Monday, April 30, 2007

May Day

May Day is a national holiday in India, and I have the day off. Nonetheless, I plan to go to the office today and get some quiet work time in. I'm hoping that RuthAnne will go to the usual May Day happening by the Charles and take her phone, so I can call her.

May Day makes me think of Morris, and I received this image in my mail this morning from a fellow member of the Pinewoods Morris Men from the annual Nantucket outing. Fools, indeed.

Tomorrow I'll be attending a wedding; one of my co-workers (Srinivas) is getting married. This will be the second wedding I've witnessed since arriving; the first was also a co-worker (Pankaj). Weddings are much more open affairs here than they have become in the U.S. and I'm pleased to be invited to them. Here are some pictures of the invitation:

I'll try to get some pictures (if appropriate) of the ceremony and reception. This wedding will be a Hindu wedding; the first one I attended was Christian (with some Hindu accents).

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Out and about

Today I did a bunch of housekeeping (sweeping, dusting and more laundry...) and then went out for a bike ride. I explored further a path I started on yesterday that goes past a security zone; today I veered off to the right and down a steep hill into a quiet residential area. After passing some kids playing cricket in the street (who were amused by my appearance...) I came upon this:

As polluted, noisy, dusty and generally scruffy as Hyderabad can be, it keeps tossing up these little oases of flowers and greenery.

I wound up at Kashmir Emporium, where I played another game of bacgammon with Feroz. He and the other fellows at the shop seemed delighted that I arrived on a bike. Feroz noted that another American had been in (a woman who works for an American bank) and had asked about bacgammon; if she returns, Feroz will try to arrange for us to meet to play.

From there I pedaled south, with a vague goal of finding the public garden. I was instead lured into an incredibly busy shopping area (so much for "shops are closed on Sundays"...). Some shops were closed; most notably the hardware store, where I had hoped to buy a crescent wrench for my bike. I walked and rode on for many blocks, stopping whenever something caught my fancy.

I bought a half a dozen plastic hangers (for Rs.30 - about 75 cents), and took pictures of these critters:

Tonight I'm having dinner with Tod Martin and his wife; Tod is an American I met at baggage claim the night I arrived in Hyderabad. We're meeting at the Taj Krisha at 8 and going to "Fusion", a new restaurant for me. I'll file a report, of course.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

KBR Park, laundry, biking and Lavanya

This morning I pedaled over to KBR park after breakfast to explore. I discovered that the park isn't bike-friendly; there are speed bumps (aka speed breakers) just about every 10 meters or so in most places. I nonetheless bumped along for a while to see what I could.

KRB Park is big. I knew that from driving around it so often (all routes between central Hyderabad and HiTech City pass the park on either the north or south side), but there's nothing like being in it to drive that home. Here are a few pictures from the ride.

This one has some barely-visible birds in it; they were a long way off, so whatever they were, they were big.

On my way home I took a slight detour to explore a path that one of the Hertz drivers used to get from Road #1 to my house; it goes past a "secured area" (the head minister of Andhra Pradesh?), and I was turned back politely but firmly. As I left, I spotted this sign, which is of a type common in Hyderabad: the mixed message.

Once I got home, I turned my attentions to the shiny new front-loading washer that arrived this week, and did two loads of laundry. I learned a lesson - the first time I wash anything I buy here in India, I should probably be very careful about colors and expect bleeding.

I mixed my pretty bedspread with some (formerly...) white t-shirts and underwear - ooops.

Once the laundry was done (or at least hanging up to dry) I got back on the bike and rode over to Pedaller's Point (the shop where I bought the bike) and dropped it off for some adjustments (the handle bars loosened up, and the gears were a little flaky). Anil met me there in his car and drove us back to his apartment, where Anu served us lunch. We then settled in to watch Syrianna, which I brought from the US on DVD.

This turned out not to be a big success; Anil has to struggle a bit to keep up with movie dialog in English. We eventually gave up; he'll watch it at his leisure and then we'll talk about it. Anil took me back to the bike shop; I picked up my bike and rode home, via FabIndia (where I got a few more kurtas).

On the way, I passed these critters and pulled over to snap their picture. Unfortunately they were really moving, and by the time I got the camera out they were pretty far away. I had to blow this up to the point of blur for you to see them. Yes, that's a couple of camels over there to the left...

Once home I took a quick shower and then walked/richshawed to Chutneys to meet Lavanya (Haranadh's wife) for dinner. This was thoroughly delightful; thank you, Lavanya, and thank you, Haranadh, for getting us in touch! It's interesting that H. and L. are going through the same kind of transition I am, but in reverse. H. is having his own troubles adjusting to the U.S., and they partially mirror mine - transportation (he has to get a U.S. license before he can drive), food (like me, he's mostly eating out), friends. We'll have to meet sometime and compare notes.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

...and it's still April

Yep. 93.7F at 10:30PM. Welcome to my bedroom.

Send ice, please.


I went out for a walk to cool off. My "neighborhood", Mithila Nagar, is an odd place. There's a bunch of construction happening, and there were people working at 10PM. Also people crashed out, sleeping, at random locations: next to a door, on a small piece of grass, on the floor of a garage. I've concluded I need to spend some daylight exploring. (The dogs at night freak me out a bit...)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Planning a virtual date

One of my coworkers sent me a link to Jonathan Coulton's new cover of You Oughta Know, by Alanis Morissette, which provoked me to check out JoCo's concert schedule and discover that he'll be at Johnny D's on May 3rd.

Photo by CarrieLu, via Flickr.

At first blush, this didn't seem particularly useful, given that I'm on the opposite side of the world right now, but then it hit me: Katy could go to the show with her cellphone, I could call her via Skype and have her put the phone on speakerphone, and then we could share the concert.

I don't know yet if it's going to happen, but it gives me something funky to look forward to.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


This morning I slept until 9, the latest I've slept since I've been here, I think, and very welcome. After a quick shower I took a rickshaw to Punjagutta for breakfast at Chutneys with a co-worker, Anil. Our mission for the day was to get me a wireless router for my home and, wonder of wonders, a bicycle.

I picked up a shiny new Netgear router for Rs.2100 (and a much-needed power strip) at what amounts to a computer bazaar in Ameerpet, and then we headed back to Punjagutta in search of bike shops. And at "Pedaller's Point", I found The Grail - my wheels.

I'm now the proud owner of a Hercules Ultima 6-speed bicycle. It wasn't cheap - about Rs.4500 - but it gives me freedom. I immediately pedaled over to the Kashmir goods store where I bought my bacgammon board and played another game with the proprietor, "Fab". He says his full name is too long for anyone to remember, so he goes by his initials. [Update: Feroz.]

On the way, I made extensive use of one of my bike's key safety features: the bell. Yes, I've joined the ranks of the noise-making vehicle operators on the roads of India.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Coming up for air

Wow! It's been almost a month since I started this blog. I had no time for it before I left for Hyderabad, and since I arrived on April 3rd I've been working like a fiend just to keep from drowning in the shock that is India.

This is my third trip to Hyderabad, and I thought it would be a lot easier this time. What I hadn't considered is that this time I'm really going to live here, not just visit, and it's been a loooong time since I set up housekeeping from scratch. Here near the end of my third week, I'm starting to get my "systems" in place and establish patterns, but it's been harder than I expected.

So - a little chronology first. I arrived just before midnight on Tuesday, April 3 on a Lufthansa flight from Boston, via Frankfurt. The trip crosses some of the most politically volatile places on the planet: Turkey, Iran, Pakistan - but you can't see the unrest from the air. What you do see is natural beauty: mountains, water, desert. As usual, I had a window seat, but unlike prior trips, there was heavy cloud cover for much of the air time. I was also struggling with an unfamiliar camera (I borrowed RuthAnne's little CoolPix 3200), so the pictures were a disappointment. But here's one, just to provide some sense of what I was seeing.

My home for the first 10 days was a "guest house" in the apartment complex "My Home Navadweepa" in Madhapur, close to CyberTower and the IT buildings around it. The guest house is actually several 3-bedroom apartments; short-term visitors like me stay in the bedrooms and can optionally eat meals at "the hub", an additional apartment that serves as a collective dining and hang-out space, as well as a home for the guest house manager and staff. IBM provides guest houses as an overhead service in India; there are enough people traveling at any given moment, and guest houses are sooo much cheaper than hotels that it's not worth charging back to the employee's department. Usually out-of-country visitors like me stay at a hotel, but I wound up using a guest house last time I was here, so we continued the practice this time.

My first week was a short one; my first day in the office was Wednesday, and India takes Good Friday as a holiday. On Saturday I took an auto-rickshaw to Punjagutta (close to the guest house I stayed at on my last trip) and walked around, and wound up doing some apartment hunting with Faisal, a guru of sorts provided by IBM (via contract to Cartus) to help me find housing and get settled.

The househunting continued on Monday, and I eventually settled on a 4-bedroom house in Banjara Hills. Why 4 bedrooms for a single guy? Because that's what there is. Housing is geared towards families, often multi-generational families; the notion of "having your own apartment" is pretty foreign.

I moved into my new home on Friday of my second week, and spent the weekend shopping (with limited success) for household goods. Here's a picture I took Saturday evening from my roof.

I worked all this week, and tomorrow (Saturday) will be another shopping day. I'm in the market for various electrical items and small appliances (extension cords, outlet adapters, an iron and ironing board) and a bicycle (to give me a little transportation independence and not have to rely on Hertz cabs all the time).

When I got home from supper this evening there were two things going on: some sort of very loud musical event at the nearby temple, and this lovely moon and Venus over the buildings to my west.

I'll take the camera with me tomorrow and see if I can get some interesting shots of Hyderabad street life.