It took Swiss national Anne Zwahlen a while to get used to the cacophony of the Madurai traffic. Nevertheless, she is fascinated by the sense of tradition that anchors the city, which she says, makes it a city with a character
Travelling to India had always been one of my dreams. There was something beautiful about this country that fascinated me. I had heard about the colours, the food, religions and philosophy, which are different from my country. I had also heard a lot of opinions, good and bad. Everybody seems to have something specific to say about India. I, however, wanted to discover this culture by myself.
When I arrived at the airport with another volunteer, the taxi picked us up and I suddenly forgot the exhausting journey and couldn’t stop staring out of the window all the way. And what I saw really surprised me: the streets were crowded even though it was quite late at night. Men, women, children and even goats were on the roads, people were hanging out in cafes or chatting in front of shops creating a warm and lively atmosphere.
This particular atmosphere is one of the things that surprised me the most. I discovered the original way in which Indians have to drive—half-amused and half-scared. Madurai’s roads are a cacophony of drivers honking so much that it looks like they just want to say ‘hello’ to each other.
Although it is sometimes a little tiring to be always surrounded by hundreds of people when you are not used to it – especially when you come from a quiet country like Switzerland—it feels good to see a city that is alive. Sights such as women wearing beautiful saris sitting on motorbikes, cows on the edge of the road, and the bright, colourful houses, are priceless.
I must confess, however, that at first I hadn’t expected Madurai to be so traditional. Yet this sense of tradition imparts a touch of character to Madurai’s beauty and shows how much this city is rooted in culture and history.
As I arrived just a few days ago, I have still much to discover and learn about Madurai and India. Yet, even if I have been here less than a week, I already feel like I’ve been here for a long time. I have already met my host family parents, and started yoga lessons… everything seems so natural and warm.