Thursday, February 19, 2009

The charm of Hyderabad

So I’m the road again, and it certainly feels good. That doesn’t mean leaving Hyderabad wasn’t hard though.
The charm of Hyderabad lies in the human connection it embodies. Despite the frenetic development of the last decade, with the invasion of IT and BPO services, the city retains a lad-back vibe, and its people treasure their free time...none more so than my jihadi Muslim family, most of whom are blissfully unemployed (I’m not kidding...people with steady jobs in the family are more the exception than the norm; they’re surviving off the land holding they enjoyed as a result of their status as landed gentry in Hyderabad’s previous incarnation as an almost feudal society pre-1948). It would appear then that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as I spent my last two months in Hyderabad unemployed, in typical nawabi fashion. Into this mix, add my various social networks, exquisite Hyderabadi cuisine, cheap green, and you have a recipe for complete dude-ery.
During my last few months in the city, I invariably had at least one house guest from the Center for Microfinance, Couchsurfing (the hospitality exchange website which I am so devoted to), college, or family (the median was more like two or three, and went as high as 9 people on two occasions), and as my social circle among the expat community in Hyderabad grew, my life quickly snowballed into a constant pattern of social interaction. During the day, I would spend some time on self-improvement, 10 push-ups here or there, plus the occasional cooking lesson (nothing too taxing...I swear gravity is stronger in Hyderabad), but mostly, I would simply float around the city, visiting family members, often accompanied by whoever my current house guest(s) were. Simultaneously charming and irksome, Hyderabadis are incredibly informal about social calls, and it is perfectly acceptable to simply show up on a relative’s door step with a friend and expect to be fed; I happily exercised this right, as my expanding waist line can attest to. Over lunch, I’d enjoy the color of my Banjara Hyderbilly relatives (a lame play on “Beverly Hillbillies,” excuse me, I’m an idiot who likes bad jokes...but if you’re wasting your time reading this blog, you already knew that); our conversations would cover anything from the latest anti-semitic topic (“The Jews perpetrated 9/11, I’m convinced of it!”***), family intrigue (I won’t expand on this, it’s too wrong), and perverted religious interpretations of science (“The Koran had written blueprints for atomic energy way before the idiot Germans and Americans figured it out”).
Later, as nights overtook the city, and the call to prayer would echo around the leafy boulevards of Banjara Hills, I’d inevitably call a few friends and make plans for the evening. The majority of the time, this entailed everyone gathering in the living room of my ancestral home, and listening to music, chilling out, smoking up, and getting down together. This didn’t just happen once or twice a week; we got together almost everyone night, despite the fact that almost everyone but me had a job.
By the end of my time in Hyderabad, I had implicit schedule of weekly family visits, time with my grandmother, and get-togethers with friends, and it was almost impossible to ever feel lonely in Hyderabad. It was sweet, and I will really miss it; I’d even venture to say that twenty years from now, I might look back on this time with great nostalgia, but if my delightfully unambitious life plan works out, I’ll be right back to bumming around Hyderabad in 2029 ;). You can take the Hyderabadi out of Hyderabad, but you can’t take Hyderabad out the Hyderabadi; we’re slothful, gluttonous, crude...wonderful people, in short.

***Racialist Disclaimer: I often comment on my family’s xenophobic, homophobic and racist tendences, and I just want to reassure my readers, black, asian, white, gay and particularly Jewish (or a combination of the above) that if you ever want to come to Hyderabad, you’ll be welcomed with open arms (as in those things with an elbow and fingernails, not AK-47s). Despite frequently dumping out the Hatorade, my family is waaaaay to lazy to actively harm anyone. If you can eat, drink (not alcohol though), and be merry, they’ll love you just the same.


megha said...

I did/do have a job..but that dint stop me from being at ur place all but every night for the last month - 'istening to music, chilling out, smoking up, and getting down together.'
was absolute unadulterated fun getting to know u and urs Arsalan! come back soon :)

Nilesh Fernando said...

it's great that i had to click a 'do you want to continue, this page might contain content not suitable for minors' type message before accessing your blog. i expect no less arsalan.

what the bugger are you doing in china?