Sunday, 3 August 2014

Early Arrival

What is is about Indian bureaucracy that results in most things having to be done in triplicate?
  • three forms to be completed to gain a visa and entry into the country, 
  • three people vetting said documentation and validating that the correct stamp has been placed into passports, before
  • three-deep crowds of tired passengers, at 3.30am, waiting for luggage to be unloaded off the plane (probably by only three baggage handlers, given how slow things were to arrive at the carousel).
After a long journey (and a BA in-flight meal of pea and mint salad, followed by cabbage and pea curry - perhaps not the most social choice of menu for a 10 hour flight), we are here - in Chennai - a humid, energetic, vibrant contrast to the grey, grimy and restrained London that we left behind.

Even at 3.40 in the morning, Chennai was busy - heavy traffic - rickshaws and mopeds zipping in between the buses and cars, crowds on the street and waiting at bus stops, street stalls selling snacks and people trying to doze on any flat surface that might be free apparently unaware of the bustle and din around them.

Chennai roads at 4.00 am
Morgan, our driver (who was part of the welcoming team that came to meet us at the airport) drove carefully along the dotted line that I had always presumed was to separate lanes of traffic - he seemed unperturbed by the vehicles that kept cutting him up, blaring their horns and diving in front of him. Like the cows that we passed, placidly sitting on the pavement, Morgan declined to let the stress and chaos get to him.

Content cow on the street in Chennai
First lessons from India:

It would be easy to exclaim "Holy Cow!" in response to the cumbersome bureaucracy and seeming chaos, but the former provides much needed employment and serves a purpose in a nation where attentive service is almost cultural, and the latter is a reflection of a vibrant country that is changing fast and where people are eager to get on and succeed.  The regulations and controls that are apparent on first contact soon become less visible once you begin to slip into the rhythms and customs of a city or country.

I'm off now to enjoy a Sunday brunch - dishes of scented delicacies wait to be opened and explored - a foretaste of the adventures in the days to come...