It is hard to describe to people the overall sensation of what it was like when we arrived in Chennai during our visit to India several years ago. With that many people living in one place, around 8.5 million people, the city is a always in constant motion with cars, motorcycles, rickshaws, trucks, and people seemingly going everywhere. It is also a city filled with colorful buildings and ornate temples, making it visually stunning to see. There is no escaping the constant noise of the city, most specifically the constant honking that can be heard 24 hours a day. Drivers in Chennai don’t honk out of frustration or anger with other drivers, but it is a form of communication to let other drivers know that they are passing, turning, or moving over. Since they don’t stay in the lanes of the roads, it is a hectic dance where they beep horns and swerve in and out of lanes as they make their way through the intense traffic. Another thing that hits you immediately as you exit the airport is the intense confluence of smells that fills the air. With all of the strong spices used in the cooking of Indian food, the combination of animals and people roaming the streets, and the lack of sanitation, it is an overwhelming experience.
It is definitely something that truly can’t be described unless you have been exposed to someplace similar yourself. It took us two full days before the constant din, motion, aromas, and sense of truly being a outsider in a strange place reached a sense of normalcy. In many ways, it is amazing the way the mind is able to adapt itself under what would seem to be extreme changes in surroundings. We have been to many large cities around the world, but there is nothing that compares to the time that we spent in Chennai. To be clear, it is still one of our favorite places that we have visited, partially because it was so different than any place else. It is hard to imagine what it must be like for the citizens that live in that environment with such a prolific sensory experience on a daily basis and not just for a few short weeks.