As I mentioned before, walking in Chennai is no picnic, on account of poor sidewalks and the never-ending din of traffic. I could only assume that running, a morning habit that I’d have a hard time giving up, would be a nightmare.
But, pleasant surprise! It’s actually manageable just after sunrise, at about 5:30 a.m., when the streets are relatively calm and the heat of the day hasn’t set in. I headed to Marina Beach, purportedly the second-longest in Asia, thinking that I and the fishermen would have it to ourselves.
Actually, it seems like half the city had the same idea. As the sun rises above the eastern ocean, the promenade is thick with people taking their morning exercise: Husbands in workout clothes powerwalking alongside wives in full saris (sometimes with sneakers underneath). Little kids circling around in a roller rink. Groups of young dudes charging alongside each other. Yoga sessions. Boxing lessons. If you’re a cow, there are long patchy lawns to romp on, or simply graze.
Part of the parade carried an air of dutifulness: Diabetes is rampant in Indian cities, where jobs tend to be sedentary. In Chennai, there are sweet shops and bakeries everywhere—not to mention fried street food—and few apparent gyms or fitness clubs where someone with high cholesterol might work it off. So I think it’s a safe bet that many of those morning constitutionals are on doctors’ orders.
More photos after the jump.