Saturday, March 8, 2014

Concerning Denizens of the Indian Street (A Lenten Post)

I've been holding off on this post for a few days, thinking I would have something sage come to me to say, but I have nothing.  

As you probably are aware, there is profound poverty in India.  Half of the population, of over a billion, subsists on less than a dollar a day.  Two thirds of the larger world's population does the same. 

The Western (and Japanese, there are a few of them about here) tourist comes here with the power of the banks behind them, flush with cash.  Prices here are - for goods and services provided by and intended for these poor - extremely low.  As La La - a girl I met here who lives in the street - put it, "Indian girl cheap, American man expensive."  

There are other things I could say here concerning all this; about for example, say, Mother Theresa and the Western conscience, but I'm not in the frame of mind or heart to hold forth like that tonight. I'll just post some pictures I took of people I've known in Chennai this past month who live in the street - I'd say that they actually are not "homeless" in the Western sense, because their home is somehow the street. Whole extended families, who are not addicts, who engage in rudimentary commerce (selling rice, driving a tuk tuk), who have possessions arrayed about them, and who are in no way molested by anyone, not even the police, live up and down most sidewalks here. They tend even to dress well, and even wear expensive jewelry, so forth.. It is incredible, really.

Here, then, without further commentary, are some of the street people of Chennai, all of them members of the same extended family:



  1. Wow..... OK, so where do they go to the toilet? Where do they wash themselves, their clothes? Do they have a communal cooking fire? Are there any medical facilities for these people? This boggles my mind..... Please give us more description!

  2. Sorry for the delayed response here. They urinate in the street, I've seen them do it frequently. They do number two somewhere else, I don't know where, and didn't ask. I don't know where thy wash clothes, but they cook rice on the sidewalk with propane burners.