Saturday, October 25, 2008

Soon, Diwali

This morning I took my bike back to the bike shop to get the problems fixed (loose pedal, flat tires, loosened brake cables). The guest house arranged an autorickshaw for me (the bike doesn't fit in the trunk of Srinivas's car...) and off I went to Secunderbad.

The ride over took about a half hour. By the map, the way I took the driver is about the same as going through Punjagutta and Begumpet, but it has a lot less traffic. I dropped my bike off and was told it would take 2-3 hours, so I went exploring.

The bike shop is in an area labeled "General Bazaar" on my Guide Map of Greater Hyderabad. I got pretty lost in here once on my last trip; it's a complete maze of winding alleys. This time I did better, as I was starting from a known location and could easily backtrack, and I had a huge amount of fun exploring.

My trusty guide map

These alleys are where life happens in Indian cities. I was early enough (10:30AM) that quite a few shops were still closed or just opening, but you can still get an idea what these places are like.

From Soon, Diwali

Here are some interior shots of shops catering to Indian women. Wow!

Bindis. Lots and lots of bindis

Bangles. Lots and lots of bangles.

I also came across some great signs.

The Infant Jesus Education Consultants?!?

Eventually I wound up at "Paradise", a collection of related restaurants, from take-out to high-end, cloth napkin. I had my brunch at "Paradise Rooftop", which looks out over, uh, well, a busy street. But it was high enough up to be pleasant. The food was fabulous. I had navaratan korma, which was completely different from other versions of the same dish I've had before. The sauce was mild yet very flavorful, and chock full of things like pineapple, pomegranate seeds, peas, grapes; it was really wonderful. The side dishes were just as good. The cucumber raita was cold, and the cucumber crisp; the rice was fluffy and had a great flavor. Even the fresh lime soda was special; I think there was a tiny bit of cayenne pepper added.

After my meal I wandered slowly back to the bike shop, stopping to pick up a new Nokia 1200 cell phone. Phones have been a continuing problem on the trip; I can't get a charger that works consistently with my old 1100. I'm giving it, and the flawed chargers, to Srinivas.

The bike was ready when I got there, and I headed back to Banjara Hills. My route went around the top of Hussein Sagar, Hyderabad's central lake; it really stank in the midday sun, and I was happy to get away from it in Khairatabad.

As I hit Street #7 I got a call from Srinivas. He and Andy spent the morning exploring Golconda, and were calling to see about lunch. We met at Ohri's for chaat. After eating we split up again, with Srinivas taking Andy back to the guest house while I peddled home. As I passed Hampi, near Lotus Pond, I came upon these designs on the sidewalk in from of a business ("Zeta" - I have no idea what they do...).

These have a name, but I can't recall what it is. (Maybe one of my readers knows and will comment...). I wound up talking to a fellow who works in the building; there was a competition among 4 groups in the office. Sounds like fun.

Back at the guest house I washed off the road dirt and settled in to do a little reading. At some point I realized it was getting difficult to see the page; when I looked up, I discovered that Hyderabad was giving me another lovely sunset.

Monday and Tuesday are Diwali, which is celebrated with fireworks. Many people are getting a jump on things; I caught this just before I started to write this entry. Happy Diwali!

From Soon, Diwali

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Catching Up - last Sunday

Last Sunday I attended two social events, courtesy of coworkers. In the morning, Harini had a housewarming for a new flat near Indira Park; In the evening, Shivani got married. I don't have time for a real write-up, but hear are some pictures. There are more in the online album:


Harini and her son

Kalyani and various kids

Preethi's family

Prashant, Shivani and Preethi

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Today Preethi, Madhu and I played hooky for a few hours in the afternoon and went to visit Shilparamam, a seasonal bazaar new Cyber Tower. I was blown away. My notes will be few; mostly I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. For larger images, visit the web album.

Just inside the entrance was a Kashmir goods vendor, with lovely scarves, ponchos and other woven pieces. Here's a sample of his Pashmina scarves.

Madhu bought this lovely poncho for herself.

These embroidered pieces are from the stall next door.

I'm still looking for nice metal bangles for Katy. Hopefully she'll tell me if any of these catch her fancy.

These earrings are from the same vendor.

I wandered along, browsing in various stalls, until I rounded a corner and came upon this amazing scene.

Finally, I snapped this scene on the way out.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Jubilee Hills at Night

I left work relatively early tonight (7PM) to meet Rahul and his wife for dinner. Rahul is the son of Vijaya, who was my landlady the last time I visited Hyderabad. Rahul works for Microsoft; he went to the Chennai IIT and did (I believe) graduate work in the U.S. He got married last year, not long after I returned to Cambridge. Sadly, I can't recall his wife's name; she is a writer at an advertising agency in Banjara Hills, and is from Chennai; she and Rahul met while he was in school.

From Jubilee Hills at Night

They are an interesting couple, and very much what I expect is the face of the India in the 21st century - or, at least, urban, professional India.

I stopped on the way to Chutney's at FabIndia and bought four new kurtas:
  • a long, plain cotton for use as pajamas
  • a long, pretty print cotton
  • a short, short-sleeve cotton "work shirt"
  • a long, brownish-red, lightweight silk-cotton blend for Shivani's wedding on Sunday
After dinner I stopped briefly to see Rahul's apartment in Banjara Hills (it's in a fabulous location, just northwest of Southern Spice, near Stone Valley) and then went home to Jubilee Hills and took the following pictures.

From my room's balconey I can look down and across the street and see this house.

From Jubilee Hills at Night

For the past few days something has been going on (a wedding, I suspect): lots of lights, music (drumming and horns), and many, many guests. I walked out and got these pictures.

The front gate, flash lit

The front gate, by the more interesting available light

Peering through an opening in the fence

Returning to my room, I took these pictures.

The lights of Jubilee Hills

This one is just plain weird; I was trying to get a picture of the full moon, fiddling around with exposures, and ended up making it look like the midday sun.

Finally, this critter was on the wall when I went back inside.

From Jubilee Hills at Night

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Too tired...

Man, oh man, what a day. I've been going since 7:45, and I'm just going to knock out a few words and then hit the sack.

Supper last night was exceptionally weird. I tried to find the 6pack in Film Nagar, but traffic was intense, and it was dark, so I gave up and asked my driver (Ramreddy; Srinivas is in Tirupati this week) to take me to Little Italy (just around the corner). As usual, the food was good, but expensive; garlic bread, spagetti puttanesca, fresh lime soda, ice cream and cappuccino set me (well, IBM) back over Rs. 800. But the music was dreadful - bad covers of pop tunes of the 70s - such hits as "I can see Clearly Now", "El Condor Pasa", "Silence is Golden", "Stand by your Man" - you get the idea. It was brutal.

Got home, FINALLY got moved into my upstairs room (it's really nice), set up the laptop and called Katy. Network problems all night; I think one of the other guests has a flakey, manually-configured wifi setup. Anyway, my call was a bit short.

Also got news that IBM has put a serious clamp on travel. It's a good thing I'm already here, because otherwise I think this trip would have been canned. We still don't know if Andy's will proceed. I had to convert my business class return ticket to coach; I'm trying to wrangle an upgrade for at least the Hyderabad to Frankfurt leg.

Flailing at work today. As last trip, I'm being deluged from all sides. Ah, network flakeys again. enought for now.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Back on my wheels again (sort of)

Yesterday (Saturday) was a long day.

I slept very poorly Friday night, unable to get to sleep until after 3AM. It may have been jet lag, anxiety, the chaat I had for supper (Srinivas' theory...) or all of the above, but I just tossed and turned and read and tossed some more. In any case, this left me only a few hours of sleep before Srinivas arrived, as requested, at 9AM to take me out to run errands.

This was a crazy time to start; I forget that most shops in Hyderabad don't even open before 11. After driving around to a number of stores, and finding them all closed, I gave up and had breakfast at Chutneys, killing time until 11. Then we stopped at Himalaya Book World, where I picked up my preferred office supplies, and headed off to Pedaler's Point to look at bikes.

The selection there was disappointing. The manager remembered me from the previous year and offered discounts, but I just couldn't find a bike at any price that really "fit." I told him I'd have to think about it, and we went to look at bike shops near Park Lane in Secunderbad.

I wound up at Jai Ganesh Cycle Stores, and bought an 18-speed mountain bike, with decent brakes (the most serious flaw in my old bike...) and a good size for Rs. 5500. Call it $125. At the end of the trip I can either return it to the store and get maybe 25% back, or the shop will pack it to bring home (a possibility I never considered). More than likely I'll just give it away; Srinivas might like it.

See the Picasa album Bike, Anil and guest houses for the photos in this blog entry, and more.

I forget a few things, notably a bell and a lock. I got a bell on the way home at a shop at the intersection of Street #7 and Road #1 in Banjara Hills; I got a lock (just the lock, no cable) at another nearby store. I'm not sure what I'll do about a cable.

As I passed through the bustee below Mithla Nagar (Syed Nagar?), things started to go wrong. The screws holding the front fenders on loosed up; I stopped and tightened them. Then I felt the left pedal crank start to wobble. It eventually came off as I neared the top of the bustee. I smacked it back on as best I could and walked the bike to to a repair shop nearby. This was not a success; the shop was really a motorcycle shop, and the guy who helped me didn't have the right tool to tighten the recessed nut in the crank. He did the best he could (5 minutes work, maybe), which wasn't great. As I left I gave him Rs. 10; he tried to ask for 20, but I told him I could get a flat fixed for 10, so no way. Grumble.

I limped back to the guest house (the crank seemed OK as long as I didn't push too hard), got out my tools and went over things. The crank I think is going to require a bike shop; I just don't have the tool I need to tighten that nut, and it's going to just keep coming loose. I tightened up a lot of other loose fittings, and I'll have to see if I can get to a shop this week.

Here's my path home (about 9.6 miles):

View Larger Map

It was about 5PM by this time; I took a much needed shower and then dressed for dinner with Anil and Anu. Srinivas arrived at 6; we spent some time looking at pictures on my computer. Srinivas wants to get an email account; I'll help him get set up with gmail at some point. At 6:30 we left for Anil's house. We arrived around 6:50; I went up to Anil's flat and waited while Anu did whatever it is women do. She appeared, fully dressed and looking ready to go, around 7:15, then disappeared and did something with the baby (Tricia) until maybe 8:20. FINALLY we headed downstairs and off to dinner.

Based on a thread on IndiaMike we had decided to try a new chain called 6pack. There is one near Anil's house; when we got there, we discovered it's a take-out place. Oh, well. I think Anu then suggested Angeethi, across the street from Fusion 9. The ambience was nice, the food was good, and the prices moderate (although Rs. 60 for a bottle of water kinds smokes my shorts...).

Anil, Anu and Tricia

I finally got home, and to bed, by about 11:30PM, completely exhausted. As a result, I slept until 10AM this morning; maybe this will let me kick my jet lag once and for all.

I putzed around on the computer for a while, then went out for a walk. I got a good picture of the front of the guest house, as well as other pictures.

The Hillview Guest House, my home for the next 6 weeks

Golconda Fort and the Qutb Shahi tombs from the roof, off in the haze to the south

The amazing castle-like house on the next hill over, to the north

The guest house has a little shrine. The gods pictured are (left to right) Ganesh, Durga, Sai Baba (not technically a god) and Krishna.

And, of course, the ubiquitous housing for the poor, not 50 yards from my door.

About a block away from Hillview is the Lotus Inn guest house. It looks pretty nice, too; I stopped and got a tour. Similar nice views, even nicer game/exercise room, and about the same rates. I was quoted Rs. 1500/day for 30 days, Rs. 1800/day for 5 days. No web site; call 040-2354 1105 or George, at 98499-26610.

Lotus Inn guest house

Continuing my walk, I came across a typical Indian construction site.

I also passed this shining example of the prototypical Indian government service car: the Ambassador Classic.

My brother-in-law John may find this interesting.

Rooftop solar - both electricity and domestic hot water.

These flowers are for Katy.

Finally, this made me think of Jonathan Coulton.

Watch and listen here.

After my walk I at an early supper at Jalsa, a restaurant at the end of the street, came back and blogged. And now I'm at least slightly caught up.