Monday, December 11, 2006
There is a nice warm breeze and the traffic noise is nicely muted. The early morning rain has cleaned the air some, but it looks like it is clearing off. There are quite a few people on their roofs, there a group of friends hanging and chatting, there a women hanging her laundry, there a man puttering about something or other. The construction across the street continues unabated despite it being Sunday, but since they appear to building it at the pace of glaciers, I suppose they cannot afford the time off. That is something odd I’ve noticed: I’ve seen many buildings being build in my trips across the city and have seen many piles of dirt, sand, bricks and cement being hauled from the outside to the inside, one load at a time, carried on the head, but I have never seen anyone ever using those materials. Not once have I passed to see someone building a wall, or a stair or a door. Do they only do those at night? Do aliens come and do it, using the Indians simply to provide them the tools? I don’t know! It is one of those mysteries of mysteries they don’t dare mention in the guidebooks lest is scare the tourists.
Another building across the street has a lovely garden. Wish I was sitting there. I suppose I could just walk over and walk up; it is quite likely that the day watchman wouldn’t give me any hassle if I nodded at him and looked I was meant to be there.
I have found that I can get away with a lot by being a foreigner. I am not sure whether it is the relative rareness in Chennai or a vestige of colonialism or simply because they assume all foreigners are very wealthy and therefore require special treatment. Regardless of the reason, without asking or pressing, I find myself getting special treatment. It can sometimes be quite funny: when visiting the state government offices the other week to talk to one of the ministries about our project, the security at the gate did not want to frisk me, despite having padded down every entrant in front. I was just ushered inside almost apologetically or perhaps embarrassedly. Or another example: I went to see this excellent Korean cultural performance. My housemates had gotten me a ticket. I was meeting them there direct from work. I was supposed to meet them out front, but they weren’t there. Not knowing yet they had simply been delayed, I figured there must be a lobby inside, and they would be there instead. I joined the line of people, walked inside the theatre. My housemates were surprised to arrive to find me already seated with fine seats, without a ticket. Not that this always happens of course. Most people don’t particularly gawk, stare, bother or otherwise treat me special. Mostly I am just ignored as people go through their day, which suits me fine.