For what is probably the last time when I am in India, I went to Charminar yesterday with my three favorite people.Karen, Val, Jess, and I took a variety of modes of transportation - buses, shared autos, and private rickshaws, it took about an hour to get there, but we did it pretty inexpensively.
Charminar is one of the monuments protected by the Indian Archeological Survey, and so we had to pay to get in, but we showed our HCU Student IDs and they let us in for the Indian price of 5 Rs. The guy checking tickets didn't believe us when we showed him the tickets, so we all had to get our IDs out again. We went up to the top, and the stairs were strangely reminiscent of the Duomo in Italy. Winding, narrow, and steep, I was really happy to get to the open air at the top.
We took some pictures at the top of Old City below, and also each other :)
I also just noticed we match each other. Good work, team.
There is a cool building on the left that I always confuse with Chowmahalla Palace, and on the right is the second largest Masjid in India. We saw the outside of the biggest one in Delhi when we were there.
Jess and Zoe at the top!
When we got down again, we bought a ton of bangles, some henna, and a henna design book. It was a good adventure. I am really comfortable bargaining at Charminar, especially for bangles, and I feel good about all the ones I bought. I helped Karen out when she tried to buy bangles for a bajillion Rupees. Jess, when she shops, makes friends with everyone she meets, so it takes a long time, but we always have a really good time. Karen wanted a sari, so near the end of our several-hour, exhausting bargaining excursion, she and Val went to a store where we finally found some that she liked. Zoe was getting hungry at this point, and not the good kind of hunger. So Jess and I went to the Cafe Coffee Day and I bought a choco-doughnut. They handed it to me with a fork and knife, which was good, because after a day of shopping, my hands were probably swimming in gross.
The way back was insane. We hopped in a rickshaw to Medhipatnam, and from there, waited for the 216 at the bus stop. Buses here don't really stop, though, they roll slowly through the station, so getting on is every man for himself. We pushed through the crowd of people, and tried to avoid the people jumping off as we leaped on. The bus ride was SO long. There was a ton of traffic, and we were all pretty tired from our afternoon of shopping. It was 9 Rs. back to Triple IT where there was a restaurant called Chappatos (Indian Chipotle) that everyone else wanted, and a Dominoes, which I had been craving. Jess asked me to get her some breadsticks, so I went to Dominoes and ordered my pizza to go. It took a while, about 20 minutes, and they asked me to sit and wait, so I sat at the only sort of open table, which was already occupied by a man and his young daughter, wearing a tie-dye shirt. He apparently moves between Hyderabad and Oregon, because his wife works for Nike, and they are planning to move out there permanently in the next few months when he starts grad school. We chatted for a while, and when his pizzas were ready, he handed me his business card and told me to call if I ever needed anything.
I left when my pizza was ready and took it next door to where we all ate together. Gwen came to join us, which was nice, because I rarely see her. We had a really, really good day, and I'm going to miss this a lot, I think. I'm definitely going to miss Jess, Val, and Karen. They're good people, and I will definitely stay in touch with them when I get back.
I am also going to miss a lot of things about India. I will miss the cheap public transportation. I will miss walking down a crowded street, hearing women covered in all black from head to toe, yelling "Are you crazy?" in Hindi at bangles vendors. I will miss the smog and the traffic. And I will miss people handing me, a stranger, and a foreigner, their business cards because they are genuinely friendly people. America is a land of foreigners. Everyone's ancestors came from somewhere else (except the Native Americans, obviously), and we could learn a thing or two about welcoming people into our country from places like India. Everyone from the man at the cricket match who yelled at the security guards to let us in, to the woman who halted traffic in Medhipatnam to help us find a rickshaw, to the people who come to ask if you need help when we look lost. All these people have made India the positive and growing place that it is today. I know I'll be back to India, probably in the next few years, and I will definitely have to come to Hyderabad every time I'm back. I'll miss this city.