I haven’t really spoken about the campus of the university but I will now. It’s huge. Having over 5,000 enrolled students and 400 faculty members, the university is a top-tier research institution with graduate programs in the sciences and humanities. Spanning around 2300 acres, the campus has an abundance of plants and trees–probably more than the entire city of Hyderabad itself. It also has its fair share of orphaned puppies. 😦
Tagore International House is strictly for international students. Sumana says it’s because Tagore is our only (complete) safe space on campus–with purified drinking water, clean air, daily cleaning and maintenance by houseworkers, the one place with American luxuries like functioning toilets and showers (even A.C.s). It’s quite generous of them to think beyond our physical comfort and consider our mental health. They’ve created a space for us where we can convene after long days of work and being stared at, not have to worry if the water will give us diarrhea or if the food has been handled with clean hands. It’s a great facility. It’s just 5000 miles away from everything that’s important to me. The gym. The yoga place. The shopping complex. (My class.) You win some, you lose some.
Running to the gym takes 14-15 minutes. Jogging takes 20. Walking takes 35. I’ve tried them all, and I’ve finally settled on just walking in the early morning with a friend. Which has meant waking up at 6:20 and beginning the journey by 6:30 every day. It’s been much easier to get up before the sun. Life here has been chillax and peaceful, and living in a place of nature has been so refreshing for me. Every day I’ve gotten to see the sun peek out from behind the tree like orange fire, before sitting atop its throne in the sky and emanating its power to all the little human beings on earth. And we’d get back just in time for breakfast.
On Sunday, I joined the Sunday Hikers (an outdoors club at the university) for a campus tour. And it was SO worth it. They said “wear long pants, long sleeves, cover every inch of your body below your face” (not really) so I showed up fully covered, about to pass out from the weird heat and fatigue. But it was quite the adventure. The group was 46 initially and became about 53 later on (?). We hiked to Buffalo Lake first–passing by huge rocks, climbing over huge rocks, taking pictures with huge rocks. Rocks. UoH owns them all. And the scenery, oh my god. Gorgeous.
We then trekked to Peacock Lake and enjoyed seeing (and evading) massive piles of buffalo shits on the ground. And saw a water buffalo!! Did not see any peacocks at the Lake, but the view was serene and the water was flowing and ugh, so perfect.
I made friends with some of the locals and they told me about Mushroom Rock, which looks exactly like a mushroom and is a hip hangout place for UoH students. Also owned by the university. (This place almost literally owns all of the nature in Hyderabad.) Some nights they’ll have bonfires and food and loud music. Sounds lovely. Next week the group will have an even lovelier trip to Nagarjuna Sagar Dam and Ethipothala Falls, which I’ll miss because of our group trip to Chennai. Don’t I sound spoiled, displeased because I’ll be missing this fieldtrip for a whole 3 day weekend trip.
We officially began classes yesterday. I decided on Media Law and Ethics, a Communications class, which happened to be literally all the way across the university campus. The professor, however, was personable and appreciative of the diversity in the classroom. All we did in class was introductions and I still loved it.
And I hitchhiked for the first time that day!!!! It’s a big thing here on campus (not sure about the rest of the city and the nation) but it’s a nice system. People imitate the hitchhiker’s thumb whenever they see a motorcycle coming and lift themselves up on the seats of whoever stops. No one even says anything. No “where are you going?” or “thanks for stopping.” People just do. That’s another thing I’ve adapted to here. Going with the flow. Orientation lasted for a week. Classes started later than was expected. Our first test keeps getting pushed back. Don’t question it, just go with the flow. Anyways, I got back to Tagore in about 2 minutes, versus the 35 minutes it would have taken me to walk or wait for the bus.
Had a quick lunch and off we went to Charminar that afternoon. Charminar is one of the most recognized mosques in India, consisting of 45 prayer spaces, one large common space on the ground floor, 5 arches representing 5 Islamic icons, and 4 minarets–one at every corner. It is decorated with beautiful domes and balconies and offers magnificent views of the city.
Tickets for tourists were 200 rupees. For locals, only 15. I had tried to finesse my way out of paying 200 when a guard approached me and asked if I was Indian. I’m like hell ya, I’m from Gujrat, but he wanted to see an ID. With or without ID, for the next couple weeks I will be Puja Patel, sister of Prithika Patel.
To the southwest of Charminar lies another mosque, called Makkah Masjid.We wanted to go inside but this was less of a landmark than Charminar and was more strict with bags and wearing headscarves. So I’ll save it for another day, another time. To the west lies Laad Bazaar, which was honestly the India we all expected. Narrower streets. Louder cars and people. Brighter clothes. Shinier jewelry. It was like Downtown Los Angeles for me. The picture below was the only one I was able to take without risking my life, and it doesn’t come close to depicting how alive this marketplace was.
The ride back was a quiet one for me. I marveled at the city and its liveliness. Undeveloped lots and roadsides. Littered streets. Sure it has a lot of people and cars, but it has a completely different vibe from New York or LA. I mean, duh, right? It’s India, across the world from both those cities, but still. There’s activity in every direction, yet people seem less stressed and more content than Americans do (or maybe that’s just me as a student). People aren’t afraid to stare, which takes a little getting used to as a foreigner, but I’ve come to appreciate them for being honest about their curiosity. I hear the calls of more birds and animals than I ever did back home. India is just a medley of noises, sights, and livelihoods. I can’t stop saying this. I love India.