The Many Faces of India – The Children of Chennai

It is midnight; inside the airport all is quiet and calm. As I step forward to clear security, a breeze wafts by carrying a scent of something vaguely familiar, yet foreign. I have arrived in Chennai, India.

Dragging my suitcase past a soldier casually seated with a rifle balanced on his lap, I walk out of the silence and the bright lights of the airport into the night. Into utter chaos.

Hundreds of people are crammed up against steel barricades, waiting for friends and loved ones. There is a blur of waving arms, flashes of white teeth; there is a din of indecipherable noise and a cacophony of honking horns. White placards with peoples’ names are fluttering in the darkness – thank goodness one of them is for me.

With relief I greet my airport transfer driver. And so my trip  begins.

During my two weeks in Chennai (formerly Madras), I discovered facets of the city that resemble the earthly avatars of the Hindu god Vishnu. At once gentle and kind, it is also cruel and unforgiving. It is beautiful and gracious yet unbelievably ugly and harsh. The spiritual home of yoga, Chennai seems to provide the perfect backdrop for an ancient philosophy that espouses an attitude of non-attachment and the joys of simple pleasures.

This photojournal of the children of Chennai offers a glimpse into the complex nature of India. Some of these children came running up to me, asking that their picture be taken; in turn, I gave them money or pens as a meager token of thanks. Some I captured as they went about their daily lives, oblivious to the photographic intrusion.

Regardless, their oblivion to the poverty and garbage around them made me question if I was the one who was ignorant to the essentials of life. If there is joy in these places, what are the absolutes that drive our happiness?

Selling plastic gods at the Myalapore Market

Joy amidst the poverty? I cannot help but judge the living conditions against my own value system and project my feelings onto the situation. But this child seems to radiate an inner joy in spite of the squalor around him. I am confused about the "rights" and "wrongs" of this life.

These girls came running up to me, pleading to have their picture taken. It seems that modelling for tourists is a lucrative business for children who have very few means to earn a living.


Off to school. There is a fragile tranquility in the early hours that quickly dissipates with the morning mist.

Celebrating Lakshmi's birthday at a Shiva temple. Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity, both spiritual and material. She is the household goddess of many Hindu families and a favourite of women and children.

"Please buy Madam!" This lovely young girl offered necklaces and a joyful smile at the Myalapore Market.


About Lady Boomer

A voice for lady boomers, Bette Hodgins is a writer, life enthusiast and navel-gazer. Unfortunately navel lint keeps cluttering up her path to enlightenment, but she is nothing if not persistent in her journey of life!
This entry was posted in India Calls, Photojournals, Self-Discovery, Travel - Near and Far and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Many Faces of India – The Children of Chennai

  1. Mary says:

    I can tell you are “gob-smacked” by the contrasts in Chennai. Your photos are wonderful. I recently watched a travelogue on TV about Chennai. Such a deep, deep, deep history and a wonderful starting point for you. And colour, fabulous colour of cloth. I guess you are in the hurly-burly of your trip now. It’s wonderful to hear from you via your posts. Keep absorbing, keep writing.

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