Notes From India: One Year

Elise Hanna_Chennai_01

I speak best in photographs, it’s true, but in the last few years I’ve found I have more to say, more experiences to share and that the weight of my words carries moments in time and feelings that sometimes even my photographs can not. I read once that Annie Leibovitz said “If they could only convey smells, photographs would be perfect.”

Above all I am a story-teller. If given every possible tool on Earth to communicate, none would accurately describe the heart of Chennai except for a visit ones self. For this reason, I’ve decided to share a series of notes I took in my two years in Chennai beginning , not exactly in the beginning, but with something I wrote on our one year anniversary of living in Chennai. Thoughts I jotted down in my many notebooks and within the notes of my phone as I bumped along in mid day traffic on my way to pick up my children from school or as I crashed on the sofa after ditching my camera bag after a morning spent studying the streets.

Notes From India_Elise Hanna_01


  • Elise, I am speechless. (And I have a lump in my throat).

    My favorite line: “Not testing the depth of your soul, the toughness of your mind and the capability of your heart”. It rings so true to me.

    Chennai is waiting for you. 🙂

  • Stir of the soul Elise! It’s is amazing to hear Chennai through your eyes and see Chennai through your voice. As someone who lives and dies in this part of the world every day, I can vouch for the amount of life it holds within and on the outside. There is a big cloud of stories that it carries and passes over, every minute, every day, so huge to comprehend or so large to explain. One could only find a shade under that cloud or get drenched when it rains. The intimate sweat, the smell of sunshine, the warm wind, the roasted memories, the restless roads, the lovely people and more! Chennai begins, it simply begins and never ends.

    Keep it coming Elise!

    • Thank you my friend. These words mean so much coming from a poet like yourself. I miss all the beauty and chaos with every fiber of my being. I’m hoping to return early next year to visit for a bit.

  • I really appreciate this, Elise. I loved your Chennai photos on Instagram. My husband is from Chennai and we have an apartment in T Nagar in his family’s building. The depths of the love and the hate, the joy and the rage, all these vast swings of emotion by the minute, I’m not used to it and it made me very uncomfortable. Like I was always on the edge. No one was going to hold on to me — I had to do all the holding on. Like the worm and the single silk string. Sometimes I wonder if the people who have only great things to say didn’t really experience Chennai or India. Or they don’t want to tell the truth. I appreciate what you wrote because I must find a way to not get worn down after only 3 weeks there. Looking at the experience as a way to build mental and physical toughness — which I certainly won’t get in my soft Chicago suburban neighborhood! — is a great way to look at it. I will remember this the next time I’m in India. This helps, and thank you for that!

    • Ah Deb. I know exactly how you feel and I hope you think about your next visit differently after this. Yoga was key to maintaining mental and physical health, too! Can’t wait for more from YOUR next visit. I miss Chennai in all the deepest places. xo

Leave a Reply to Susan Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top