I reach Armenian street, the business hub of Chennai, a metropolitan city in the south of India. Named after the Armenian Church, a grey solid structure built by the erstwhile East India Company, it still stands intact ,its steeple rising majestically, not cowed down by the surrounding sky scrapers which look down on it. Like wine it gets better with age ! With a dignified old-air look about it, it seemed to mock the steel, concrete and glass façade of modern architecture.
It is 12 noon, the blazing sun directly above me, burns my skin. All around me are scores of people-mostly dressed in formal office gear, scurry past , quite oblivious to the sweltering heat. They blatantly ignore the sweaty fists of the numerous urchins , who scuttle in and out of the teeming masses. The urchins , bright eyes darting to and fro ,festooned with a mind boggling array of chains, mobile covers ,handkerchiefs.and latching on to anyone who has the misfortune of making eye contact! You name it and it magically appears ! A virtual shop on the move!
”Sahib, sirf paanch rupaiya”(Only five rupees, sir) , he pleads, looking up with melting brown eyes and a chirpy grin on his grubby face. It was irresistible! I shake my head ruefully and watch as he streaks away ,victorious, shouting at the top of his voice. Surprisingly he can be heard above the cacophony of the traffic. The roar of the red buses, the persistent honking of the motorcyclists as they weave their way through the teeming masses of people was maddening. A yellow auto rickshaw put putters past letting let off a cloud of black smoke. I blink eyes. They sting!
All around me are hawkers selling cotton clothing-bright checked shorts, a huge pile of T-shirts, neat rows of socks. The vendor advertises his wares by wearing samples himself! Curious passers-by stop and haggle , deliberately disregarding the sign which reads “NO BARGENING”.
At the intersection ahead ,are the street food stalls which smell tantalising! A closer...