25 March 2011

India I

I may never return to India, but one visit was not enough.  If I never make it back to India, I can be happy in the sites I have seen and the people I have met.  However, I would count myself extremely lucky to be given another opportunity to experience more of what India has to offer. 

The first sitting of our berth at the Chennai Industrial Port was spectacularly disheartening.  It was dirty, smelly and drab, a poor first vision of this sub-continent.  After exiting the port on our first day in country, my mission was to find Indian Rupees (the local currency).  After obtaining enough to keep me afloat for a couple of days, I headed back to the ship to join the city orientation tour.  We walked and drove all over Chennai, India’s 5th largest city with over 7 million people located in southern India in the Indian State known as Tamil Nadu.  You may have heard of the Tamil Tigers from a few years ago, who lead a rather violent political movement in this same state. 

The city of Chennai is crowded and dirty and far below the standards in most US cities in terms of sanitation and transportation, but the grime seemed to only throw the kindness and laughter of the populace in stronger relief.  Everyone we met was extremely kind and generous.  The service at every point in my journey was great and humble to the extreme.  Granted, I am not used to nice hotels – being a connoisseur of hostels across the world.  However, I don’t think I have been anywhere with such great service and FOOD! 

I have always loved Indian food, but the real deal in a million times better.  What we get in the US seems to tend towards northern New Delhi style Indian, while the southern style is also just as great.  If I lived in India, I could be a vegetarian in a heartbeat.  The best places we ate at were totally vegetarian.  Including one restaurant were we did make a bit of a spectacle of ourselves (Danny from the Field Office, Adam the Videographer, Brittany the Photographer, Daniel the LLC and myself) by ordering nearly one of everything from the menu.  We ate everything, including a bowl of Mango Ice-cream.  It was totally worth the weird looks from the locals at the neighboring tables.

Shopping in India was also brilliant.  I bought a full-on Sari (traditional Indian formal wear) as well as several tunics and linen pants in the “Aladdin” style.  We also bought tons of traditional Indian snacks from the “candyman” in Pundi’s Bazzar in central Chennai.  It was great to hear our friendly “candyman” explain what everything in his stall was made of and what it was called in local Tamil. 

India is not a cohesive group, just as Europe is not a cohesive group.  The difference between northern Indian provinces and southern Indian provinces like Tamil Nadu is very similar to the difference between the UK and Italy.  Even the languages are completely different.  The unifying language is actually the colonial English language, usually spoken by the educated class, rather than any type of Indian language, with the possible exception of Hindu.


  1. Neat! I didn't know a lot of this.

  2. With as many places that you have been, it says a whole lot that one visit was not enough.

    Looking forward to having you back on this continent within the month!