Sunday, September 30, 2007

Go, Tom Friedman!

Thomas Friedman's column in the Sunday NYTimes, 9/11 is Over, is spot on. It says, in part:

9/11 has made us stupid. I honor, and weep for, all those murdered on that day. But our reaction to 9/11 — mine included — has knocked America completely out of balance, and it is time to get things right again.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Shopping for dhotis

One of my coworkers has offered to teach me how to wear a dhoti, but before he can do that, I have to own one. So, today I set off in search of a dhoti. My general idea was to head towards Abids and hope to get lucky.  And so I did - and found myself  in Bazar Ghat, the eastern end of Rai Janakiprasad Road, west of the Hyderabad train station. There are tons of clothing stores in this area. I came home with two dhotis (@ Rs. 95 each), a lungi (Rs. 85) and a very nice hand-embroidered long khurta (Rs. 550; I probably could have pushed lower, but the price seemed reasonable...). Once I learn how to wear the dhotis (they are just large rectangles of cloth...) I'll try to get a few pictures.

The pictures I did take on today's ride have nothing to do with my shopping. I met these three creatures just around the corner from my house.

The last shot is another in the "funky sign" series. There are a lot of "famous X" stores in Hyderabad, and I'm starting to collect them.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Katy discovers Picasa

I've been after Katy to start using Picasa, instead of sending me pictures as email attachments. Well, she has - yea! Her initial albums include among many other things, some lovely shots of our garden in Cambridge and an amazing series of a praying mantis preying on a butterfly.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Wish I were there... deliver this in person.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

2007 Ad Hoc Ganesha Temple Tour

Today I rode around on my bike and took pictures of the Ganesha shrines that have popped up all over Hyderabad in the past week. They're all charted (well, the ones I found; I'm sure there are plenty more), with pictures, on the GPS track:

View Larger Map

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Well, what ELSE can happen today?

I mean, heck, it's only 10PM - two whole hours left in this day!

As I was getting ready to hop on the bike at about noon today, my phone rang - it was Katy. Given that noon here is 2:30AM in Cambridge, I knew immediately something was up. RuthAnne, my almost-18-year-old daughter, hit a deer while driving home from a dance in western Massachusetts. She's unhurt, and the damage to the car was minimal (she was able to drive it home), but the toll on her psyche (and Katy's, and to some degree mine) is another story.

I talked to Katy for a while, until we both ran down a bit, and then I boarded the bike and headed southeast for the Paigah Tombs. I'm getting reasonably efficient at getting out of Banjara Hills and down to the Musi, but the other side is still mostly terra incognita. I plotted a path that took me through Charminar (nice to have at least one solid reference point...) and then south.

Well, the map of that area bears little relationship to reality. I realized I was heading WAY too far south and backtracked to a known position, tried again - and again - and again. Eventually I concluded I was running out of daylight and beat it on home, but what really happened is that I lost my nerve. I passed thru several clots of less-than-friendly teenage boys and just had my fill. I suddenly felt a long way from home (meaning Banjara Hills) with no local language skills and as conspicuous as I could be (an old white guy on a fancy bike, wearing a helmet!). I haven't felt like such a "foreigner" in a long time.

Here's the GPS track for the morbidly curious.

View Larger Map

I got home well before dark (maybe 5:30PM?), peeled off my sweaty clothes and took a shower. By the time I was clean and dry, the thunderstorm that had been rumbling its way in as I rode home had opened up with a downpour. This kept me in the house until 8PM or so; then I headed out to play some backgammon with Feroz and get supper.

Feroz mentioned as we were playing that there had been some sort of bridge collapse this afternoon in Hyderabad, but had no details. I didn't really think much of it; we played a few games, I went to supper and came home.

Just as I walked in the door, my mobile rang; it was Deepak from work, calling to ask if I am OK. The "bridge collapse" was the failure of the under-construction Punjagutta flyover in Nagarjuna Circle - literally a stone's throw from Chutneys, my favorite restaurant. I go through that circle frequently.

Several people from work have called me to check in. Damn. It's been some day.

I'm not all that jazzed to post today's pictures, but here they are anyway. The first batch is a slew of animals (camels and horses) that I passed approaching the river. I've only seen a few camels and NO horses, so these really caught my eye.

The next two are funky little memorials in the middle of the road. I have no idea who the first is for; the second is for Indira Gandhi.

This last is an under-construction temporary shrine to Ganesha, whose festival is on September 15th.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Visiting Raymond, Kris and Anja

Today I rode southeast into the old city to visit Raymond's Tomb and Kris 'n Anja, two women I've met via the IndiaMike web site. Here's the GPS track:

View Larger Map

and photos:

Sept 8

It was a great day to be out - slight breeze, sunny but not hot. The distance was such that I took a more direct route than I usually do, but I still found time for a few photos and detours. This sign illustrates nicely one of the symbols I see all the time around Hyderabad:

The "Swastik" is a Hindu good-luck sign, associated with the elephant-headed god Ganesha. It long predates its more sinister association with the Nazis.

This unusual structure is (was?) a Sikh gurudwara (temple).

One on of the side streets I took I found myself surrounded by musical instrument stores. On a whim I stopped into one and asked about penny whistles; I was told "no whistles. You want flute?" Evidently I did. Here's what I got for Rs. 50:

Yea - I can make music! It's actually a pretty decent whistle, though the usual cross-fingering for a flatted 7th doesn't work well at all. It claims to be in "C".

I soon crossed the river (the Musi) and came to the huge farm goods market in the old city. These are onions; there were just mountains of onions.

The air near these hot peppers was semi-toxic; my throat burned as I breathed the air near them.

From the market I pedaled south and uphill to Raymond's Tomb, where I took these shots.

What I couldn't capture adequately with the camera was the views, which were lovely, and the general peacefulness of the site.

Leaving Raymond to enjoy his rest, I biked toward Kris 'n Anja's apartment, not far away. I "met" (virtually) Anja through postings on IndiaMike, a fantastic Indian travel web site. They both work at LEPRA, an NGO that works with people affected by leprosy. They have a terrific apartment on the 5th floor of "TNR's Royal Palace". It has two bedrooms, a balcony with a great view of Hyderabad, cozy kitchen, and it seems quiet. Sigh...

We sat and chatted away the afternoon. Kris and Anja have been here for nearly a year, and are leaving to go back to London next weekend. They gifted me with their Indian Railways train schedule and the local bus route map, both appreciated. Suddenly I realized that there wasn't much daylight left. I've always been careful not to be out on my bike after dark. I don't have a headlight, and even if I did, probably a quarter of the other vehicles on the road don't, either, so it's always seemed insane to ride at night. I hurriedly excused myself and blasted down the road as quickly as I dared. By the time I reached the beginning of Road #1 in Banjara Hills it was deep twilight, and it pretty much full nighttime when I arrived at my front gate. Whew!

Tomorrow I hope to try for the Paigah Tombs in about the same neck of the woods.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Maybe I should go to Hampi?

OK, I'm getting thoroughly psyched to go to Hampi. It's not all that far from Hyderabad (under 500km), and I could go by train. Here are some links about Hampi:


Meanwhile, back in Hyderabad... bozos have moved into the house diagonally begind mine. Loud music and partying late into the night. Grrr...

Sunday, September 2, 2007


This picture (now lost, and replaced with something similar...), and its caption (from Kris 'n Anja's Evil Penguin in India travel journal - via the Internet Wayback Machine - damn broken links!) brought Shantaram back to mind.

 Is there anything as heartbreaking as cycle-rickshaws? No way we will let an old man cycle us around town in the 40 degree heat. Still, he's got to make a living. What can you do?

This passage, in particular, came back to me. The protagonist is taking a train ride, and is confused by the contrast between the pushing and shoving to board and the subsequent politeness during the ride. He eventually realizes:
Now, long years and many journeys after that first ride on a crowded rural train, I know that the scrambled fighting and courteous deference were both expressions of the one philosophy: the doctrine of necessity. The amount of force and violence necessary to board the train, for example, was no less and no more than the amount of politeness and consideration necessary to ensure that the cramped journey was as pleasant as possible afterwards. What is necessary? That is the unspoken but implied and unavoidable question everywhere in India.

Monsoon vs. Summer

One thing that struck me my first day back in Hyderabad was how green everything looked. Initially I chaulked it up to faulty memory - but, no, it's real. Here are two pictures of the open land behind my house, the first taken in early April, shortly after I arrived, and the second taken this afternoon. Wow.

Today's bike ride produced a few fun pictures. The first is of a little architectural feature I almost didn't notice; it's pure luck that I glanced up at the right moment. I'm sure there's a story, if only I could find it.

The next I almost missed because signs like this have become mundane to me. I stopped here to buy an extension cord, and only as I was leaving did I think to record the sign.

Finally, there was no way I would have missed this little scene.

I went riding yesterday, too, and came back with these pictures. The first two are of an attractive green spot south of Lumbini Park, on Hill Fort Road. Nothing stunning, just a nice relief from urban Hyderabad.

The next two are temples I rode by - the first rather subline, the second silly (to my Western eyes...).

Next we have the treehouse at the southwest corner of NTR Garden. I now know that it's clearly modeled after a mango tree.

The next two shots are of a work in progress, some new statues in front of the temple near the city library in Khairatabad. I'll have to keep checking back on their progress; this work wasn't even begun back in early August when I last rode by here.

Finally, I was stopped by a train after taking the previous two pictures, and I thought a picture of an Indian passenger train might be of interest.