A young man with a camera hanging around his neck, in his hands a book titled Maps of Chennai. He looked around a lot, he smiled often.
An idea. To maybe try and see this city anew. This city I call home with great reluctance. This city that infuriates me, but is familiar to me. This city that I can’t wait to run away from, and at other times, feel a sense of belonging in. But what if I looked at it the way an outsider would? Will she charm me, seduce me, make me fall in love, make me write lyrical prose?
I like to walk, and I like systems of public transport. I feel part of a whole, and the whole may be a many-limbed creature made up of humans. I feel a sense of purpose. That I am somehow a piece that is vital to completing the jigsaw, a speck, but a useful speck.
So what did I see with my new eyes?
A man in jeans and Adibas shoes found next to the dumpster outside a bar. His mouth open, a few flies buzzing around his head, and one seated comfortably on the edge of his lips. Is he unconscious, is he dead, is he invisible?
A pawn broker whose business probably never saw a recession.
A woman with one child on her hip and an older one holding on to her saree. He wants Bingo Yummitos. She takes out her coin purse (hidden between her breast and her blouse), and peeks into it. One ten rupee note folded several times over emerges. She ignores the child’s petition and walks on.
A bare-chested man pulling a cart, filled with utensils mostly. The odd broomstick. Black rivulets run down his back, meeting their end in the folds of his lungi.
An old woman sits at her stall, selling flowers. She dozes off while the afternoon sun rages on, blinding us, drying us, burning our feet through our slippers.
A boy so thin and lanky he could be called brittle, runs across the road finding gaps between impatient motorists. He is taking tea to the ones digging a hole in the road. How old is he?
A man with crutches spends five minutes climbing on to the bus. He isn’t offered a seat.
A cyclist with a t-shirt that screams Dusk to Dawn Night Marathon. And so my walking tour ends. Like him, I inflict suffering upon myself, and strive to derive poignancy from it.
This city is made of salt, sweat, dirt and despair.