After all the unpacking (of cords and plugs and adapters whose functions I can’t quite remember) and setting up and moving furniture and endless shopping trips (for paper towels and smart TVs and teak desks and aluminum foil and newfound snacks that open worlds of unknown spices, as well as the city’s complete stock of power strips) getting to know how to work with our housekeeper, Shanthi, (it turns out that cilantro, which Sarah can’t stomach, is known as coriander leaf here, so it showed up in our first chicken biryani and raita since we had mistakenly specified “no cilantro, please,” and of course Shanthi had nodded agreeably–I loved both dishes, sorry Sarah), I finally had a chance to get reacquainted with my camera and take a couple of walks with our temporary driver, Gopi, around our new Besant Nagar neighborhood and the adjacent fishing village just south of Elliot’s Beach. Everyone we met seemed happy to let me capture their smiles–some even asked me to take their picture and bring them a print–but my heat/humidity/sweat tolerance still needs development, so I’ve limited my forays to about an hour each so far. (For my Facebook friends, you will have seen some of these images but not all.)
I hope to become a regular and recognized stroller around Besant Nagar and to meet some of the same folks frequently. This young woman was sitting in front of the temple on Mahatma Gandhi Road, one of the main thoroughfares leading to Elliot’s beach. By the way, the header photo is of a bicycle cart hauler who helped guide us as we had to stop traffic to back into the narrow lane at Mani’s & Co up in Royapettah where I bought my British teak desk that dates from before Independence.
I’ll let the photos tell their stories.
We passed this gentleman once and he seemed deep in thought so I didn’t want to bother him. When we passed him a second time he made eye contact so I asked and he posed for a few exposures. Once finished, I said “nandri,” which is Tamil for thanks, and he responded “Thank YOU!” I learned later that Gopi was telling folks that nandri was the only word I knew. He also said I was writing a book, so that increased most folks’ interest but left me unaware until a guy tending nets down on the beach asked me what the book was about, what other books I had written, who my publisher was, and if I had visited the Theosophical Society bookshop yet! At least I had good answers for all but the last question.
So many new faces and new places, not to mention tai chi and/or yoga most evenings this week, and meeting a handsome and gracious young man at the relaxing Yin Yoga session with Nora Lim of “Think off the Mat,” at her flat overlooking the Bay in Thiruvanmiyur with a background mantra of the gently booming surf–be sure to check out the video of us at the link. He was the only person I didn’t recognize among the handful gathered there, and as we chatted after the practice, he mentioned he was starting a new project in Kerala . . . a film . . . and that he was an actor. It turns out he is a well-known south Indian movie star and singer, Dulquer Salmaan, known as DQ, and who has a business degree from . . . Purdue!
The world keeps getting smaller yet broader as we find ourselves becoming more familiar and comfortable with our surroundings, the incessant crowds and endless honking traffic, the beautiful smiles, the call to prayer throughout the day, the litter everywhere, the striking temples on nearly every block, the cows blithely stepping in front of madly painted lorries and creaking buses as if they owned the road (which they rather do), the brotherhood of street dogs (don’t make eye contact or speak to one or he’ll follow you for blocks, nosing your leg from time to time) the energy and enterprise constantly in motion at foot-treadle sewing machines, at net-mending and fish-gutting in the fishermen’s village, at jasmine stringing and uttapam frying everywhere, even as we continue to stumble while discovering more of the true ways of this world . . .