Saturday, 3 April 2010

Journal of India. The heart of the country: Hyderabad

The entry on Hyderabad is a bit thin - I didn't have much time since I was tending to the foot injury (see below), but I felt that a more accurate representation would be no more than a report of the various monuments/museums I saw, and that seemed a bit arid. The text was written on the train taking me to Mumbai, called the Mumbai express - hence the title. For the record, this was the most central point of arrival in my journeys, geographically speaking. Hyderabad is one of the largest and most ancient cities in India, and it bore some similarities with Delhi and Mumbai - huge, bustling, and not really oriented towards tourism (which is exactly what made it so beautiful).


Mumbai Express.

As for Hyderabad, the city was beautiful. The Charmindar, the Chambawalla palace and the Golconda Fort were all phenomenal. The Salaar Jung Museum and the Buddha statue were a little less memorable, but overall the city was definitely worth the visit.

It also proved rather unlucky. On my first day, while hopping down the final steps of the Charmindar, I twisted my ankle. Very painful. The people working at the monument helped me treat the injury, and were exceedingly kind. Furthermore they would not take any money, something which impressed and surprised me – I thought I was in their bad books because they’d offered me a guided tour for 250 rupees and I’d argued it down to 100. I purchased some medication at a pharmacy and went back to the hotel.

I’d booked a tour with a driver for the next day. Walking the extense of the Golconda Fort with the strain was a bitch, but I took frequent pauses and managed to limp my way through most everything, including the hill.

As in Delhi and Chennai, I was often stopped by groups of local young men who asked me to take a photo with them. What an odd thing – are we Europeans really so rare here? When walking down the steps of the Fort, I crossed a school-trip. Literally hundreds of girls in their little blue uniforms. I paused and sat on a boulder to rest my sore foot, and as the procession streamed by, they repeatedly asked me my name and country of origin. A group of them grew bolder and stopped to make further enquiries. Soon I was surrounded by these twelve-year-old girls eager to speak with the local attraction. It was one of the most amusing conversations in a while. They taught me a few words in their language and squeaked collectively whenever I pronounced one of them correctly. They asked me what I thought of India too, and suggested a local dish which I should try – the Biriani, if I’m spelling this right. In the end their teacher succeeded in her breathless effort to wrench them from me, and they walked away upwards with me still laughing.

In Hyderabad I slept at a real hotel. Needless to say, the moment that I step into a place with a Western toilet, my metabolism – which in the guest houses and sleeper trains had been going at a rate of three turds a day – declares itself on strike and for 48 hours I don’t need to use the toilet. I should have known.

Mumbai is a few hours away. Next stop is with Ratul, a reader of my blog and articles online who offered me a place to stay. Who says that Internet writing doesn’t pay off?

I'm so damn pretty everyone in town wants a photo with me.

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