Happiness Travel

As cool as it can get in Chennai

In America, we're always looking for the next thing. In India, life is more relaxed.

Right when the monsoons have passed: that’s when Chennai is most hospitable. Music rings through the city, with kutcheris at every corner, people buzz through shops trying to take advantage of Margazhi, New Year, and Pongal sales. The city is teeming with life.

Moreover, Chennai’s weather is also bearable this time of year. The crisp morning chill usually only dispels around lunchtime, and because of that there are fewer mosquitos to dodge. Cool January breezes beat excruciating summers any day.

But I’ve started to notice that it isn’t just the weather that’s breezy. At the home and in the office, life in India is just more relaxed, less scripted. Indians don’t wait for an invitation to call on relatives and friends — they just stop by. After all, the houses are literally kept open, welcoming not only that cool Chennai breeze, but any passersby who wish to stop in for a cup of tea or perhaps a simple chit-chat. As a child, I thought it quite rude that someone would barge in without giving any advance notice, but now I see that life without formalities between close friends is an ideal, not idiosyncratic, relationship.

Work life, too, is laid back. Indians work hard, but they take their time working. When I started the internship about a week ago I was startled and downright peeved at the casual demeanor in the office. “This is a NEWSROOM,” I thought “what lazy reporters!” No. Not true. When it’s game time, these reporters know how to play. But knowing there are busy days and slow days, they take advantage of their time in the sidelines. I see that it’s just that people are in no rush. They take their time to savor the simple pleasures in life. They live each day by the “take it easy” policy.

A repairman said he would come to fix our tv at 10 am……he showed up at 7 pm. That is India. The cook says she will make an okra dish for the next day’s lunch. She makes eggplant instead. That is India. I’m sent on an assignment to cover the Prime Minister’s arrival in Chennai only to be held up in traffic (even after leaving 2 hours early) on the way there and not make it on time. We borrow another station’s tape instead. This is India.

Indians don’t waste time stressing over circumstances out of their control. They come up with alternatives, work with what they’ve got, don’t complain about it and move on.

Just a few months ago when I emailed a former IBN intern about what I was to expect from my internship and if I needed to be proficient in any video editing software, her email response to me read “Chill out. It’s really relaxed here. Don’t worry about any of that stuff. You’ll learn it all, so just chill, man.” If there’s one thing that can fire a person up faster than a match to a fuse, it’s someone telling an already calm person to “chill out.” Great. So now I was the uptight American to-be intern who had a slight case of neuroses. I did not understand why a complete stranger was telling me from across the world to “chill out.” I was enraged.
Now, after actually seeing for myself how people work, talk, visit, laugh, eat, — in short, LIVE — I finally get what she means. We, in the U.S. are always rushing: to class (professor will yell), to work (boss will yell), to parties (friends will yell), to dates (girlfriend will yell)….perhaps the Indians are on to something when they take “chill out” for face-value. If there’s one thing I hope to take back with me to the U.S. it’s that calm, stress-reduced, “chilled-out” approach to life. Hopefully, I’ll just take my time enjoying that Chennai breeze.

1 comment on “As cool as it can get in Chennai

  1. One Little Indian

    “to dates (girlfriend will yell)” Stereotypically in the U.S. girls are late for everything because they are rushed to shower, put on make-up, fix their hair… while the boy friend waits in the car…


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