Happy Travels in Kanchipuram

Three human machines thundered down the grainy rubble-strewn road of the old Indian town known for its silk. Artist, Natalie and I went for an early morning run in Kanchipuram today. All of the normal sights greeted us: cows with painted horns pulling carts, motorbikes with two too many passengers whizzing past at alarming speeds, roosters clucking closer to the outskirts of the city center, the occasional dog missing half an ear, etc. I’ve been taking lots of pictures of garbage lately for my planned essay “Up Shit Creek” (keep your eyes peeled) and must admit I had to cover my mouth several times to stop myself from inhaling noxious fumes. Oh, and then there’s the dust. A team of old ladies, dressed in traditional clothing but each with a different color, almost like octogenarian Power Rangers, swept the road with seemingly synchronized movements using those ubiquitous bundles of sticks that seem to serve as brooms around here. All in all, I love this place.

The main drag near our hotel.

Kanchipuram encapsulates everything that I imagined India to be before I ever set foot here. You have the hybridization of urban and rural life, the vibrant pulsating rhythm of the townspeople, the overbearing odors and waste of too many people (and animals) living on top of each other, the charm and hospitality of the working person. Good people abound in this place. The textile industry is in full flourish here, and nearly three-quarters of the nearly 2 lakh population are associated with the silk trade in some way. Today, in fact, I toured a factory where thread is prepared and saris are made. I was amazed to discover that a single sari takes two weeks to make. After that I visited the shop where all the textile products are sold, where I bought jibbas, a lungi, and several unique gifts for friends and family, all at an unbelievable value. The staff was so helpful and kind, finding us the best fabrics and offering orange soda and bananas.

A factory worker explains the thread and patterns used in the production of silk saris.

The sari-making machine!

The final products on display in the lofted store above the factory in which they were created.

Female construction working sporting a lovely green silk sari.

Strong women in delicate saris doing intensive labor.

Last night, when we got into town I (as well as about 9 other people) followed one of the participants, Rob B. (check out his highly entertaining “Harmless Fool” blog), as he went on a quest to find batteries for his cameras. The stimuli of the city was so overwhelming and visceral that I didn’t know what single thing to focus on for a pictures so I just recorded videoclip after videoclip with my Canon Powershot. WordPress is greedy and demands money in order to grant bloggers the ability to post videos (and music) so I’m trying to find a way around that. If anyone has any ideas, or knows a better place to blog, please let me know, because the video footage would tell the story of this city better than I ever could…

A tame example of a trashy lane.

Ganesh watches over Kanchipuram.

Slowly adding YouTube videos, which seem to take forever to upload. This first clip features the electrical wires and a little street life of Kanchipuram:

As we were walking through Kanchipuram I tried to document the congestion of traffic in the narrow streets. This video features a cow ambling down the road, and as I later discovered upon closer inspection, a eunuch making unwanted eye contact with someone from my group.


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