So, I was supposed to land in Chennai (Madras) at 0:30AM. Unfortunately, the flight left Bangkok almost an hour late, so we didn't land in Chennai until 1:30AM. As I said in my previous blog, I wasn't 100% sure they would let me back in India. There had been a law ok the books (until 2 weeks before I arrived that said you had to have 2 months between visits). I knew the law had been repealed, but I didn't know of the people at immigration knew it was repealed. It is India, after all. Unfortunately with the delay, 3 flights all landed at the same time, so the line in immigration was a mess. I do have to admit, however, that the airport renovations are looking nicer. I just wish they had used the opportunity to reorganize a bit. Maybe that's still in the cards? I finally made the front of the line. The guy looked at me and asked if I spoke Tamil? I said yes. He stamped my passport and said, "not bad." He let me right through. Then came baggage claim. I can never get used to the sheer difference in personal space in India - there is none. Plus people just push their way to the front even if you're standing there. Maybe it's my Duke background, but there should be something to beating the other person to the spot. By the time I got my bags and made it to my aunt's place, it was 3 AM.
It was an interesting taxi ride at 2AM. Madras has changed. Overall the roads seem cleaner and there are some nicer buildings. It is nice to see the move in the right direction. Of course that does not do much for the incredible amount of poverty in this country. (Mumbai is perhaps a more glaring example where you see Aston Martin dealerships juxtaposed against some of the largest slums in the world.)
There is still a long way to go, but it is nice to see some improvements on the horizon. It's always amazing to me that Madras seems like a brand new city each time I come back. There's a sad side to that as well. Some of the beautiful houses in Abhiramapuram are gone in favor of huge apartment complexes. It feels more and more like a "big city". Much of that Indian-ness is falling by the wayside. The temples are suddenly crowded by buildings and people, etc.. But, that is often the price of progress. Man, I sound old.