If you told me two years ago that I’d be spending New Year’s in India, I would have laughed in your face, truly. And yet here I am, starting the new year of 2017 in my dorm room in Hyderabad.
After a 22+ hour journey, I made it to Tagore House International in the University of Hyderabad — my home for the next ten weeks. The weather here surprised me. It wasn’t hot and humid as I expected but warm and sunny and maybe a bit arid — but definitely tolerable. I was the first to arrive here, as I knew, and expected to see my professors on the first day. But after settling in and meeting with Mr. Das, the director of the Study in India Program, I was kinda just left to myself. I befriended some of the international students during lunch time.
The food here includes lots of veggies and daal (lentil soup) and is absolutely delicious! I grew up with curry and can withstand spice more than anyone around me, but the spices in these dishes affected even my stomach of steel.
The past two days in itself have been adventurous. That first day, the other international students and I took an autorickshaw to the InOrbit — a mall in Telangana, where we spent most of our time in what we called the Walmart of India. This place had everything from toothpaste to biscuits to groceries to protein powder, even high-end bikes! It wasn’t as busy as I would have imagined, considering that it was New Year’s Eve. It was here that I had my first derp moment. I handed the cashier 10 rupees thinking it was $10 and more than enough for a pack of toothbrushes. It was 170 rupees. I literally handed someone 1/10 of a dollar and thought I was balling with 200 rupees in my pocket.
But New Year’s Day was even more enjoyable. Some of my Dartmouth friends arrived, and after lunch, we ventured off to the local markets in Shilparamam. I flexed my bargaining skills and was truly successful with getting my price throughout the day. Mumsie would have been proud.
Shilparamam is an arts and crafts village in Madhapur, Hyderabad, Telangana. Within its gates, it holds a rural museum full of sculptures that depict daily rural life, a sprawling rock garden, a lake with boat rides, a waterfall, and a magnificent marketplace of clothing and souvenirs. It reminded me of Olvera Street in Downtown Los Angeles, which has rows upon rows of handmade crafts shops and restaurants. Similarly at Shilparamam, color sprung at me from every direction, vying for my attention. Vendors urged me to come look at their tapestries, clothing, jewels, and bags. It was such a sight. I bought a carmine red pashmina-blend scarf, a lovely pair of sandals, baggy salwar pants, and a bag for school. Actually, all four of us that traveled together were lured into the scarves. We walked around the entire marketplace before strolling through the parks and taking pictures with the museum sculptures.
I’ve been to marketplaces like this before when I was younger and on vacation to Bangladesh with my family. But this experience — being surrounded with friends without a local guide on New Year’s, independently moving and haggling through a marketplace in a country all the way across the world from home — brought so much joy to my heart. And it’s only the beginning of my adventures.