Trip Start Jan 16, 2012
59Trip End Jul 11, 2012
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Where I stayed
What I did
The bus station was crowded: rows of women were sleeping side-by-side under shelter, and passengers milled about and waited on chairs in front of bus bays undecorated with any alphabet we could recognize—but we had visited the bus station the day before to get our bearings and went straight to Bay #7, as we'd been told, for the bus to Trichy. As we had twenty minutes or so to wait before our 6:05 bus, we ordered our first cup of bus stand chai
The bus did leave at 6:05, and from our window we watched a round tangerine sun rise over a river as we crossed a bridge. There was lots else to see as the day lightened.
Huge billboards of Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa and members of her party lined the streets, although there is no impending election. These billboards are huge, and portray her several times on each billboard in different poses—standing beside herself three times in slightly different saris, embracing a petitioner, signing a piece of legislation, laughing in gigantic face shots
From the window of a bus, it still looks dusty, however. Looking out the window at one of our town stops, Dan declared, "India is beat, but the women sure brighten it up," and he is right: even the sanitation workers wear colourful saris under their visi-vests. The oxen also have flair, with their coloured horns; and trucks are decorated with flourishes, flowers, and special names.
On arrival in Trichy, we took a rickshaw through teeming streets to the Hotel Femina, a business hotel. In the evening we watched our first Indian television—the Indian Film Awards show was on and India’s beautiful and rich people stood up and thanked their producers and family etcetera amidst glitz and glam
Besides television, the other cultural advantage of staying in a business hotel was daily delivery of The Times of India, full of interesting stories to give us a beginning of insight into this complex and intricate society. With such a huge population and complicated politics, Indian reporters don’t have to go far from home to find news. I found international news toward the back of the paper.
We learned that Trichy has three major Hindu temples, and so the next morning we asked a tuk tuk driver to take us to the closest one. The driver agreed, but after driving for about two minutes, he pulled over and turned off the engine. Then he turned around to have The Talk. By the end of The Talk, he had hired himself to us for four hours and would wait at each of the temples while we looked around. This was more lucrative for him than dropping us and trying for other fares.
Although we had argued against the four-hour tour, in fact the tuk tuk ride to each temple put us in the middle of the street action, and it was an entertainment in itself
Trichy was a sensory extravaganza, and not all of it was beauty and colour. Walking the streets as we did to find restaurants and do errands we had to face the unbreathable stench of urine on the roadsides and in open sewer ditches. I partly remedied this by following the lead of Indian women and buying a string of jasmine flowers to put in my hair. For the rest of the day, I was followed around by a subtle jasmine scent. I found this a civilized antidote. And I look forward to seeing more of how Indians cope with the press of humanity that is their birthright: this world that is Trichy’s daily life is to us as exotic as any set from an Indiana Jones movie.