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Living in Chennai

Many thanks to Emma from In-Dia Stratis – Mutterings from Madras  for providing today’s “guest post.”  We truly have become kindred spirits and have recently shared so many of the same scheduling issues and time-frame dilemmas.  BEST wishes to her as she makes the move “state-side” soon after living in Chennai with her family!!

Naomi stubbled across my blog I presume when researching the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ and ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of her move to Delhi and I am very happy to tell you that we have struck up quite a rapport, each helping one another for reasons that will become apparent!

My family and I (hardworking husband Ian, Ellie now 4 1/2 and Luke 2) arrived in Chennai in the state of  Tamil Nadu (formerly Madras) South East India from the UK late last September for a 3-5 year placement.

I’d been to India before…on holiday…in Goa, beautiful!  Go, if you ever have the chance, although I’d probably recommend Kerela first!.  My husband had been on business and we knew the score…amazing place, amazing sights, sounds, smells, (Yep good and very bad!) amazing people and a wonderous world of contrasts and contradictions. 

BUMP!  You arrive in this place and you hit the ground running and everything you see, touch and smell, everyone you meet, everything you witness combines into a crescendo of sensory overload.  

You take a deep breath and you get on with life and somehow everything becomes the norm…very quickly!  And I mean that. It is truly amazing how you can adapt so easily to a place that you thought would be, and is, quite alien.  It has its hazards, it has its foibles but if your sensible and careful you will have a wonderful life here.

Chennai is a sprawling city with no ‘Centre’ as such.  Historically us British colonised and in all honesty probably brutalised the place aswell.  It is large, it is HOT, it is dirty, it is littered with rubbish, cows, dogs and goats but the one thing that remains constant are its people who will tell you that they are Tamilians first, before Indian.  

Religion is strong and is split 3 ways between Hindu, Christian and Muslim and all co-exist respectfully and peacefully.  Having and being able to afford ‘staff’ is a Godsend, day to day everything takes so long to do and houses take up so much time and energy in maintenance that you need someone to translate, the handyman, the maid, the driver, the gardener, the sweeper.  

Lucky for you if you can find people to dual role!  I am very happy to say that after a couple of stumbles I found THE MOST wonderful people to help and have around and I will never forget any of them for as long as I live.  People who are so loyal and hardworking that they will put you before their own families….but when I found that one out on one particular day they all had a long hard talk from me!  As an ex-pat ,you live in Chennai in a bubble. There is very little to do as a family other than meet up and dine out with other ex-pat families, which is fun…for a while, but how nice would it be to be able to go out for a long country walks, ride out on bikes, have a picnic?  It is just too hot and public facilities and amenities are not the best. Toilets…eeeuuww don’t go there!!??

Delhi, on the other hand…don’t be fooled!…is apparently civilisation personified!  A friend visited last week and regaled us all with tales of shopping malls to rival London and New York. Good restaurants. Clean open spaces, Wide open unconjested roads…but it’s just what I’ve been told!!  Naomi will be fine!  She’ll have a ball!

Unfortunately for us, after just 6 months into our assignment we were told that due to the global economic slowdown it was unlikely that we would be able to stay our term.  Much heartache over missed opportunities and the like for us, as we sat, grumbled and waited to hear our fate. 

In just 2 weeks we will be leaving India, firstly for a few weeks back to the UK…and then…Woo Hoo! We are moving to North Carolina, for 3 years.  Wish me luck!  I do however hope that this is not the last I will see of this beautiful and most amazing country and her people.

Emma x