As Seen From a Rooftop in Chennai

The new house in Madipakkam has two floors. Its elevation provides for a different view of the area around the house than I am used to.  Here are some observations from an evening on the terrace.

There are many cellphone towers built on top of buildings in the neighborhood around us.  You can see a worker coming down from the top of this particular tower across the street.  I actually saw him at the top, but was not quick enough with my camera to take his picture while he was there.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe traffic on the main road in front of the house is a disorderly mess.  I am getting better and better at figuring out how to cross roads like this on foot. You will notice that there are two-wheelers on both sides of the white car in this picture.  One of them is parked.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn top of the building in front of the house you can see a few, small, one-room shacks that that have been added on, perhaps illegally.  I suspect that these are rented.  There must be at least four units in the picture below.  These are probably occupied by young people who have come to the city to work.  This is all they can afford under the circumstances, and it is in all likelihood better accommodation than some others on the street.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe little home captured in the picture below sits on top of another building next to the house. It is located next to, and just below, a couple of cellphone towers built on top of the same building.   The clothing hangs out to dry next to the structures.  I hate to think of the radiation that one is exposed to on a continuous basis under the towers.  People living there are probably unaware of this.  Even if they were, the decision to live here might be considered a difficult choice between two bad alternatives – affordable housing vs. long term health.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe occasional bird flew across the sky high above me as I stood on the terrace.  Sometimes it was a group of birds that I observed headed in what looked like a random direction, seemingly with a sense of purpose.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn egret settled down on a coconut tree close to the level of the terrace I was on. It observed the human being pacing back and forth on the terrace for a while and then moved on.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMeanwhile, the the sun began its descent behind the buildings of Madipakkam at the end of yet another Chennai evening.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe cycle will continue.

Chennai Morning

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am back home, visiting my parents once again.  I searched my blogs from the last few years, and realized that I have been making this trip more frequently in recent times.  And I have been posting pictures and writing my impressions about the experience over and over again.  It is a good thing.  The essential, core, feeling that comes with a trip home never seems to change regardless of the circumstances which bring me here, which tends to be different each time.  This time, I am here for my Dad’s 90th birthday celebration, a celebration of a life well lived, and still being lived.  I am happy to be home for the occasion.  Once again.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Vegetable Shop

This vegetable shop is also a new sight on the street in front of our house in Chennai.  They seem to be doing a tremendous amount of business.  I have noticed crowds at all times of the day.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile their bright lighting serves them well when it comes to advertising their presence and their goods, it can be a nuisance just across the road  in the nighttime because they are open till somewhat late in the evening.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd the fact that some of their customers park their vehicles in front of the gate to our house is also a major annoyance.

All of that having been said, this storefront seems to be a step up from the kind of establishments that have tended to come up in front of our house in the past.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThings are constantly changing here in Madipakkam, a suburb on the outskirts of Chennai.

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

Meditations at Daybreak

It is a good time to find a quiet space for the mind before the hustle and bustle of the busy day.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe morning call of the awakening birds greets me as I head for the terrace of the house.  Sunrises in Chennai are a different experience from those that I am used to in my part of the world.  The tones are different, and the colors are more muted. The explosion of light and color that I am used to experiencing as the sun clears the horizon seems to be missing.  But it is a remarkable experience nonetheless.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is too bad that most of us are indoors, either asleep, or preoccupied with getting ready for the hassles of the day, when this phenomenon takes place. I can see myself on a beach or on a mountaintop just soaking it all in. The glory of a sunrise provides a good moment for meditation and contemplation of bigger things, and this is true regardless of where you are in the world.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lines

I personalized this week’s challenge in its interpretation – to try to find pictures from various recent travels that derive a significant part of their character from the presence of lines in them.  I was moderately successful, I think!

This is a picture from the window of our hotel room in Reno, NV, during a trip early in 2017.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a picture of a hotel in Mammoth Lakes, CA.  The lines on this hotel came to life in the early morning light.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe lines on the sand dunes of Mesquite Flat in Death Valley, CA, are the only natural ones that I have in this collection of pictures.   You will notice that these lines are the only ones where there are curves that are obvious.  (There is probably a lesson somewhere in there!)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA couple of months later we visited the New England area. This picture shows the lines on one of the trains on the Mt. Washington Cog Railway in New Hampshire. The engine is at a different angle than the carriage because it is stopped at the edge of the slope.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALines and angles dominate the picture of this covered bridge over the Ammonoosuc river in Littleton, NH.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe lines on the Icefields Parkway dominated my six day bike ride through the Canadian Rockies in the later half of 2017.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture was taken in St. Louis, MO later in 2017. It should not be difficult to guess what the subject matter of this picture is.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture was taken at Middle of the Earth, just outside of Quito, in Ecuador on the equatorial line in November 2017.DSC00743This picture is of a corridor in the Design Hotel in Chennai in India at the end of the year.  This is considered a “boutique hotel“.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI love the lines on the Boeing 787-9 that we saw at Charles de Gaulle airport on our way back from India.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe lines of the roof at this gas station in Effingham, IL, caught my eye during a road trip earlier this year.  Yes, we had some late-season snow in our part of the world, but it is all over now!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

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

More Impressions of Chennai

Including the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras, where I grew up.

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Letting sleeping dogs lie
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A banyan Tree in IIT
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Chital deer in IIT
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Monkeys at the IIT stadium
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The Besant Nagar beach scene
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At a roadside shrine in the evening
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On St. Thomas Mount
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Passing Central Station
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Front of Kapaleswara Temple
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Vendor of flowers in front of the temple
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Early morning at the entrance to the Phoenix Market Center