The community landscape of Chennai is complex and multifaceted. I imagine one would have to live here for many months to even begin to discern the tides and passions underlying the civil landscape. One thing is clear to me, after just a few days here. As in any large city, there are many competing interests, and the political elites appear to favor the needs of the more affluent classes.
We are sitting under a concrete overpass, or “flyover”, used by trains. I am with a North American folklorist and eight Indian men, some tribal, of various ages. They greet me warmly and we all laugh easily. Three of the men are fluent in English and I wonder whether they are college educated.
Near us, crows pick through piles of refuse. They are the relatives of the people who live and work here, and are welcome to eat what they find. A stream runs past on its way to the nearby ocean. Across the way chickens and a turkey strut and call. The houses are a mix of well constructed older homes, and improvised structures made of thatch. Continue reading