Posts Tagged ‘ Pondicherry ’

Hyderabad and Back to Pune

The rest of my vacation was lovely. I took a bus to Hyderabad to meet Ritesh, Indro and RG. Ritesh was transferred there for his job, RG works there, and Indro is going to one of the top business schools. It’s a two-year program stuffed into a year. I have great friends. RG took a few days off work, Ritesh took a day off work to escort me around. It was great. Hyderabad is a big city, huge in fact. I don’t know how most tourists would get around. On day one we went to the Ramoji Film City. It’s really a city for film. If I had ever been to LA Universal Studios I imagine it would look like something similar. The cool thing was that on my way back to Pune, the Tamil movie I saw was all shot there and I recognized so many different scenes. I’m not usually that kind of person who shouts, “I’ve been there,” or “I know where that is,” but somehow seeing those things in India in a Tamil movie, I got a little excited. Speaking of Tamil movies, they’re awesome, in a Bollywood (Tollywood) way. There is always a hero with super strength (as in many Bollywood movies) but the dance numbers are so much more intricate. I thoroughly enjoyed both movies I watched on the busses.
On day two, RG took me to the Qutb Shahi Tombs and the Golkonda Fort. There is so much history in Hyderabad. I really enjoyed the Fort. It was inhabited from the 1500s to 1700s. They even engineered the entrance with an echo system so you could hear a clap at the top of the whole fort. There was art and culture, a Muslim prince who married a Hindu commoner. It was finally taken over by the ruler of Delhi. I’m missing many important pieces, but I’ll look it up in the free time I don’t have and try to piece some more together. In the evening we saw a sound and light show at the fort. Basically they lit up different parts of the fort while the audience listened to the story of the fort. It was nice.
For dinner we went to a famous Hyderabad restaurant where we all started sucking in air because the food was so spicy. Apparently Hyderabad food is really spicy. It was a bit intense. It was Ritesh’s birthday so we went for some yummy ice cream afterwards too. It reminded me a bit of Cold Stone. We don’t have such places in Pune.
The next day I got to go around with Ritesh. RG planned our trip so we went to the Salar Jung museum. It is comprised of a collection of the family that traveled and picked up trinkets and cultural items from all over the world. This museum, more so than others, was a little hard to digest because there were so many people, and they were all so loud. It’s funny that Americans are so quiet in museums, but this was the other extreme. There was even a man who shooed people along if they were taking too long in one of the rooms. It was a little much for my last day, and I find the arrangement of Indian museums a bit confusing. Not to say it’s wrong, but the way it’s laid out seems haphazard and there aren’t really labels that really explain the pieces. I really enjoyed one room that had Indian contemporary art. It was beautiful.
From there, I did the unthinkable. We met RG for lunch; more specifically we went to the “second best” biriyani place in Hyderabad, Shadab. I ate mutton. When in Rome…
After that Ritesh and I headed to Charminar and Jama Masjid. Both were beautiful structures. The Charminar is set up in an intersection, and when you go to the first landing (the second is closed because a family committed suicide a few years ago) you can see the four intersecting lanes. It’s pretty incredible. We even got a mini tour by an uncle who worked for the heritage site. At the masjid we also got a mini tour, but when it came time to enter, one uncle said, “go pray to God,” while pointing at the mat outside for women, and another uncle took Ritesh in for a tour.
We spent some time and I bought payal. Payal are silver anklets that many Indian women wear. They’re super pretty. Most of them make sounds because of the little balls on them, but that somehow didn’t work with me. So, in the middle of Hyderabad, Ritesh found the perfect ones for me. Apparently I’m having a girl moment. I didn’t go shopping, didn’t intend to, that would be too girly.
We had to rush back home so I could catch my bus. Indro challenged me to see if Vipassana really worked. Last time when we all took a bus I made sure that we were there 10 minutes beforehand. I stressed myself and everyone else out (at least in my head). They kept telling me to calm down, not to worry, the bus wouln’t leave without us, it would be late, etc. I didn’t believe them. Ritesh’s roommates left the key with the watchman. The watchman wasn’t there. Then when we found him, he gave the wrong keys, then he couldn’t find the right keys, then we took another few minutes to finish packing up my stuff. When we were ready to leave Indro came with his car to get us there. Then we got stuck in traffic in several places. Ritesh called the company to let them know we were on our way. Not only did I not panic at all, but we were late, and I still didn’t panic. I felt very accomplished. I wasn’t even the last person to arrive. It was a great vacation.
I spoke to my father while I was there. I told him how it was so nice to see friends who I hadn’t seen in such a long time. It seemed weird to be telling him that, when he’s so far away and I haven’t seen him in months, and some of my friends in almost a year (a month from now will mark a year since I’ve been home again). I’ve been here long enough now where I can say I haven’t seen good friends in a long time. Strange, and makes me smile and also give a mini sad face. Anyway, it was a great vacation. Much needed. At work people say I look rested. I needed rest. I also covered two new states and big vacation spots. Two years in I’m almost a sixth of the way done with all the places I want to go.

Yesterday was Erin’s birthday. Happy Birthday Erin! Sorry for missing another one.

The cold has come. It gets to the low 50s at night. For here, it’s freezing. Again I’m facing the ridicule of my friends – “How are you cold?” I don’t know, but it’s freezing at night. Freezing at night means that you don’t turn on the fan (or keep it really low), the windows stay closed and you put on a real blanket as opposed to a cotton sheet. During the day it stays hot though, reaching the 80s, sometimes the upper 80s. It must do something to your body to face such extremes ever day. It’s also dengue season. While traveling, I took my fancy bug spray with DDT in it. At a certain point I weighed the benefits of putting a harmful chemical on my body with getting dengue. The harmful chemical won. In Pondi I even got a mini rash on my legs for the day. The chemical still won. An acquaintance of mine in Bombay got dengue and was in the hospital and then bed rest for five weeks. I’ll still take a small leg rash over that.

Puducherry, Auroville

This has been a really nice vacation so far. Someone just asked me what we’ve been up to here, basically a lot of nothing, and it’s been great. Today we spent the day wandering around Pondicherry again. It was nice. We mostly spent it in a cafe and looking for the bus stop where I’ll be leaving from on Monday night to Hyderabad. The highlight was sitting in a very small van from one end of the city to another. Manoj had to crawl into the front, while I squatted in the back area with a bunch of women in sarees (more women wear sarees here than salwar kameez) looked at my scantly clad legs (I was wearing shorts) and giggled. They were really nice. A few got up and they made sure there was room on the benches surrounding the edges. At the tourist information center they were sure that all the tickets to Hyd would be sold out. When we got there, it seems as if only 5 or so were booked. We managed to take a public bus all the way back to Auroville (around 10K from Pondicherry) and then walked, a long walk, back to where we’re staying.

Auroville is a very, very interesting place. It’s a community living space. They have a charter; They follow the teachings of The Mother, a French woman who spent most of her adult life here, and Sri Aurobindo. They have a vision and this community is a part of it. From what I’ve understood from being here is that due to human activity mostly the place was in complete ruins and left as a desert. Forty years into their vision, the forest is back. It truly is beautiful. There’s dirt roads, a canteen where most people eat. They don’t accept money there – nor at a few other places. Rather, you have to put money on a card and they’ll deduct it from there. We have cycles and go around and around on their roads. It’s an interesting concept that Manoj and I have discussed – the pros, cons, oddities – at great length. They’ve done a great job in terms of water conservation. We went on a tour of Sadhana Forest which has done a lot of tree planting and done a huge amount of work in water conservation – the water table has risen 6 meters in the past couple of years, it’s very green. We both have some issues on the social impacts that are both positive and negative, and this isn’t the place I’ll discuss it but feel free to mail me if you wanna know my opinions or takeaways.

It gets dark a little before 7. A friend of ours, Sam, is a capoeira angola teacher here. He came up for our capoeira event. We went to his class on Wednesday night when we got here. We had to walk through the woods to get there. The class was done using a huge flashlight until the power came back halfway through. It took about another half hour for it to go back off again and we did a roda in the dark. It was pretty awesome. We were dropped back at our guest house by two girls from the class. Girls here ride geared bikes. It’s awesome. In Pune I’m an anomaly.

Yesterday we just biked around and did more of a bunch of nothing. Tomorrow we’ll venture to the beach. It should be nice.

People here are lazy. We walked from the main road yesterday. It’s probably about 5m from where we’re staying. People were shocked! Today, we cycled to the beach, which might be a good 10km. It’s not that bad and was a nice ride. People were shocked. When we were in Pondi the first day we walked from one end of the boardwalk to the other to get to the hotel. When we said we’d walk and not take a rickshaw the guy was shocked. We asked how long it would take and he said maybe a 10 minute walk. We smiled, thanked him, and walked.

The beach was awesome. The water was great. I swam in the Bay of Bengal. It was exciting, salty, and not that cold. We expected people to be a bit less conservative, especially the foreigners, but there were a few who were in full piece suits. The waves were awesome. We ran into a group of merchant marines who were from all over India and the offered us a beer. It was really relaxed. After a few swims we went to a small, but really nice restaurant right next to the water. It was also a surf shop. Manoj and I ate crepes and a sandwich while playing carrom. The owners are Tibetan from Dharamshala. It was really great to speak with him. We cycled back and are getting ready to eat. The canteen here closes by 7:30 and we were quite lucky that they had enough food to feed us last night.


Today, in fact, this week, has been great; and it’s only Wednesday. The week began with my new arts fun week at one of our schools. This has been a small dream of mine for a while, and it’s nice to see that it’s come to fruition. This is only beginning too; but that’s not for here, nor for now. We can just say that the program is going very well. We brought drama, painting, kalari, photography, classical flute (Indian), and classical Indian singing, as well as other classes from the teachers at the school, to the kids of this school. Last week they finished their midterm assessments. Friday is the parent teacher conferences. This week, for two hours they are having fun with different art forms. The idea is to expose them to any and every alternative activity that they didn’t previously know. I’m happy. They walked up to me in the school to ask about their classes. They’re having fun. That’s the idea.
This morning I woke up in angst (yes I’ll be talking politics this paragraph, so if you don’t want to read it you can skip to the next paragraph). I woke up early in order to see what was going on with the elections. Last night, we had a mid week out night, and I bothered my friend frequently to see any Electoral College updates. I gave up and left it for this morning. I harassed friends via gchat and facebook. The results were close and by the time I had to leave for work it almost looked as if Romney was going to win. I wasn’t able to cast my absentee ballot because I never got it back in the mail here. The mail system isn’t that reliable and New York will go blue no matter what so I did not get to exercise my right to vote this time. I got a text from Manoj that said “Yay Obama” about a half an hour after I got to the school. I know two other Americans here. It was a really exciting moment. This moment was accentuated at the airport when I saw President Obama’s speech highlighted on the news. At the airport, Manoj and I were checking to see the whole speech and a man peeped over my shoulder at the computer and asked if Obama was winning. I said that he had already won and he stuck his hand out and said congratulations. He was genuinely very happy and was excited to shake my hand. Our eyes met once more in the airport and he smiled again.
Yes, I was at the airport. This is Diwali time, which means a little bit of vacation. This is a travel in India vacation. I’m spending 5 days in Auroville/Pondicherry with Manoj and then will head to Hyderabad to see the city as well as to visit some friends who moved there earlier this year. Pondicherry, in Tamil Nadu, was a French colony. It feels like Europe has invaded India. After finding a hotel, Manoj and I wandered the streets for a while, got some ice cream while over looking the ocean and then headed through some of the small, very European-looking lanes for some hot chocolate. We passed by the same small café for a second time and decided to go in. The small uncle with a very Indian mustache opens the door and asks us to come in, in French. It was very trippy to see two older uncles who were very Indian in nature, in India, speaking French. Even when they spoke Tamil it seemed as if it was with a French accent. I fell in love. We’ll return for breakfast tomorrow.
There’s a boardwalk. It’s clean and carless; people just sit on the benches chatting or walk around with friends and family. It’s peaceful. Tomorrow we’ll spend the morning here and then head to Auroville, which is more French. We’ll meet a friend of ours and be on vacation.
Today we went back to the same café where we got hot chocolate. The man was happy to see us and we ate a croissant and had coffee. He brought us extra toast. It was still really trippy to hear him speaking French. It’s easier to imagine that we’re in Europe and there are Indians who speak fluent French than here. I don’t know if that’s wrong to think. We found another café where we’ve plopped down with a class of Savigon Blanc and three yummy French appetizers and will work until we head off to Auroville.