Some of my other momentary impressions involve recognizing connections of different sorts. As nine of us sat in a stark basement restaurant on Monday night awkwardly eating dosas with our right hands, we realized that the Kinley club soda that had formed the base of our lime sodas was a Coca-Cola product.
On the road to Puducherry, as I watched for the unfamiliar, I caught a glimpse of the "Jesus Tea and Cool Drinks" shop, whose sign features the well-known Warner Sallman image, "The Head of Christ."
But there have also been more complex experiences that open up the richness of subjects that had only a casual presence in my mind. I had heard of Madras cloth, of course, and knew that Chennai was formerly called Madras. The DakshinaChitra textile exhibition, in a small hall at the back of a model weaver's house, explains the cultural meaning of the Madras hand kerchief, the significance of the dhoti, and the iconography of textile design.
It also features a large framework loom, the form of which local weavers adopted from a group of Swiss missionaries from Basel in the 1850s. Walking through the hall I felt the power of a deep-rooted cultural practice and saw a token of the possibility of beneficial cultural exchange.