Hi From Hyderabad

In classic Indian style, I sat down last night and wrote a long blog post, only to have the power go down in the internet cafe, thus causing me to lose all that I had written. You have to sigh and walk on. Frustration will be the end of you here.

Chai T. Latte sends us this good article about Oscar fever in India, today and in the past.

And I just discovered Eric Margolis’s post on the Danish cartoons. Unsurprisingly, he and I are of similar minds.

I have arrived in Hyderabad, the southern capital of Muslim India, though there are strong Hindi and Buddhist influences here. The city is built upon the Deccan plateau, supposedly the oldest geological formation in India, and is clean, bustling and seemingly well organized. It is yet another example of urban India successfully straddling the old and new worlds. The city’s centre is a giant new statue of Buddha in the middle of the lake, much like the Statue of Liberty. Apparently, the thing to do here is to parasail around the statue. I’ll see if I can swing that.

But Hyderabad is also called Cyberabad because it competes with Bangalore to be India’s computer capital. Yet, unlike in Bangalore, I’ve had to struggle to find an internet cafe, and so far hardware stores are nowhere in sight.

Another strange thing about Hyderabad: it doesn’t seem to wake up until about 11:AM. I had yet another unplanned fast forced upon me when I fell asleep last night after a day of imbibing only breakfast and, um, whiskey, then waking up to find a city devoid of open restaurants! It’s a surreal thing, really, suffling past street kids defecating on the sidewalk as I, in my calory-deficient state, must have looked like a drunkard with expensive sunglasses. After about 20 hours without food, I finally found a place selling “vegetarian sandwiches”, which are esentially two slices of bread with raging hot chillis pressed between them. But it was food, dammit!

Some initial impressions of Hyderabad: it doesn’t have a tourism focus, since travellers’ services are much more sparse than I’ve seen in other cities, and indeed I’ve yet to see a single white person here. And it seems to take the traffic thing seriously! There are actually traffic police at all the major intersections, controlling the flow of cars and allowing pedestrians to cross!

This is no small thing, as urban India seems to be at constant war with pedestrians. First, traffic jams and the flood of vehicles makes crossing streets nearly impossible; I risk my life hourly, it seems. Part of the reason for this is the plethora of motorcycles, scooters and rickshaws, all of which fill any space on the road that opens up, thus preventing cars from shifting lanes. The constant lateral movement of vehicles makes it very problematic for a pedestrian to find an opening to cross.

Second, there is a constant rejection of the ethic of the sidewalk. Wherever public planners have built footpaths or sidewalks, you will instead find sleeping families, sleeping dogs, parked motorcycles or rickshaws, vending stalls, feces of questionable origin, or just some fellow standing in your way. As frustrating as this is, I remind myself to shrug and deal with it. This is their country, not mine. They are entitled to run it as they please.

As I’ve stumbled about this town, I often see scrawled on the walls: “Don’t pass urine here.” Then, along one of Hyderabad’s busiest roads, I found a series of public urinals. And sure enough, businessmen were stopping to drain the dragon then shuffling off. So civilized! If not for the odour, and the penchant for attracting pervs, I’d recommend the same for Canadian cities.

Well, I have two and half days to spend in this metropolis. I’m so drained and calory deficient that all I want to do is lie in bed and read Harry Potter. But hey, it’s my vacation, so I’ll spend it how I choose!