My last few days in Hyderabad went by too quickly. I packed a lot into 2 days: visits to Golconda Fort, Qutb Shahi Tombs, and Salar Jung Museum; dinner with a colleague; lunch with another colleague’s wife; last minute shopping; and a party. No wonder I was so exhausted that I fell asleep immediately after getting on the plane in Hyderabad. I don’t even remember taking off!

I took many, many photos at Golconda Fort and a few at the Tombs.

Entrance to GolcondaEntering Golconda Fortess

Shah's Mosque on the Golconda HeightsShah’s Mosque on the Golconda Heights

Unfortunately, no cameras were allowed in the Salar Jung Museum. Frankly, I didn’t want to take photos of the Museum exhibits at all, but would have loved to take photos of the infrastructure. The toilets, for example, were the most foreign I have ever seen. I had heard about the “squatter” toilets — where the bowl is built into the floor and the user just squats over it — but I had never seen one until then. I had to use one (not just for the experience, but I really HAD to use one); it was an interesting experience, especially since there was no toilet paper.

This may be a major digression, but…I don’t understand Indian toilet habits, although I’d really like to. Even with Western toilets I ran across situations where there was no toilet paper offered. (Making me very glad that I always carry facial tissues.) Universally present was some way to direct water onto your body parts, though. In modern facilities, there was a hose with a sprayer on the end attached to a spigot, while in the squatter toilets there was a small urn under the water spigot. Just how is one to use these things? Was I supposed to wash myself off after peeing by spraying myself? If so, how was I supposed to dry myself before pulling up my panties? (Recall that there was no paper available.) Even more confounding to me were the urns of water. They had a spigot on them, but I would have had to splash the water on myself manually to wash off. I was really glad I didn’t have to try to do anything else besides pee in these toilets, ’cause trying to figure out how to clean up after THAT just really blew my mind!

I got caught in the rain while finishing up at the Tombs. It was actually quite refreshing, until I entered the air conditioned car. Brrr!

Speaking of rain, I realize that I didn’t write about my most scary and exciting experience in Hyderabad. Last Wednesday night, the monsoon rains really hit hard, dumping about 4 inches of rain on the city within 4 hours. The streets flooded, and in some cases the water was quite deep. Driving through this mess was sort of like the old Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyworld. There were stalled auto-rickshaws, motorbikes, and cars all over the place and we nearly stalled ourselves driving through a section of the road where the water was at the top of the tires. We told our driver several times that he was doing a great job, and gave him a handsome tip when he got us to the hotel. It was a totally bizarre experience that I will never forget.

Some of our colleagues who were on the roads that night weren’t so lucky. A woman and man from the US who were sharing a car found themselves stranded when their car stalled in deep water. The driver opened the door and dashed out, and water started pouring into the car. The windows didn’t work (power windows won’t work with no power), and they were afraid the doors would be hard to open with the pressure of the water. The woman said she was crouching on the back seat, holding their laptops up to make sure they didn’t get wet, while the guy got out of the car and found help to push it out of the water.

Ah, India. You’re full of surprises and delights, thrills both good and bad, and incredible visual moments. I miss you already.

Hyderabad ramblings

I’m here for work, so I haven’t been out sightseeing and being a tourist for the past few days.

Hyderabad trafficCommuting to the office through a small traffic jam.

But, I have been able to take full advantage of one benefit of visiting India: the food.

India has an extraordinary culinary heritage, and it has the best vegetarian food in the world. (Well, that’s my opinion, at least.) Every morning at the hotel, there is some sort of traditional Indian food available on the buffet. One morning I had idlis and sauce, and this morning I had some sort of dish made with potatos.

For lunch, I’ve managed to eat in the company cafeteria where I can get a tray with assorted small dishes, all of them splendid. Yesterday it was chana dal, lentil dal, and a veg dish made with eggplant and potato. Today it was a mixed dal, okra, and snake gourd. All served with heaps of yummy basmati rice and plain paratha.

I’m not a vegetarian, but I can appreciate excellent cuisine. So while I’m here, I’m eating mostly vegetarian. I can’t wait for dinner!

While the hotel is very nice, I’ve had some challenges with their wireless Internet. For some reason, I cannot view any blogs hosted on Blogger, including my own! While I can get to to write blog entries, I cannot view my published entries. This means it is also difficult for me to view any comments left here. It’s been a bit frustrating, but at least I can get to Flickr with no problems and use Skype to converse with Mark. Ah, the wonders of technology!

Some random observations about India

* Driving in India is sort of an art. Pretty much, you just blow your horn and then move. Want to change lanes? Honk your horn and do it. Usually there’s enough traffic around that you’re not driving very fast, so the worst that can go wrong is a bit of a fender bender. It’s the motorbikes and the pedestrians you really need to watch out for. I’m soooo glad I don’t need to drive here.

* Women get some pretty tough jobs. So far, I’ve seen women road workers and women construction workers. These ladies are hauling pavers (carried on their heads, with the added safety of a special helmet with a flat top) or pounding gravel level. And, they’re doing it while wearing saris. So far, I haven’t been able to get a photo of it, but if I can I’ll put it up. It’s a pretty strange sight. The upside to me is that at least women don’t seem to be blocked out of what are traditionally “male” jobs in the US. Although I’m sure that if the male workers are making 10 cents a day, the women are probably making 5 cents.

* While walking the hotel grounds last night I saw that there was a banquet in one of the ballrooms for some guy who was obviously very important. Through the glass patio doors, I could see several men with rifles and machine guns standing around outside the ballroom. They weren’t in a uniform, so I guess they were just hired bodyguards or something. Seeing men walking around with big guns is a sure sign you’re in a developing country. Or, perhaps a resident of the US Gulf Coast. (Maybe that’s the same thing post-Katrina, eh?)

* While I did post several photos showing charming scenes such as cows roaming the street, Hyderabad is not a backwater by any means. We went to the office today, which is located in an area called Hi-Tech City. The office builidng is very new (about a year old) and very nice. Technical and physical facilities are excellent. I saw the Dell office down the street, and there is a building being built next door that Motorola will occupy.

* Hey, it’s raining! This is the rainy season, but even though I’ve seen evidence of rain (wet pavement, etc.), I’ve not seen it rain yet. The showers seem to last for only a few minutes. Just enough to get you wet if you’re out on your motorbike, I guess. After about 10 minutes, it looks like this shower is over. Wow, if could count on a daily shower like that, I can just imagine how my garden would grow!

Did you miss me?

Yes, I’ve been bad again. I’ve had a lot to do over the last few weeks preparing for this:

I’m writing from Hyderabad, India right now. Like many companies in the US, my employer has set up some operations in India. I’ve been sent here to establish relationships and scope out the steps for moving some of the tasks that my team currently handles to this facility. It’s not a bad thing; I’m not firing people and offshoring their job, OK? It’s just that we have a lot to do, and having some of that work done here is the best way to use the resources at our disposal. Plus, I get to visit this really cool place!

It took a long time to get here. There were two flights invovled, one that was 7 hours long and the other that was 8 hours long. I did get to fly business class so it wasn’t too rough, you know. But, I was eager to get out and walk around the day — really stretch my legs — the day after I arrived.

Everything I’ve read about India is true. There are hovels situated next door to nice residences and shops. There are cows in the street.
cows in charminarAnd camels, too.

Camel in CharminarThere are also beggars in the street, although not as many as I had thought I’d encounter. Yesterday, I felt like a total cold-hearted bitch as I brushed off a beggar woman holding a baby. She was persistent, too. After we got in the car, she knocked on the windows and pleaded until we pulled onto the road.

On the other hand, there are lovely and delightful children here, the food is fabulous (if you like Indian food, and I do, I really, really do!), and the weather is wonderful. This is the monsoon season, but it’s not raining all the time. There’s a brief shower every afternoon, but other than that it’s just fine. The air temp is around 80-85 degrees F, with some cool breezes. It is overcast with clouds, but that blocks out much of the brutally hot sun.

This morning, I went out early for a swim and some exercise in the pool. Then I just lounged poolside for a little while to take it all in. I’m so soaking in this experience so I can “replay” it later.

View the full photo set I took yesterday in the Charminar district here. More to come…