Hitting the Streets in Madurai

It's a Sunday in November off 2007 and we're cruising the streets of Madurai, India. One would expect things to be relatively quiet early on this day of the week. Not in Madurai!

There is a certain je ne sais pas that happened to me in India that I had not experienced anywhere else in my travels. There are sights, sounds and smells that permeate the senses which is sensational to experience. There is nowhere that engenders this feeling  better than on the streets of Madurai.

Located in the state of Tamil Nadu in Southern India, Madurai is a small city by Indian standards with a population of only 3 million people. It is situated on the banks of the River Vaigai and is known to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The major religion in this  area is Hindu, although there is a sizable number of Christians and Muslims with a smattering of Buddhist, Sikhs and Jains.

Cliff buying a coconut on the streets of Madurai

Cliff buying a coconut on the streets of Madurai

As a street photographer, one of my favorite things to do is to plant myself on a street corner and take candid shots of the action going on around me. In Madurai, this is the easiest thing to do in the world as there are interesting things happening at all times.

The street vendors are numerous-who needs a grocery store? Coconuts are safe to eat for tourists as one can cut into this fruit knowing that any one of numerous parasites has not yet taken up residence in the center. Notice the motorcycles, motorbikes and bicycles parked on the street. Cars make there way down the streets as well. It's crowded. I would much rather walk.

I see a woman carrying a basket on the street corner. She is barefoot. I can't believe the colors of her clothing-bright orange and red. People on bicycles are cruising down the street with locals eating at street vendors along the way.

I see two women on a motorbike rambling down the street. I can't believe how they are dressed in colorful saris! I see them pass a street vendor selling clothes from his open air shop. He sits there all day ready to sell his wares to a customer. He does this 7 days a week to earn a living. I think to myself, "What a tough life."

After hours of standing on the street corner taking photographs, it's time to go back to our little hotel room. I think about the people I have seen, their culture and their way of life that is so different from mine on the other side of the world. And to think, this is only one segment of this enormous country of India with a population of 1.25 billion people. It makes me look forward to the next day and on to a new adventure.