Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Madhapur musings....

Today begins our second whole week in Hyderabad.  It seems like we just stepped off the plane, but it's now seven days we've been in our new home.  Understatement of the Year Award (to paraphrase Vice President Joe Biden):  "Moving to India was a big f----ing deal."  For me, for Suzanne, for The Bee.  For our little family.  The undertaking actually began last November when A.S.B. "tossed her hat into the ring" for the position here - so - the process of interviewing, deciding, planning, paperwork, packing, leaving, arriving and getting settled is now seven months old.

As big as the decision and the actual move's the "little things" that are making it an adventure.  Here are some of those "little things" in my random musings after "Week #1"...

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Suzanne had Naseer (our driver) pick her up out in front of the gate at 5:15 A.M. this morning.  On a day that didn't have a horse-show, too!!  That's probably one of the most shocking things I've seen so far!  I kid my wife!  Anyway, I decided to linger outside a bit and just sit on the front patio...just to sort of absorb the sounds of the pre-dawn hours.  It was already about 85-degrees outside.  There are no sounds like this in Pasadena.  It's sort of tropical...I'm not a bird-watcher, so - I cannot identify the species of the calls - but - it sounds vaguely like the background soundtrack for the "Jungle Cruise" at Disneyland.  With the occasional rooster thrown in.  There's a sort of "insect buzz", too - not the flying mosquito kind of buzz - - but a backdrop of cricket-like sounds.  Very peaceful.  

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Speaking of's a short list of the ones that I have personally seen within 150-yards of our front door this past week:  Various kinds of dogs, a very skinny cat, what I think was a mongoose (you should have seen how quickly I scooped Beloved up in the face of that guy!!), a happily mooing cow (with a bell hanging and clanging around her neck!), a camel and a pony (both set up for riding), and about ten dark-grayish water buffalo.  Those big ol' guys stop traffic in and around town more than traffic-cops!!  I would like Suzanne to at least try golfing while we're I probably shouldn't mention this.  The fellow who took me around Boulder Hills Country Club (we joined yesterday, hooray!! - This would have not happened in a million years at home!  For the whole year I think we spent about 1% of the initiation fee at Lakeside in Studio City!  Not to mention Riviera or Bel Air CC.!) told me that the course and surrounding area was teeming with wildlife, including foxes, mongooses ("mongeese"??) - "Oh...and the occasional cobra and viper"!!  Nice!!

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As I mentioned before, the poverty here is ever-present and undeniable.  There's a strange - I hate to say it -"peace" about it all ... because it's so prevalent and - what's the word I'm looking for?  Positively "endemic".  The saddest thing, by far, is seeing the children.  And there are so many of them! You see them everywhere, too - perhaps not inside the gates of HiTech City, but pretty-much everywhere else .  Yesterday,after lunch, to avoid having to make a u-turn against traffic (I usually just close my eyes!) - Naseer took us down a small side-road and we passed dozens of these little waifs just milling about, walking along the street (something severely lacking here?  Sidewalks!!) - most of them happy and smiling, despite their seemingly hopeless condition.  I think I am seeing my first evidence of the belief here in one's "karma".  There seems to be an acceptance of life on the streets for so many people here.  Anyway - today's little thing that made me go "wow:...  The cutest little girl with the brightest smile and darkest eyes was walking by us.  Tagging along were her two brothers (I imagine).  She is wearing the brightest pink taffeta and lace party dress, complete with a shiny satin sash and matching bows.  Walking along the dirt shoulder of the road in her bare feet...the dress is soiled, but only along the bottom, and the hem of the lace is horrible disrepair.  But she doesn't seem to care.  She looked like a little Princess of the Streets.  Eyes flashing as she caught my stare... her two brothers playing and laughing along side her... and there she is... Nonchalantly chatting away on a cell-phone!!!

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I gotta tell you, I am NOT used to having servants!!  It is so strange!!  But here in our new home, they are a fact of life, and - - they live to do their job.  And you better not get caught doing something for yourself!!  They clean the house and do all of the laundry and fold it - no clothes dryer here, so far - although I hear that one is coming - - the dining room chairs and the ballister rail upstairs are the clothes-line for drying!  Krishna is our housekeeper/caretaker and general handy-man.  He's the guy that keeps the generator firing on all cylinders and keeps the petrol tank full for when the power cuts out (which is of India's greatest infrastructure problems!).  He is just one of the sweetest people you will ever meet.  Generally smiling, he's one of the bright-spots of every day.  His wife, Jyothi, will eventually be our cook - just as soon as we figure out a "regular" time to try and eat dinner!!  Jyothi also carries Suzanne's briefcase, her purse and my Day-Planner to the car in the morning (if she's up and we're all going out!) The other day when Krishna and I made a MAJOR shopping addition to getting the makings for chicken biryani - we purchased new brooms and mops and sponges and cleaning supplies and plastic buckets - - all for Rs 7,047 (that's about $150.00 - a similar run to Von's or Pavilions would have easily been double that!!)  Krishna pushes the shopping-cart and takes any items we need off the shelves (All I need do is point!), picks the ripest and best quality mangoes.  I'm so used to doing all of the shopping for Amy and me...I slipped a few times and began to push the cart on my own!  You don't do that when you have a housekeeper!  Our security guard (or, "Watchman", as they call him here) is Sangamesh.  His English is not too good, but he seems like a good fellow.  The other night, when I took Beloved out for a 2:00 A.M. pee-run, Sangamesh was sleeping soundly on the patio in a plastic lawn chair.  I walked out the door, out the gate, down the street, Bee did "her business" and we walked back through the gate, across the patio and into the door.  All the while, Sangamesh is sawin' logs, baby!!  I had to laugh at the irony of the sleeping security guard!

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One of the most awesomely competent, helpful and professional people we have met here in Hyderabad is Parminder Singh.  He runs a specialty Indian relocation service that Deloitte. uses to assist ex-pats - helping them find housing, get oriented and settled when they arrive in Hyderabad.  Evidently, Amy and I are decidedly "low maintenance".  We didn't need to find housing  - we actually signed the lease on our wonderful house a full month before we arrived, sight-unseen, and all over the Internet - - Parminder says that is "exceptional" - and far from the norm that he is used to seeing.  Paminder Singh (obvious from his name) is a Sikh. Because of his faith, he does not cut his hair, so he wears a turban.  I must say, Parminder doesn't just "wear" a turban.  Dude just flat-out rocks the turban look!!  When I first met him, he had come by the house to assist us with getting wireless high-speed Internet service and sattilite T.V.  That day he was wearing a blue shirt and a blue turban.  Yesterday, he sent his secretary and drive to the house to come pick me up, as I had some copies to make of some important documents.  Parminder and I and two other lovely gentlemen sat up in Parminder's office (no air-conditioning, but plenty of bottled water, the staple drink in all of India!) and just shot the bull for about an hour.  Parminder was wearing a pink shirt, and a pink turban.  A word that I would use to describe Parminder Singh: "Dapper"!

He asked me if I had had the chance to sample the local cuisine yet.  I told him that I had, and that I was loving it!  He asked where I had been.  Now, you have to know that many ex-pats arrive and seek out the Kentucky Fried Chicken place, the Hard Rock Cafe and TGI Fridays.  I figured that, heck, I could do THAT in I answered him:  "Yes, indeed...I had chicken biryani at Hyderabad House on Monday!"  "Oh, my God!" Parminder said - - "You really did hit the ground running. That's a real local Indian favorite!"

"Yeah," I said.  "And today for lunch, Naseer took me to "Chutney's" for lunch!" 

Again he said: "Oh, my God!!  You ate at "Chutney's"?  Most ex-pats never even hear of that place until they've been for a while - - and would never venture in as a first timer the first week!"

Well, whether or not I was brave, I gotta say - - the meal at Chutney's was one of the most flavorful and interesting taste sensations I have ever experienced!  Little stainless-steel bowls filled with the tastiest chutneys, curries, spices...who even knows what I was all so good.  Lots of rice, a spicy Szechwan vegetable dish, and the spiciest "egg roll" things made from all veggies!  They caused a bit of a sweat to appear on my brow, despite the good quality a/c inside!!  You see...Chutney's is 100% vegan!!  Who would have ever thought that Father Kingsbury would be eating vegetarian by the end of the first week!?!

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More musings to come - - I just got invited to an ex-pats Thursday Lunch Group over in Gachibowli (which I found out means "well water" or something close to it!)  I think I'll go make some new friends!  Namaste!

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