Despite our constant grouchings of "we're tired...we just want to stay in for a day," we seem to find something interesting to do almost every day. This past Thursday was a Muslim holiday, meaning that all classes were cancelled, so of course we decided that this was the sort of opportunity that couldn't be passed up. And we went on a journey into the city, always an adventure.
First there was the bus ride. At this point, it was just me and three of my friends, all of whom are guys. This served to be kind of a problem, since women have to sit in the front of the bus, while men go in the back. When the bus stops aren't labeled and the buses are as full as Indian buses tend to get, its always an adventure trying to make sure that everyone manages to get off at the same spot. Luckily, the ticket collector took pity on our obvious ignorance of the Indian bus system, and told us where to get off. Then, we wandered down this little alley way, full of Indians (what street isn't?) who stared at us...apparently they don't get too many white people looking for the train station. The train also has ladies and men's cars, although there are also "general" cars for families, so I didn't have to go off by myself. The train is also a lot better labeled and less crowded...and we each only spent 4 rupees (about 8 cents) on a ticket for what ended up to be about a 35 minute ride.
We got off the train, but the adventure was not yet over; we had to take a rickshaw to the public gardens--our final destination. Haggling with rickshaw drivers is always an adventure (most of the time I just let other people do it for me), and I don't think I've ever been on a ride where the driver doesn't take us to the wrong place or ask us for more money when the ride is over. This time, however, after a little bargaining, we ended up where we wanted to be. And we found out that you can fit four adults into a rickshaw...at least, if someone is willing to sit on everyone else's laps...
The rest of the day pretty much consisted of wandering around. We found some pretty gardens and monuments (see my facebook albums for some photographic evidence), and eventually met up with a bunch of other friends for lunch. The thing about traveling with too many people, is that it's too many people. It's hard enough to move about inconspicuously when there's four of you, and almost impossible when it's 10. Also, everyone tends to have different ideas about what they want to do and get out of a trip. Anyways, for whatever reason, after lunch and a little wandering around "Buddha Lake" (a large lake with a statue of Buddha in the middle, like the Statue of Liberty), a few of us split up and went wandering again.
We managed to find more monuments, blah blah blah...and then two of our group decided they wanted to go to an amusement park (which looked like something out of Alice in Wonderland). Me and my one other friend were too tired, so we ended up going to get coffee and cookies at the Imax theatre, on the suggestion of Mr. Das (who runs the guest house we live in). We get into the theatre, and it's this tremendous mall, a completely different dimension from the India that we had just walked out of. We ended up going on this 4-D adventure ride, which was like an underwater ride where dinosaurs jumped out of us (ok, it sounds cheesy, but it was actually really fun).
The other two people in our group joined us at this point, and we decided to go to a haunted house (really...of all things to find inside of an imax theater...). I'm kind of embarrassed to say that I've never really been in one before, and I may have gotten a little freaked out. First there was my friend behind me (who was probably the most scared of any of us), who grabbed the back of my shirt. I thought he was someone who worked there and started hitting him on the head--and of course he didn't say anything to disprove my idea, so Rebecca (who also goes to Oberlin, by the way) keeps saying, "It's only us Emily, it's okay." Then there was the guy in bed who kept chasing me...he was like chained to a metal bed and was making it jump up and down. He did it a few times, and I thought he was done, but then he started coming after me. Regardless to say, I spent most of the time clutching at the person next to me and trying to use him to block me from the scary things. When we finally all spilled out the door into the mall again, all of the Indian people just look at us and start laughing hysterically. It was quite amusing. Anyways, I'm all done with haunted houses.
After that little adventure we went to the Birla Mandir temple, one of the main Hindu temples in Hyderabad. It was amazing. We went at sunset, and the temple looks down over the entire city. And it was this huge labyrinth of marble paths and shrines that we wandered around barefoot. It was a great ending to the day. It was fascinating to me that the temple had plaques that were dedicated to different religions--like Christianity, Judaism, and Confucianism. I can think of no other religion that demonstrates the same, not only tolerance, but respect for and acceptance of other religions that Hinduism does.
Then we went out to eat, and finished the day off by having dessert (I had the best brownie ever) and having a huge discussion about religion and it's place in environmental issues...my type of conversation. By the time we got home it was about midnight, and we still had to ride our bikes the two miles from the main gate where the rickshaw dropped us off to our hostel...not something that I would ever do alone, by the way, but since I was with two other guys, I figured I was okay. And the only noises we heard besides the numerous guards wandering around were of this huge pack of monkeys that sounded like they might have liked to eat us.
Okay, so this was a really in depth description of a day. It's just that that day encapsulated India so well for me. India is having adventures and wandering around and stumbling on the most beautiful things you've ever imagined. It's eating good food and having deep conversations with people. It's getting ripped off by rickshaw drivers and squeezing on to city buses surrounded by more people than you can imagine. I think I'm in love.