Saturday, January 28, 2012

A young woman asked me for directions in Chennai. And I knew the place :)

Over the past few weeks, one of the most fascinating sights has been that of women riding scooters.  Quite a few of them, however, do not wear helmets.

But, most of the non-helmeted women, unlike the woman in this photo, protect their faces from the dust and the smoke in a very exciting way: they wrap the scarf (dupatta) around their heads in such a manner that only their eyes are exposed.  When I see them, I am reminded of photographs of Arab men and women in the sandy deserts.

When I walk around with my camera, none ever passes by.  When I am without a camera, these "dupatta scooterists" are everywhere!

I was walking to the store the other day when I saw a "dupatta scooterist."  Of course, no camera!  I was walking by the side of the road, directionally against the flow of traffic, and I sensed this scooter coming towards me.

I moved further off the road, worried that I might be run over.

The scooter stopped next to me.

She slowly undid her dupatta.  Perhaps a college student, I thought to myself, when I saw her face.

I have gotten to a stage in life that when a young woman looks at me or seems to wave at me, I know for sure I am merely in her line of sight and there is a young, handsome man behind me.  So, when she stopped, I moved to the side a tad more.

"Hi" she said.

Now I was on alert.  Is this a cousin or a niece that I am supposed to recognize?  Is my selective amnesia that bad?

"Yes?"

"Where is Dhandapani Street?"

Finally, all the walking around paid off.  "This is Dhandapani Street" I replied.  I was proud of myself, that I know this much!

"Oh. My friend is at a hair salon somewhere here."

I know the place really well--I mean, we are talking about right around the corner from where my parents live.

"Skip this upcoming left" I told her. "Then soon after the second left, you will see two hair places."

I should know; only a couple of weeks ago, I got my hair trimmed there.  I was so worried when the hairdresser took out a shaving blade.  "No shave" I hurriedly told him.  Turned out that the blade was for the post-haircut cleanup :)

"My friend said it is opposite to Hotel Ilakkiya" the scooter girl added.

"Yes, it is right there."

She thanked me and we went our ways.

All I could think was, "dammit, I didn't have my camera."  Well, maybe another time.

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