Beyond the city
We’d booked ourselves on a long day tour involving an early start, so that long train delay coupled with the usual, multiple checks on passports and travel documents was a little frustrating. We were eager to make progress before the heat of the day built but as always, a modicum of patience was needed.
We drove out through the busy Chennai streets, enjoying the spectacle of everyday life as we did. Grand buildings with lengthy “official” titles revealing a little of the British heritage, signs and gateways like the one above, to “St Georges Anglo-Indian Higher Secondary School and Orphanage”.
This is India going to work, to school, opening up for the day and here we were, part of it.
We passed people waiting for buses, for lifts in cars and on motorbikes. The ability of a saree-clad woman able to hop elegantly and sit sideways on the pillion of a motorbike is remarkable – and the sheer numbers of people moving through the city overwhelming.
The drive out was noisy and erratic. Each vehicle which passes another toots their horn and the rules of the road are, let’s say, relaxed. But each driver shows respect for the others, and we enjoy watching the colourful passing lorries with mixed cargoes on board, some with people sleeping amongst it. Eventually we reach the toll booth which is a fine example of more Indian bureaucracy – no tossing coins into a bucket here. Though it’s fairly modern, it’s a bit dusty and grubby, the road surface broken and there were a couple of families with children just standing watching the cars go by.
The rice harvest was being brought in and we passed through several villages where carts laden with heavy sacks were being hauled by tractor or by oxen.
Later in the day, we saw the process of drying the rice taking place – it was laid out in the sun and men raked it over every so often. I see why rice needs washing before cooking!
Eventually, we reached the first stop of the day: Kanchipuram, city of a thousand temples. I’ll continue the story in the next post.