Thursday, December 2, 2010

A delightful contrast discovered in Hyderabad

A month or two ago, at least five of my American cronies were amped to travel to Hyderabad to run in the 10K race. However, by last week, the number of interested parties had reached a low of two, one of whom (not me!) was wavering. (I'm sure you've been in situation like this...people are all "Yeahs!" but then slowly seem to retract.) Anyways, good thing Ren decided he was still a 'yes,' as I don't know if I would have gone alone.

We took an overnight train to cover the 650 or so kilometers from the state of Karnataka to the state of Andhra Pradesh. When we got off of the train in Hyderabad, we encountered a mass of Indians gathered around a makeshift film site. Indians love their movies, and love their film stars even more; we asked a bystander who the actors were, but we did not recognize their names.

 We checked in at the youth hostel, which was a novelty for Ren. It cost 80 rupees per night (less than $2), which was a steal, but I seem to have developed five reddish/purple marks bigger than the size of golf balls on my legs, either reactions from spider bites or bed bugs, as souvenirs from the place. Luckily, I had an emergency pack of antibiotics left over from Argentina!

After checking in the hostel, we went to register for the race, but not before stopping to eat some famous Hyderabadi Biryani, a pseudo-fried rice dish, complemented by fish. After registering for the race by the lake, which was excavated in the 16th century, we took a boat ride to the Buddha statue, which actually has a tumultuous history: it took five years to carve, but then fell off the barge it was being shipped off of, killing a couple engineers; it was later recovered from the water. In the evening, we bought tickets to Alice in Wonderland from two lovely Persian scalpers. The entertainment complex was massive (they had a strange indoor ice skating rink inside), and the movie was in both 3-D and IMAX! I was so tired (bored?) that I fell asleep in the middle of the film.

 The next day my alarm clock rang at 5:45am, and still in bed, I yelled "Ren!" through the wall (there was a huge section missing from the wall) to start the rise-n'-shine process which I dreaded. I was worried about waking up the people in the other rooms; folks in India are well-accustomed to sleeping through yelling and other nuisances, though. Ren communicated that we had more time to sleep, as our Fun Run started an hour and a half after the competitive race (we had decided to downgrade in seriousness). 

The race start was unorganized, just like most events I've attended in India, but perhaps the competitive race was more strict. It looked more like a parade than a race: no one was stretching; there were no ipods; there were social organizations, like Special Olympics, 350 (an international group trying to bring carbon dioxide levels down to 350partspermillion), and Heart Health, chanting and holding up signs; and hardly anyone was wearing shorts!

 We were two of the only folks who ran the whole way; people looked at us like were giraffes among masses of cherubic piglets. Unlike races in the U.S. where supporters line the sidelines, the only supporters were the race officials, who yelled things like, "Yes, Madam! Sir, keep going, great job!" We were taking it easy, though, just enjoying the scenery and the strangeness of it all. 

 The mass of Heart Health people; I think they were sponsored by the government, as India has a high incidence of various heart diseases.


After showering, we ventured to the Old City, which was full of Indians shopping for pearls, fruits, plastic combs, scarfs, saris, fake jewels, etc. "Now this is the India I know," Ren said, as the cleanliness and order of the other part of Hyderabad, where we ran our race and slept, had surprised him. To join in the culture, we followed the masses shuffling into the coffee shops; it doesn't matter how hot or cold it is outside, Indians are eternal servants of chai and coffee.

 The Charminar, or "Mosque of the Four Minarets," a structure built to honor the founding of the city in 1591, after it had moved from another place that had suffered an epidemic

Ren and I got separated from each other, but met up again at the Baptist church across the street from the hostel. He had told me he'd be there, and I thought I'd accompany him to learn about what he's interested in. The choir had it going on (there was even a rad drummer), and the preacher/pastor had me laughing because of his unique oration style. Those pastors are dramatic, I tell you. He almost made me feel like standing along with the other folks who stood up one by one when he getting to the peak of his speech, asking folks to show themselves if they needed revival: 'There's no time to waste, people, the time is now for revival...don't be scared...thank you, Sir in the rear, I see you," etc. 

After picking up our stuff, we walked to the train station to begin our trip back to Bangalore. I have two weeks left here, and then I am meeting my brother in Kerala to begin our two week adventure together.

1 comment:

Dad said...

Great narrative and writing!