Saturday, April 7, 2007

Weekend in Hyderabad - Snow World, Sarees, and Charminar

Saturday April 7

So far this weekend has been really fun and informative. Even though the heat is oppressive, I feel like I’m getting a better understanding of India, or at least Hyderabad, outside of my air-conditioned cocoon (although, due to the fact that I’ve been raised in an air-conditioned cocoon, occasional breaks from the heat and smell of the cars are required to stay sane).

On Thursday night Anja and I watched Sex and the City and drank bad Indian beer (not that I like good beer, but it’s the idea of watching TV and drinking beer that was appealing). We teased Anup that we never see him and he went out and bought us flowers – a massive garland used for weddings and foreign dignitaries that is still fragrancing my room 2 days later, and roses. We took lots of pictures posing with the flowers like ‘models.’

On Friday I went to Rupa’s in Secunderbad, a city on the other side of Hyderabad that used to be separate but has now joined Hyderabad due to sprawl. She showed me how to make awesome aloo paratha for breakfast and I met her daughter, Deeksha, her daughter’s friend, Nandini, and her in-laws. We then packed up and went to snow world, which is about the size of a high school gym with a hard snowy ice substance on the ground. The kids had fun for a short while, but even they got bored after half an hour, and luckily our session was over after an hour.

After snow world we went to Hyderabad Central to shop for Indian clothes and I got lots of brightly colored pretty things. The kids were bored and hungry so we went to a really popular restaurant called ‘Paradise’ where it was packed (only Indians eating there) and had traditional Hyderabadi Biryani and kebabs (which were perfectly cooked with just enough spices to taste exotic but not make your lips tingle…).

Later we went shopping for Deeksha’s summer clothes and finally to the saree shop. We looked at hundreds of sarees; Rupa is going to a wedding and I wanted one (hopefully) for an Indian wedding, but if not, for any occasion where I can wear one. I shouldn’t have to look too far for such an occasion since women wear ornately decorated sarees everywhere – on mopeds, at the mall, at the office – so even a nice dinner should do, although I reeeaaaallllllly want to go to an Indian wedding!

I ended up getting two (the best laid plans…) because they were both so amazing that I couldn’t say no. One is my color of royal kelly green with silver flowers embroidered into it – everyone thought it was stunning on pale skin ;) The other was the most royal cerulean blue, crepe silk from a particular region in India with ornate gold embroidery and red and green jewels embroidered into the gold flower pattern – I felt like a queen wearing it and couldn’t say no! I figure that if I don’t wear it outside of India I can drape it in my living room and just look at it. Plus, Rupa bargained them down to a reasonable price ;) The colors here are so bright- even the poorest women wear bright sarees. Only the beggars don’t wear bright colors, mostly because their clothes are so dirty that the colors have faded.

The sarees still need to be tailored (pre-made sarees are unauthentic and there is a very small selection, so to get the best ones you have to buy them and then get them finished elsewhere), so I’m going to ask around the office to find someone’s tailor who they trust to finish them off (an undershirt needs to be made from specific fabric at the bottom of the saree). Rupa got a bright pink one with teal undertones and a teal underside that looked amazing with her skin tone. We just sat while brightly colored silks were thrown in front of us ‘ Yes. No. Ewe. Absolutley not. Perfect!’

Afterwards we rented a Hindi movie, dropped Rupa’s saree off at her tailor’s (who wouldn’t promise mine back for a month, thus I’m looking elsewhere) and went back to Rupa’s apartment. She has a very nice view of a tropical garden with palm trees and other exotic trees and birds, and she has a swing in the middle of her living room (which is really common in India). We showed her in-laws all of our loot from the day of shopping and I sat in the swing while watching the Hindi movie. They served a Marathi dish for dinner which was a curry sauce with pasta-esque things made out of the leftover paratha dough from breakfast. Yum.

Today Anja and I went with my cube-mate Shyam to Charminar and the old city. It took forever to get there, but it was worth the trip to see it. Charminar wasn’t incredibly exciting, a monument of four arches with minarets made to commemorate the end of a plague 400 years ago. I may have been the most exciting thing there, since everyone was staring at Anja and me and one family asked to take their picture with me. Somewhere in India a family will have an album with all of them and me in the middle ;) Anja and I paid 100 rupees for the ‘foreigner entrance fee’ (which is institutionalized- there are actually government police there to collect the extra fee from foreigners) and Shyam paid 5 rupees. I don’t really mind, since it was still only $2.50, which was probably about the same percent of my income as 5 rupees (about 12 cents) is to most Indians (which I think is the idea behind the two fees).

The old city is bustling with tiny side streets and bazaars in every direction. There were women in burkas and other Islamic outfits, as well as women in sarees (probably visiting from elsewhere in the city since the old city is almost entirely Muslim). Hyderabad is an unusual place where people of completely different religions live together in relative peace – I’m not taking for granted that this kind of peaceful interaction occurs everywhere in India because it definitely doesn’t extend to the disputed areas in Kashmir.

We walked through part of the bazaar and Shyam haggled for some bangles for me, which I didn’t buy because they wouldn’t lower the price to what Shyam said was reasonable. It was fun watching him bargain though I could have used subtitles since it was all in Hindi. It’s a good thing he was there because I wouldn’t have been able to a) know what was a decent price and b) communicate well enough to haggle. I was surprised that the small streets of the bazaar didn’t smell terrible – I expected them to be vomit-inducing like Egypt and Sicily. It even smelled good in many places because of burning incense or paratha cooking in street stands – thus India continues to pleasantly surprise ;)

After a short while in the bazaar we ended up leaving because Anja was having trouble adjusting to the heat after living in Dublin. The trip was totally worth the heat also because I got a wealth of fantastic photos –street scenes with rickshaws and mini-taxis, people haggling in fruit markets, and a woman carrying 3 baskets stacked on her head (among others).

Afterwards we headed back across the city to find lunch. Shyam took us to a place with restaurants which turned out to be the complex with Serengeti, which coincidentally is the only restaurant in the complex that actually serves Indian food. So back I went and we had a leisurely lunch and cooled down in the air conditioning. Anja pointed out that the waiters are dressed as African guerilla rebels, an oddly kitch detail to the Serengeti atmosphere that I hadn’t noticed the first time around. Then on the way home Shyam played us a CD with his favorite Bollywood music (he promised to make me a copy). Now I’m chilling under the air-conditioning trying to figure out what to do for dinner.

Tomorrow we have brunch at the Taj Krishna, Golconda fort, the something something tombs, and an entirely marble Hindu temple on a hill overlooking the Buddha lake (Hassan Sagar).

No comments: