chapter  1
20 Pages

The Chennai Paradox

In 2008, I found myself in Chennai, India, gazing out the window of a gleaming office tower, amazed by the juxtaposition of life in this “Cultural Capital of South India.” Chennai has been called the most livable city in India by the Institute of Competitiveness1 and yet, I could see edging off the banks of the Adyar River below a haphazard row of wooden planks that looked like toothpicks extending from rickety cardboard huts from which the homeless emerged to begin another day in abject poverty. The contrast was raw. The conditions of poverty, squalor, and deprivation were  in stark contrast to the modern, prospering city skyline with its eclectic mix of steeples, minarets, temples, fourstar hotels, and gleaming office towers. It was emotionally conflicting. Simultaneously, I could see the promise of a new and better future existing side by side with the exposed problems of the old way of life. It was a visceral paradox.