Madras

Just one of those things…

Just some of those things that you think you’ve forgot, but they’re some of those things you cannot (after Jimmy Durante), and sung badly by Bob Cranwell !

 

madras_1921

Legends of Madras, the heat and humidity sits like a weight on my already swimming head, driving me under the cooling blast of the fan day or night. The air is almost liquid, at 98% humidity. A first day in the city brought thoughts of Robert Clive and countless gentlemen officers and their demure ladies; I remember well how I looked in silent astonishment at their tombstones – often erected over them within weeks of arrival. Now, month later, I’ve become acclimatised to most aspects of India, but it still holds surprises.

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Christmas in Madras 1987

As might have been expected, India burst in on me like a storm. Sometimes it’s the proverbial wall of heat when you’re coming off the plane, or the overwhelming chaos of rank and sweet smells and eye-jarring colours, but most often for me it’s the milling mass of humanity which ambushes you. 

madras_map_1862
Madras Map 1862

 

I’d read somewhere, (I think it was in Trevor Fishlock’s brilliant compendium of essays called India File), that the elephant god Ganesh, or the Taj Mahal in Agra are usually seen as emblematic of India, but the true motif of India is the crowd.

 

Podcast version here

 

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Plus ca change; plus c’est la meme chose

Chennai / Madras.

From outside the hotel traffic noise begins to filter into my mind around 6.30am, though I’d known of and had felt people moving through the city all night, sporadically waking and sleeping in time with passing truck horns. It seemed that it took until this time of the morning for the air horns, cycle bells, mendicants cries to reach a critical level of continuous cacophony that would remain at that level until around 11 that night. Some cities are said to never sleep, but Madras does sleep, although never long enough in my humble opinion.

 

boy and elephant
You might not believe this, but an elephant ate my homework

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