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Chennai: The Tourists’ India


Fresh air. Clean streets. Broad roads. Sidewalks, even. This isn’t New Delhi.

Last weekend it was time for a getaway. An escape from the polluted misery that has been my home for the past month or so. To do so, we flew 1800 kilometers south to the tourist hot spot that is Chennai.

Situated on India’s southeastern coastline, it’s easy to see why tourists love it here. The palm trees, sun, sea, and surprisingly clean beaches all make it look like paradise. Well, if you can ignore the fishermen digging holes in the sand to defecate that is. To their defense, apparently heavy rains washed away most of the fishermen’s houses and utilities only a few weeks ago. It’s monsoon season after all.

Still, it’s a lot cleaner than Delhi where it’s often hard to tell if the brown smudge on the street is man, cow, monkey, horse, elephant, rat, or dog-made. Or just plain dirt for that matter. The roads in Chennai were also surprisingly devoid of plastic packaging and other rubbish, though a look down the river quickly shows where all the trash went instead. We also hardly saw any slums on our way from the airport to the hotel. There were, however, suspicious amounts of tall concrete walls and perhaps you can guess what’s hidden behind them. Or should I say who?

Compared to New Delhi, Chennai really was a peaceful place in which we could fully relax. Strolling along the beach and wandering among the legacy left behind by the British East India Company in peace was a much-needed distraction from busy Delhi.

There weren’t too many tourists and we were lucky with the weather as well as the sea breeze coming from the east did not only bring in some yearned for fresh air, it also pushed the rain-clouds further inland resulting in a perfectly dry and sunny weekend. This is certainly a place worth visiting for a few weeks and definitely worth coming back to.

It’s time to plan one more trip and then say goodbye to India. Hopefully not forever, but at least for now.

Text: Tom de Raad
Photo: Sarathy Selvamani

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