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Friday, April 10, 2015

Hello Hyderabad/Goodbye Hyderabad

Our visits to Hyderabad this year were unusual in a number of ways. Hyderabad, once the opulent city of a Nizam, then the capital of undivided Andhra Pradesh, is now the capital of Telangana, a new designation and state carved from the inland, northern and western portion of the former state. Unexpected family events marked our arrival and departure.   We had planned to stay and rest for a couple of days, perhaps visiting a relative or two, before going on to Guntur.

The day we arrived, the ranking aunty in the family, in her 90's, was just coming out of surgery for a broken hip.  She'd survived a mastectomy and recovered just a couple years ago, so it was expected she would do well this time too.  Franklin was able to go into the ICU and was the first to see her. She recognized and greeted him, so we left other family with her at Sunshine Hospital (coincidentally just a few blocks from the Yatri Nivas where we'd stayed on previous Hyderabad visits) .  But we decided to continue, instead, all the way to Guntur.

The rest of our trip that mid-December day was uneventful, except for amazement at the new divided highway and being able to enjoy biryani at a nice new restaurant conveniently located half way along the five hour route.

In January we returned to Hyderabad for a few days of visiting and shopping when son Prashant and family were there, bound for the U.S. after a couple weeks in India.  Getting together for any of the above proved difficult...Again we experienced the absolute density of traffic that I described during Christmas holidays in Guntur.  Travel across town to places we had formerly reached in fifteen minutes now could be expected to take an hour . Existing traffic overbridges ("flyovers) are not sufficient: more are being built, as is the extension of an overhead metro railroad, all requiring extensive clearing of the smaller shops lining the roads. And there was new construction and remodelling everywhere.

But somehow we were able to convene a family get together for a couple dozen relatives of ours and daughter in law Hari's families one evening at a restaurant, and a good time was had by all.  Biryani, of course, is a must in Hyderabad!

We were treated to effusive hospitality for two meals by our daughter in law's relatives, who pressed us to stay longer, and stay overnight at their apartment (adjacent to a temple whence cymbals and chanting of the latest festival resounded through the neighborhood), as well.  "Why would you want to stay at a hotel?" one auntie puzzled.  "Who is there to talk to? Just the two of you:  boring!"  Another example of the typical extended Indian family "group think" -- "The more the merrier."

When we returned to Hyderabad at the end of my India stay (Franklin stayed on a few weeks more) mid-February, we planned to shop and attend the wedding reception of his cousin's daughter.  Alas, that was not to be.  A phone call came while we were en route to Hyderabad: our beloved Auntie Vasumathi had passed away in Hyderabad that morning, and the family, including the wedding party, was already on their way to Guntur for the funeral.  The reception, of course, was cancelled.

Since my flight was booked for that very night, there was no turning back for us, and we continued on to Hyderabad, where we stayed at the PLAZA, a shiny new tourist hotel. Staying there at the same time were a convention full of railroad buffs, and the participants of a small but beautiful wedding and reception that took place on the Plaza's plaza, in full view of the glass walled restaurant. The railroaders were full of fun and camaraderie, their laughter bursting out of their meeting sessions and buzzing around the breakfast buffet.  The wedding and its participants were elegant.

The hallways of the hotel were lined with original artwork by Indian artists, satisfying my usually unfulfilled wish to visitan Indian art gallery. ( The Hyderabad galleries seem to be clumped in one area of the city---always too far from the areas where we stayed and travelled.)  A hallway connected the hotel to a building of government sponsored tourism offices of various states, a Lepakshi and other handicraft shops, and two more, tiny art galleries.  For once I had my fill:  Lepakshi alone was crammed with typical folk craft, making quick shopping a real possibility.  The only other place I'd really wanted to shop was a bookstore, and we found one ( a Walden!) not very far away from the hotel.  I was content.  There was just time to eat supper, cram a few more items into the suitcases, take a snooze, and set out for the hour long drive to the airport...a modern gleaming place, worlds apart from what it had been just a few years ago.

Just last year, Andhra was divided into two parts, and the coastal side, where Guntur is, will be retaining the state name but getting a new capital city with its own infrastructure, hopefully to be completed by 2020.  This new city will be near Guntur and will be served by an international airport, now a bucolic but growing facility, just a few miles from home.

What will our next trip bring?

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