two hills.  The smaller one, called Chandragiri, has a Hindu Temple Complex on top.  The other hill, the Vindhyagiri, is more famous, and is one of the great pilgrimage sites for followers of the Jain religion. It is known for the temple on top with a giant monolithic statue of Gomateshwara, also called Bahubali, the son of the first tirtankara of the Jain religion.  There are several smaller shrines (called basadis in Karnataka) on the hill.  The climb to the top of this hill is a challenge, but it is undertaken by tourists and pilgrims of all ages and many faiths in great numbers.  Here are some pictures from our climb.

The first picture was taken near the start of the climb.  As you may notice, the steps are carved into the rock and are quite uneven.  You also have to leave your footwear at the bottom before you start up the hill.  On a hot day one might have to wear socks to be able to walk on the hot rock.  At this point in the climb you cannot see the temples at the top of the hill.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe climb is quite steep.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlong the way you get a good view of the town’s water tank, the belagola (white pond), and the smaller Chandragiri hill.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou want to keep a good hold on the railing while climbing!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is a flat area and a place for a temporary stop after the first section of the climb.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next section of the climb is shorter.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There is an additional short section that needs to be climbed before reaching the main temple where the statue of Bahubali is located. They were in the process of preparing for the Mahamastakabhisheka, a Jain festival that is held once every 12 years.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the logo of the 2018 festival, courtesy of Wikipedia.We found a Jain priest at the foot of the statue who was blessing the devotees of different faiths who came up to him with offerings.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the view of the town from the level of the temple.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen we were on our way back down to the intermediate level.  There were some folks who insisted on sliding down the railing.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA closeup of the Chandragiri temple complex across town.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the artifacts on the hill.  I am not sure what exactly it is.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our way down to the bottom of the hill.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was a unique experience and a visit recommended for anybody in decent physical shape.

A Feeling of Quiet in a Noisy Place

My parents’ home in Chennai is not a quiet place.  In fact, the noise from the traffic and the people on the street, when combined with the dust raised by the vehicles passing by the front of the home, can make it a place that one may want to escape from under other circumstances.

But that is not necessarily the way I feel when I am here.  When I sit down in the verandah beside the garden to read a book, or walk up to the terrace to putter around with my camera,  when I  hear the sounds of the street, be it the voices of the people speaking in a language that I can barely follow, or the familiar rumble of the engines of the city buses, when I watch the birds flying high overhead in the fading evening light, it is feeling of peace that one experiences.  Even if this state of mind is occasionally shattered by the loud honking of an impatient bus or a truck passing by, or by something else, the disturbance quickly fades away as the other sounds of the street once again take over the senses to soothe the soul and bring back that comforting sense of familiarity.

I have arrived at a time of year when the weather is very pleasant.  I am avoiding the heat and humidity of summer and the rains of the monsoon. The evening breeze cools the air as I relax in the open spaces of the verandah and the terrace.

I am back in a familiar place that I can call home.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Dogs of The Harley Estate

We spent a couple of nights at the Golden Wood Eco Holiday Homes located in the Harley Estate in Sakleshpur in Karnataka.  Here are some sample pictures that attempt to capture the spirit of our experience there.  (You can click on the pictures to open them up in higher resolution.)

It was the second morning of our stay at the resort.  I woke up early to find our friendly neighborhood dog guarding the doorway.  It had actually spent some time in the night barking at something or another.  It could have been the critters that had been scurrying across the rooftop in the night in their ongoing “rat race”.

I decided to take a walk by myself and headed up the path toward the hilltop house.  I had proceeded just a few yards from the house when I heard some excited barking from the area of another house that was under construction. The dog was running away, but it seemed to have changed its mind and before I knew it I found it running towards me on the road.   It was all excited and was jumping about and it wanted to go for the walk with me.  So I had a companion with me all the way.  The dog would rush off into the trees by the path to sniff things, jump ahead and fall behind, but it stayed with me faithfully.  I felt safer walking in the woods because of the presence of the dog, and even though I was approaching an area that seemed to be rougher and less used.

The dog returned home with me.  There was a bit of excitement when it met the other dog guarding the building we were staying in, but the two did reconcile their differences and play with each other.

The friendly dogs of the estate added to the enjoyment of our stay at Golden Wood.