Chennai!! I'm here.. I arrived on Tuesday morning, as planned. Monday evening I said goodbye to the guesthouse I was staying at. I set-off and was expecting my first overnight train journey to be one of the biggest challenges so far. I'll repeat: I was EXPECTING. And when expecting the worst, everything can be so simple. The train journey I had envisioned in my mind, was overcrowded, muggy, unfamiliar, rushed, full of obstacles and potential delays. But the train journey I actually experienced was - instead of all these negative expectations - pleasant, easy, self-explanatory, on-time and very very chilly..
Everything was so logical. I found my carriage, I found my seat, I found my berth and I was sitting around friendly people. I also found some dirty looks and evil eyes along with some warm smiles and friendly gestures. I wasn't too concerned about my luggage or about being "groped" at (which is something fellow-travellers have warned me about, when going on overnight trainjournies alone). It was 12 hours and I didn't sleep much, as it was so so cold. But other than that, it was brilliant! And so cheap - I actually can understand the stories I've read about people who choose to journey on night trains, around the region or country even, to save money. By doing this you don't only get to rest your weary head and have some well-deserved sleep, but you also get transported from A to B AND it's cheaper than staying in a guesthouse!! Niamh is suddenly getting strange ideas into her head; but I'll let them be for now..
I got to the great city of Chennai at 7am on Tuesday. With a very groggy head I made my way to Jayanthi's house - the girl from the course who has been so sweet as to offer me help and a place to stay while I'm here in this brilliant city! It's been so great and I'm feeling amazing since being here.
The first impression I got from Chennai (which is on the south east coast) was the feeling of space. I was in the autorickshaw, and drove for ages, or so it felt. We were still in the city though. It felt so big, so bustling. We passed through so many different areas and I'd loved seeing these new sights. I was still in India, but it was different from where my journey started, some 13 hours beforehand: a different language (even a different alphabet!), different pollution (probably just MORE pollution, however not of a different substance), the food (more vegetables and less coconut), the prices (higher), the weather (less muggy), the pace of life (faster).
The differences can be more subtle to a foreigner, because "India is India", right? Wrong!! India is the known to be the country where moving from one state the next, can feel like moving from one country to another. I was first in the state of Kerala, now I'm in the state of Tamil Nadu. I can tell the differences, even though I'm a foreigner and still so new to this country. Maybe because I was in Cochin for 4 whole weeks and I had gotten "used" to certain things. I had gotten used to the sweat dripping off me as I sat in the guesthouse while I was doing nothing strenuous but sitting on my behind. I had gotten used to paying 0,15 cents for lunch. I had gotten used to being stared at more often than not, as there were so little foreigners there. So, of the differences, I'm aware, either due to my long-stay in Cochin or possibly due to the fact that Chennai is a "metro" and Cochin just a large town or small city. A "metro" simply means it's a huge city - the 4th biggest in India, with millions upon millions of people. This I only realized when I started chatting to some Chennai-locals at the station before leaving Cochin! I should really start doing my research before moving myself around this country. Or, come to think of it, I've never done this before and I'm doing brilliantly so I don't think I'm going to suddenly start changing my ways. It's too fantastic!
Besides all of this, I felt that leaving Cochin I was breaking free. I was being "let-loose". I was starting a new adventure and I could do and go and be as I please. That was probably the biggest relief in leaving there and arriving here. Jayanthi has been amazing. She has opened up her home to me and done everything to make my stay as perfect as can be! But it already was perfect: just the fact that I had a purpose and a reason to come here in the first place, made it perfect! She lives outside of the city, 400m from the beach. It feels fresh, it feels colorful, it feels light. It's peaceful and we're still so relatively close to where all the "action" is. Each day we've been going places, meeting people, taking every kind of transport there is to take. We've gone to several beaches - and one was the 2nd largest beach in the world(!!!)- I've even had a meeting for a possible job, which I might add, is also thanks to Jayanthi!