Sunday, January 28, 2007

Hello from Hyderabad!

I'm writing this entry from my uncle's hi speed internet connected, air conditioned super sweet real estate company's office. india is VERY different this time around. I arrived in the middle of the night on friday evening, customs and luggage claim took an hour and a half. my poor family had been waiting outside that whole time in the humid heat of hyderabad. my grandmother's sister (my great aunt Suroor), her son and grandson, my grandfather's brother (my great uncle) and his wife were all waiting for me. Being in Hyderabad airport by myself was a lil unnerving. it was set up like delhi's baggage claim area but was cleaner and nicer. after waiting ages, i finally collected my bags and handed in my final customs paper. I headed through numerous doorways towards a wall of people outside. i took a deeeeeep breath and headed out towards the masses. I got out there and was momentarily overwhelmed by the many many people waiting for other people. i saw some ppl holding signs and squinting began looking for my own. my great aunt yelled out "Yazi!!" and I recognized her voice. I could hardly see her among the throngs of folks, but there was a flurry of movement around where they had been standing, and i began to push my luggage cart towards them. A coolie started pushing my cart and would not listen to my denial of need. my little cousin came along side me (he's 10, his name is Arsulan) and said hi, although i thought he was some kid trying to bother me at first. i made it around the corner to my great aunt (who i had met previously in life) and she gave me a large flower garland around my neck, a kiss on the cheek and said "welcome to hyderabad." it was quite epic, really. except right after that moment we had to run to the car and get out of the airport parking lot b/c it was so late.

I didn't realize it at the time, but my uncle Aman has 2 mercedes and a ford. I am staying in a one bedroom flat of my own upstiars from the family in the apartment building where they live. my uncle is in real estate and is quite successful. He owns his company and developed the apartment area he lives in. they own the flat i'm staying in as well. it is really great. i have constant electricity, a big screen tv, cable and a treadmill in my flat. My uncle gets 1000 tv stations from his cable subscription and my little cousins are growing up with nickelodeon cartoons and disney shows. they also get cartoon network and have 2 play stations 2s, which they play with every free moment they have. my uncle has threee sons, all adorable. Arsulan, 10yrs old, Altimash, 5 yrs old and Adanan, 2 years old. Arsulan speaks very fluent english and is very bright. we spent all of yesterday talking. my great aunt kept telling him to be quiet and let me rest b/c she was tired of his hours of talking. I love a conversational partner, specially a 10 yr old who loves the Backstreet Boys. :)

Yesterday I was cooped up all day, resting. I felt sick and feverish so took a nap. My great uncle and his wife (ChaCha & ChaChi) stopped by to talk and have chai for a few hours. they invited me to spend a few days with them as well. I'm not sure how i'll navigate telling my great aunt that i said yes yet, b/c i'm sure she would prefer my spending the 8 days before i leave for mumbai with her. I've got it really good there as well, I am not looking forward to having to pack and travel again soon. My great aunt's daughter Shabu also stopped by. She lives down the street. Very shortly after we had been talking, she asked when I am getting married. I laughed out loud at how this will inevitably be a common question on this this trip. I of course told her the standard response for me, which is after my studies, I will get married. It's not worth me trying in any ay to explain my personal ideological belief as far as women, equality and life paths go, so that is all the response I give. It makes the most sense.

All day long the tv was on cartoons, very loudly. That definately gave me a headache. Want to hear something crazy? My 10 yr old cousin plays Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. My eyes almost popped out of my head when he told me that. Wow. Dunno what that will do to him, or how much he'll understand. I told him he'll have to teach me how to play video games so that I can play with him. I have to find an open space to play football (soccer) with him. I know he has holiday right now and is trying to get all the PS2 time in that he can, but I can't take another tv day with him. We're going to find a good place to go run around and act crazy.

There is a 3 days holiday right now, today is the last day of it in celebration of Republic day on Jan 26. there is also an auto rickshaw strike going on, so getting around while my uncle is at work is going to be tricky accoring to my great aunt. my uncle's wife, syeeda, drives her car in the new part of hyderabad and not in Old City, so we'll have to catch the bus to go visit those smaller, winding streets.

Today is also the first day od Muharram, the Shiite (Shia) tradition of self mollification in remeberance of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson being killed. Sunnis believe it is wrong to do, and wrong to watch, so although my great aunt invited me to watch the literal blood bath that will occur, she warned me that another uncle of mine fainted while atempting to watch. I laughed and told her that I have a pretty strong stomach, but when I spoke about it with my uncle Aman, he said it is horrible and that it is not worth going to partake in it at all. He said it is disgusting and the smell is just horrid. I'm not sure why that was not the first thing to come to mind, but having seen it on tv for many years in news reports, I think my photographer/documentarian responded first. Weird.

I got to see a picture of my great grandmother with Jawharal Nehru (the first prime minister of India) from when India first got it's independence. She was a Congress Party (the ruling political party) member and in charge of some social work stuff. That was crazy! I got chills from it. My great grandmother, a bona fide mover and shaker in the seminal Indian world of politics. Crazy. I have to make digital copies of all the old black and whites to bring back home. I would have made the entire 3 day journey to arrive here in India if only for that moment when I saw that picture.

We went out today, and I got my first look at Banjara Hills, the nicest and most expensive neighborhood in Hyderabad according to my uncle. He is such a cool guy, and we both have a hting for cars, motorcycles, sungalsses, and fine fashion. He is definately one of those upwardly mobile capitalists. His son goes to one of the most expensive schools in Hyderabad, his cars are expensive, He spares no expense for his family (including me), he likes expensive clothes, he is very much a part of the upper middle class here in Hyderabad. Obviously I love it. I think I am doing my big ethnology research paper on the lifestyles of the upper middle class in India (specifically Hyderabad and probably Mumbai as well). My family is so sweet! I really adore them. My great aunt laughs at how often I say thank you. The family has two servants, one 16 yr old girl and an older woman. I am in the awkward position of having to be catered to and having to not really notice or say thank you. It is embarassing and i'm sure improper for me to keep thanking everyone. I can't help it. I'm American. We say "thank you," "excuse me" and "i'm sorry" so much it hardly means anything.

My aunt goes to the gym for aerobics evreyday and hopefully tomorrow we will be going together. Can't wait to try an Indian aerobics class. I don't know what I'll wear either, I only brought a few shilwar khameezes. Later today my great aunt and I will be heading to her tailor to have a suit (an indian outfit) made for me, and to adjust a rather large one I already have. There is so much more to say, I'm sure, but I can't think of it right now. It is amazing how quikly I have adjusted to the constant honking outside and the very common sound of the various yelling traveling salesman for God knows what. The neighborhood I live in now is much quieter than the rest of the city, it seems. I wish I had brought family photos and gifts for my family here from CT, stuff showing where I'm from. Oh well. Inshallah now I know what to bring or send whenever I come again.

I love my discman and my cds!! Having music is amazing. I wish i had speakers so that I could listen to it out loud while I write or run on the treadmill instead of having to mess with the headphones. I have to see if there is an extra cd player in the house i can use. Oh yeah! Last night we watched the grand finale of "Bigg Boss," an Indian version of Big Brother meets the Surreal Life. It took 13 celebrities from Bollywood, modeling, dancing and the like and put them in a house with 34 cameras for 3 months. They weren't allowed to leave or have any contact with the outside world except through the Bigg Boss. The grand finale was so entertaining. Many originally English shows which are popular in america are here as well. There is the third season of Indian Idol that is about to start, and an Indian version of Who wants to be a millionaire? hosted by Shah Ruk Khan, one of the biggest Bollywood stars out here. It is nutz. Just nutz.I love it though. I think that so far (you know, my 2nd day in Hyderabad) that this is the sort of India I'll really enjoy staying in. Enough amenities where I'm comfortable, enough english to have real conversation, and enough push to learn Hindi & Urdu that I pick it up. (Plus enough access to fun things that cost money, like resorts with pools and shopping malls and arcades. I'm not sure what kind of culture shock these things will bring but I can't wait to find out.)

Basically, I'm happy, sort of healthy, and thrilled to be here.

Can't wait to hear from all of you.

1 comment:

girlalex said...

this is me demanding that you post more!
love ya!