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Port Outbound, Starboard Home: Goodbye, India (For Now)

Empala Hotel

Home beckons, and my bags are packed. I’ll miss India, this land of mystery, so full of contrasts and surprises. Immense cultural wealth in such crushing poverty. An overriding drive to be better, with so many barriers to improvement. So many spices and flavors in their food, and so little food to share.

Good thing I like to clean my plate!

As always, money can insulate you from the more distasteful elements of any society. In India, that’s not really a lot, as we think of cash. A school teacher, for instance, makes about 6,000 rupees a month, while a headmaster (principal) can make up to 18,000 a month.

Sound like a lot? Well, that’s about $120 and $360, respectively. A month.

A good, senior software engineer makes about 30,000 rupees a month ($600), while his boss makes over 10 lakh a year. That’s a million rupees! Or about $50k. (Yes, American pay scales are flatter, that’s just the way it is.)

Okay, cry if you want, but it’s not as bad as it seems. I’ve found that you can get a decent meal here (if you’re a local) for about $2, or 100 rupees. So the actual cost-of-living isn’t as bad as the conversions above make it sound.

Still, that’s poor.

Now you see why they want to work for global conglomerates! And they do work hard, the ones I’ve met and consulted with.

In spite of the dire economics, at least on the surface, the folks I’ve met here have been happy, open and friendly. Pleasant enough I want to come back soon!

Blue Skies

Blue Sky, Growing Wealth and Power

So India has greater problems than we do, and larger, if for no other reason than they have four times as many people to feed every day.

I certainly enjoyed my samplings of Indian cuisine! I’ll be sure to enjoy more in my own kitchen in the coming months, and to share my “researches” with you.

Speaking of sharing, here are some tidbits and observations of India that I’ll not soon forget…

“Achari” is apparently North Indian for “Your tastebuds will be coated in napalm and lit with a blowtorch.” I tried Achari Chicken, Achari Mutton, and even Achari Paneer. All were delicious, but beware the heat! Of course, it’s possible it’s not so hot up north, the folks around here in Andhra Pradesh always make things extra-spicy.

I only saw one accident my whole time in India. (Okay, compared to American traffic it’s all one big accident; don’t get me off-task here.) I was just about used to the noise and the daredevil methods of the drivers when a pedestrian who wasn’t paying enough attention stepped through a gap in the median and out from behind a sign. And he was looking the wrong way.

Well, I just had time to drop my jaw when the motorbike next to our car rammed this unlucky walker and bopped him bum over boombox and sent him tumbling along the median curb.

Traffic ground to a halt all around. Even the horns paused for a moment.

The young man picked himself up and ran back over to the motorbike, finger wagging at eight to the five. He was livid, and apparently unhurt. The motorbike driver jerked off his helmet (some do wear them here) and began to give as good as he got.

Traffic began to slowly move on. As I looked back the two young men were still standing in traffic, yelling and gesticulating. A policeman was there, but he seemed there simply to observe and be sure no fisticuffs broke out.

I learned a lot of other things about vehicles, road and traffic in Hyderabad. First off, cars are painted very thin here. It cuts down on side-swipe accidents, apparently. And there are a lot of potholes, saving millions of rupees in asphalt expenses each year. Some of these holes could eat some small vehicles. The repair crews are always careful to reduce the size of these big ones without using any excess paving; excess defined as “enough to cover the original hole completely.”

There is a lot more to learn about horns here. They’re more than a warning device, they’re important communication tools for saying everything from “Hi” to “I’m passing too fast, too close and on your blind side while you’re distracted on your other side.” Intersections here work on the HNG Method, which I first experienced in Ciudad Acuña many years ago. Honk first and you can go! Only here, “first” is a highly flexible term.

Not having a working horn on your conveyance here is like taking a butter knife to a bazooka battle. One of my drivers one evening wasn’t using his horn, so I asked if it was broken. He smiled and said, “Vow of silence.” Which lasted until a moto-rickshaw got in his way.

At least they mostly follow the airline pilot’s credo: “1. Keep it under control. 2. Don’t hit anything.” They’re much better at the second than the first.

Want to know the difference between a Metro Express and Metro Local bus? The Express is actually moving, some of the time.

I don’t see how folks here carry so much stuff on their head! Just the thought gives me a migraine, but they can carry all their worldly belongings, a small menagerie and a spare elephant or two, all at once, as near as I can tell. Amazing!

And if you’re looking for a good vegetarian restaurant in Hyderabad, check out Chutneys. They have a great veg biryani, but more impressive is the array of chutneys they supply for your delectation. Yum! And don’t try Kanaka Durga Multi-Cuisine Family Restaurant, it certainly didn’t look like food in there; we didn’t stay…

Enjoy the (Indian Trip Memories) Heat!

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