Thursday Tidbits

Posted on November 2, 2016 under Thursday Tidbits with 4 comments


Charminar in Hyderabad


Definition: An evening at the arches of Charminar on the last night of Diwali.

So, I had planned a quiet evening giving some English lessons to one of my colleagues, Nagendra. I was finishing up a major editing job ( a 56 page annual report for APMAS ) when I was introduced to this unassuming grad student Lubna from Gujarat. As part of her studies, she is going to a small village to do some research in the agriculture sector.

I had known her for a total of five minutes, when she blurted out, “ Do you want to come with me to Charminar?” This is a famous landmark in Hyderabad built in the late 1500’s. Before I had a chance to digest this offer, she had summoned a Uber cab and off we went. The drive through this city of 10 million would have been fascinating enough. I am quickly understanding that India is a series of contradictions.

Forty-five minutes later ( and a $2.20 cab ride – most things are ridiculously cheap by North American standards ) we arrived at the gates of chaos. Before reaching the arches, we travelled down a street congested with vehicles and humanity, that had about 100 jewelry stores side by side. Lubna told me that the Indian people love glittery stuff. I have purchased exactly one piece of jewelry for my wife. She has it on her finger. My second attempt was a dismal failure so I learned how to do the dishes which she appreciates more than sparkly things.

I was trying to find the right words to describe what I was witnessing. When I got back to my residence several hours later, I sent a message to my dear friend, Anuj Jain. Here’s how he summarized it: “ How do you capture that mix of noises? Women haggling, shopkeepers enticing, a loud rickshaw ( or a thousand …my words! ) zipping past your body and missing you by a hair’s breath; the smell of deep fried chili fritters, bangles of all possible colors , sparkling and changing shades, children running around…” What he failed to mention that half of the population of India was occupying a space the size of Main Street in Antigonish.

Did I mention that Lubna was a Muslim woman but one of a new breed who are stepping out , exerting some independence? She was not wearing a hijab ( although she covered her head with a scarf as we passed a nearby mosque). The crush of humanity was a bit intimidating. If I had lost contact with her, I’m not sure what I would have done. So, being the wimp that I am and emulating a daycare centre with children holding onto a rope, she allowed me to take her by the hand. She dragged me through the throngs amid the cacophony of beeping horns, yelling and general traffic noise.

We were quite hungry. In order to get to the restaurant that was a block away, it was safer and quicker to take a rickshaw! Being the gallant gentleman that I am ( ?), I picked up the tab. An amazing meal ( for 2 )  of chicken biryani came to a grand total of 400 rupees… $ 8.00 Canadian! And this was at a very respectable place. It was the hottest, spiciest food I have eaten in India so far. I am writing this the morning after and am VERY happy to report that the meal settled in my stomach without incident!!!

It was easily one of most amazing things that I have witnessed. At 65, one becomes quite blasé in that you think you’ve seen it all and done it all. Wrong. There are many, many untold treasures awaiting if you have the courage to step outside your comfort zone.

By the time you receive this, I will be travelling on one of India’s celebrated trains on a 14 hour ride to a village where I will commence with some of my field work. Please join me for the ride. I’m sure you’ll hear about it soon.

Have a great day.







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4 Responses to Thursday Tidbits

  1. Carmen says:

    Fantastic, Len! So glad you are transcribing your experiences for our reading pleasure! Looking forward to the next ‘installment’.

  2. Miriam Gillis says:

    Your writing reminds me that it is a good thing to step outside our comfort zone and meet new challenges. I still maintain that this takes a great deal of courage. The world you live in now is not a static one. It is vibrant, exciting, and constantly changing. I look forward to reading about your on going adventures!!!

  3. Bernice says:

    Love your updates, Len. Please keep them coming. They are very interesting.

  4. Toni MacDonell says:

    Keep it coming Len. I look forward to reading all about your experiences in India. This one left me breathless, you describe the scene so well.

    LYL, Toni

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