Notes from a crowded country: India – 05

Thurs, 14 Jan, 2010, Hyderabad

We quit the relatively cold environs of New Delhi Wednesday to fly to Hyderabad, (pronounced “Hydra-bad.” Although it’s not WARM here, it is certainly a lot warmer than Delhi – in the low to mid 60’s during the day. We (Annelie, Kesh, and I) met up  with Ravi, an old schoolmate of Kesh’sfrom ITT for the rest of the trip at the Hyderbad airport, then took a car into Hyderabad proper. We were planning on staying at a hotel Ravi had stayed at the last time he was here – about 2 years ago. Well, the hotel had *really* gone down hill since then. No hot water, no TP in the bathroom, bed sheets that looked, well, like bed sheets shouldn’t, and cockroaches in the bathroom at night. I swear we were the only folks staying in the entire hotel. In fact, I think they were pretty much closed down except for us. Well, it was too late to make a lot of changes when we got in that night, so we toughed it out for a night and changed hotels this morning – too a MUCH nicer place.

Ravi is originally from Hyderabad, so he has a few connections here, including the travel agent, Bobby G, he called to get us a nicer place to stay. India is one of those places where things are done much more by knowing someone who knows someone than by looking in the phone book – it’s definitely good to have connections here.

Today is also the first day of Shankranti  a four day harvest festival in these days that is also tied up with Pongal, which is a New Year’s festival. I’m not sure I follow the relationship – I don’t think they’re exactly one and the same but they are inextricably linked together – or so it seems.

Anyway, one of the popular activities on Shankranti is flying kites – which is one of the reasons we’ve come to Hyderabad. There’s a kite festival this morning over at a parade ground, and we’re going to go over and check out the festivities. After the kite festival we’ve been invited back to Bobby G’s house – he has the penthouse suite in a high-rise apartment building – where we can witness the neighborhood kids (and not a few adults) flying, and fighting, kites of their own.

First, we’re off to the parade grounds.  When we get there, there’s not a lot of kits in the sky, but by the time we’re there a while, a number of kites are up and flying. Most interesting are the strings of kites – 100 – 150 kites all tied on the same line, one after another, streaming hundreds of feet into the sky like a big ladder of kites.  Apparently, Hyderabad has it’s own TV stations (a number of them) and we are the token foreigners at the kite festival, because first, one, then 2, then finally 3 different TV stations ask my sister for an interview while we’re standing there watching the kite flying. Guess it was time for her 15 minutes of fame.

Shortly afternoon, we’d had enough of watching the big kites fly and decided to go have some lunch then head back to Bobby G’s place. After lunch, we went up on the roof of Bobby G’s apartment building, and the scene was one that had to be seen to be believed. If you’ve read <i>The Kite Runner</I> where kids flying fighting kites with a special leader string embedded with ground glass that allows them to cut the strings of other kites in aerial dog fights, you’re familiar with the basic idea. What’s harder to describe is the scene where literally hundreds of these kites are flying from every rooftop in the city, and on every rooftop, are kids and even adults screaming and yelling and carrying on and generally having a great time flying, and fighting, kites. And if your kite string happens to get cut ? No worries, there’s enough kites in the sky one is quite liable to fall on your rooftop soon, and you can pick  it up, tie it on, and fly, and fight away.

Poor Charlie Brown would need to beware though – the very next day we saw many kites stuck in kite eating trees throughout the city.