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Notes on the Geography of Peninsular India: Chennai/Madras 6: New Chennai

India's changing fast, if not fast enough for all. Here are some pictures on the "half-full" side, followed by a few on the "half-empty."

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Peninsular India: Chennai/Madras 6: New Chennai picture 1

The convention is that you can tell how a country is doing just be looking at its airports. Here's Chennai's, pretty much up to international standards.

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But with an Indian twist. Call it a legacy of the caste system fused with British colonial hierarchies.

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Out on the street, we pass something that a visitor from the 1980s would have thought impossible. "It will never be," he said, but he was wrong.

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The full monty.

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A dealership straight out of the global catalog. Farewell to the coconut-powered Ambassador, cut down at the last to its chassis, loaded with cotton, and pulled by a bullock.

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Remember autarky? Self-sufficiency? Trade barriers that kept the global players at bay?

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The new India needs new offices.

Peninsular India: Chennai/Madras 6: New Chennai picture 8

They rise like squash flowers from a compost heap.

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Nobody ever said they had to comport with European taste.

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If you can't read English, this space isn't for you.

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"London shuttle's landed, sir."

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It's Easter Sunday, 2016. What's the attraction?

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Answer: Marina Beach.

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Modesty prevails.

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Meanwhile, the old city continues crumbling into the dust.

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Eventually it's demolished or restored. Here's a case of restoration: The Daily Mail Building in about 1990.

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Ten years later, the newspaper had moved out and the building had been cleaned up.

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People meanwhile occupy every vacant inch. Here's a line of huts on the grounds of St. Andrews. Come around to the front.

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Laundry, as colorful as it gets.

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No room for a hut? Stack it on a proper building, in this case on the city's outskirts, past the airport.

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The outcome? Optimist and pessimist alike must wait and see.


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