One goes into sensory overload as soon as you set foot on the streets of India. The sounds of horns honking and people talking are all around you. The colors of the clothes and temples are brilliant and dazzling. The aromas can range from the good of Indian spices to the ugly of rotting garbage or worse in a few steps. People are everywhere. You have to dodge them on their motor bikes. They have their hand out for food or money. They want to sell you something. It is truly hard to take it all in especially since you have to be so alert to where you are walking. Whether you are walking on a sidewalk, or more likely the side of a street, the path is full of things you don’t want to step on from holes to debris to something left behind by a passing cow. And did I mention that it is really important to avoid the motorbikes?
But India is also full of smiling people and numerous things you won’t see walking around Pawleys Island. Once you get past the poverty and the abundant litter, the joy of visiting India is the uniqueness of the overall experience. Our first stop in India was Chennai on Easter Sunday. Chennai is the sixth largest city in India and the ninth most densely populated city in the world. In 2015, Lonely Planet named it as one of the top ten cities in the world to visit. In 2018, I don’t think many of the passengers of the Sun would agree with that assessment.This is an admittedly terrible picture of the Ice House taken from the wrong side of a moving bus. The building was built in 1842 to store ice which was imported from the United States. The ice was cut in large blocks from frozen lakes and shipped by boat to India. Despite the long shipping time, only a third of the ice melted during shipment, The building is now used as a college dormitory.Chennai has the second longest beach in the world (Miami Beach is first) at nearly nine miles. It is also an exceptionally wide beach. The small buildings you see on the beach are the wheeled carts of vendors. Despite it being Sunday and very hot, there were few people on the beach.The Hindu temple we visited dates back to the seventh century CE. The Temple is dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva and features the gopuram, or entrance tower shown above. Can you imagine how long it would to take to paint that tower?There had been a festival at that temple several days before and they were still dismantling the floats and towers lining the streets.This is the temple tank or sacred tank adjacent to the temple. The steps leading down to the water make it similar to the step wells that are common in India. In some cases, washing in these sacred tanks is believed to cure disease.Our guide called these the Ferrari of India, but they are better known as tuktuks. These are even harder to avoid than the motorbikes and their horns are sounding constantly.This is a wanted poster of thieves working the area. Fortunately, we didn’t meet any of them.India is a sea of faces and many of them were as interested in photographing us as we were of photographing them.Many people make a chalk drawing in front of their house or business each morning. Most of them were simple ones with white chalk as seen at the top of the picture. We have seen much more elaborate color chalk pictures on previous trips to India.This is a fortune teller sitting on the sidewalk outside the temple. You pay your money and he lets the parrot out of the cage to sort through the stack of “fortunes”. The one the parrot chooses to hand to the man is your fortune which he will then read to you.These buildings are behind the railway station. The pile to the right below the wall is all broken glass.The streets are filled with vendors.There are slums scattered throughout the city and they are littered with trash.This is a small temple where you bring your new motorbike to be blessed. There were a lot of people there so the motorbike business must be pretty good.
When we returned to the ship that afternoon, there were a lot of Indian families walking around the ship. We presumed that they were relatives of crew members. However, we heard from a person who would know that the government officials were not going to let our ship dock unless Viking permitted their family members to tour the ship which is a clear violation of Viking’s policies. So corruption is still a part of the Indian government.This is our table at the Seder on Friday evening. About eighty people attended including many Christians who were invited to share the experience. The evening began with people reading from a 34 page Haggadah that had been prepared by one of the travelers. The menu was gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, beef brisket, and a Passover almond honey torte. Most people complained about the gefilte fish. However, I finished mine and normally I struggle to take one bite.
We have two sea days before reaching Cochin, India.