This morning I decided to take my camera for another jaunt around the neighborhood in what seems to be called a “photowalk”. So I discovered today. It wound up being kind of a crazy 90 minutes or so – I came home soaking wet (sweaty) carrying a bag of jasmine and my forehead covered in ash and turmeric. I’m not sure it makes sense to fit it all in one post but I’ll play it by ear on whether to divide this into two parts.
It’s important to bear in mind that all of this is photographed within about a 500 meter radius of our home. As the crow flies. We live on a quiet, dead-end street; but as I’ve mentioned before, things are kind of pell-mell here.
Things started out pretty quiet. Below is a temple that’s a couple of blocks away; I didn’t go in, but found the murals on the walls outside interesting.
From the work above it’s clear that not all of the deities in Hinduism are “nice” – some are frightening. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are considered the three three aspects of the universal supreme God. These three aspects symbolize the entire circle of samsara in Hinduism: Brahma as creator, Vishnu as preserver or protector, and Shiva as destroyer or judge. Thirty-three deities (or devas/devis – male and female noun, respectively) are mentioned in Hindu scripture – but the exact nature and other aspects vary depending on the denomination of Hinduism to which a believer ascribes. I believe the blue figure in the bottom photo is Kali; but for the most part, I’m not going to try and guess who is who as it seems pretty difficult to grasp as an outsider. I spent 90 minutes walking and 4 hours googling, and the best I can tell, most locals are of the Saivist denomination, meaning they ascribe to a monotheistic ideal of Shiva. Most temples seem to feature either Ganesha, or Shiva, Ganesha’s father, and you’ll often see people adorned with three white stripes across the forehead, with a daub of red in the middle. So sayeth the almighty internet. And if a reader should want to correct my ignorance, please use the comment feature to educate me and other readers 🙂
At this point photos from another temple, which I encountered at the end of my walk (I think I passed five) would be appropriate:
Most of the temples we’ve seen are decorated with figures of this type, in bright colors; however, there are also different styles of roofs, which I’ll share as we visit them. And bear in mind, Chennai also has many mosques and churches – and everyone seems to get along just fine.
Now let’s move on to some street scenes. This is all taking place around ten on a Sunday morning, generally a day off in India – but business is business. So I went for a walk up a bustling street of shops and shoppers:
When you look down the side streets, things often get very narrow:
I think they meant to call this the “Ruby Award Salon” (for unknown reasons) but you have to admit, it’s probably a good marketing approach to call a barbershop a “saloon.” Or it would be, if this weren’t mainly a “dry” area.
You can buy some “Bright fancy gift articles” – including “immitations.” I guess lots of people can’t afford the real thing, so there’s no point in playing around – go where the market demands, right?
You can also get your bicycle repaired.
I had been cautioned to always ask before snapping photos; and generally most people are enthusiastically in favor of the idea. I’d say 40 percent of the photos I take I don’t even have to ask – the subjects come and ask me to take THEIR photo. And usually have little interest in seeing the outcome or getting a copy. Maybe when we get our printer I’ll print some of these and hand them out in appreciation. But the bike repair guy I asked for a photo. But he encouraged me to get a close-up of the pictures he has on display of local politicians – and he made a point of calling attention to Jayalithaa, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and a former film star. So I took a close-up per his request:
Lastly, you can also buy some chicken.
These guys looked miserable – pre-plucked, basically. You see a lot of animals in the streets, and people are overall very kind to animals – I’ve never seen a dog or a cow struck or kicked – and even in poor neighborhoods the kittens get fed a pile of fish heads (which my cats would REALLY be happy with):
Something that also often happens when you’re a white dude walking around aimlessly with a camera is that the “auto rickshaw” (the three-wheeled yellow things) drivers will try and get you to ride with them. This one fellow was harassing me, and when I explained I lived “right over there” and was just taking pictures, he got pretty excited about that and wanted me to come over and take a picture of him and his colleagues in their “open air temple.” It’s a DIY job but no less important or meaningful I guess – the cement pad they are all standing on is a part of the temple and we all understood I would either have to take my shoes off or walk around a parked car to get the best angle. So that’s what I did:
And finally, I spent some time watching some kids play ball in the park. Er, cricket.
There’s more to tell, but I’ll save the rest for tomorrow – check back in 24 hours!