Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A Window on Chennai

Getting to work each morning via auto rickshaw is my window on Chennai. There is the morning walk to the auto rickshaw stand  past women scrubbing their front sidewalks with water, sweeping away the dirt before drawing a kolam, a geometric design, with white rice flour onto the sidewalk. Hindus believe that kolams can bring prosperity and good fortune to the family and are drawn anew each morning on doorsteps to the house.

Then there's the morning haggle with a rickshaw driver over 10 rupees too much or too little in fare. I usually cave in and pay the extra fare as it's not much for me but a few more rupees for the driver's family.

I have learned that auto rickshaw horns vary in sound and intensity. My favorite driver is an older man with one of the fastest auto rickshaws I have been in. When he gets some open road (which is very seldom on the streets of Chennai) he goes careening through traffic at breakneck speeds reaching 25 mph. But, what I love most about him is the horn on his rickshaw. It's an old fashioned horn, like the ones kids have on their tricycles, with a large bulb that one squeezes to make the noise. The bulb on his horn is green and makes a honking sound that had me biting the sides of my cheeks one recent morning to keep from all out laughter. It seemed funny to me to be speeding through the city in a bright yellow three-wheeled vehicle honking a horn made for a tricycle. It was one of those moments in India where I found myself happy to be here having such rich experiences that would be difficult to duplicate anywhere else in the world.