Saturday, October 28, 2006


Last weekend, 21 October, was Diwali, a major festival in India. That meant two days holiday and lots of fireworks. I took the whole week off and went to Hyderabad to stay with the in-laws. I travelled down on Diwali itself, this was nice as the roads, airport and plane where all quite empty. A bit like travelling on Christmas day in the UK. It did make for an exciting night time landing with lots of fireworks going off alongside the plane on its final approach. I can only imagine the terror panic that would ensue if such a colourful simulation of low intensity conflict was carried out near Heathrow.

No pictures again as San still has the camera. She's back on the first of November. Instead, here's a map of India so those unfamiliar with its geography can get their bearings. As you can see there are two Hyderabads. The northern one is Hyderabad, Sindh, and is in Pakistan. The one I went to is Hyderabad, Deccan, and is about 315 miles from Pune as the crow flies.

The festivities kept on coming. Diwali is a Hindu celebration, but later in the week it was the Muslims' turn for Eid ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan (or Ramzan as it is referred to over here). There was some confusion over the exact date. It all depends on the first sighting of the new moon: the consensus was Wednesday in Hyderabad, but other parts of India had decided upon Tuesday.

Hyderabad has a large Muslim population so Ramzan is a big deal there. As it coincided with Diwali this year, lots of businesses had banners and lights celebrating both. My daughter saw one illuminated crescent moon and confidently declared it a banana. We had some Haleem, a traditional Ramzan dish, served from a vast roadside cauldron. Back at San's parents house we were given a traditional Ramzan sweet dish, the name of which escapes me, prepared by one of the neighbours. This and my mother-in-law's cooking ensured that I was fed well for the week.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I like driving in my car

It's certainly not a Jaguar either. Nor is it mine, it is in San's name in order to keep the bureaucracy to a minimum. Regardless, I've been driving about town in a white Maruti 800, not unlike the one in the link. Except mine has bull bars for maximum carnage potential. It's cheap and cheerful so it won't matter if it, inevitably, acquires any bumps. No pictures because San has taken the cameras to Hyderabad to stay with her parents for Diwali, I'm heading off on the weekend myself.

It's mighty 800cc engine is fine for the local driving conditions, speed is ill advised here. Having said that I have seen two Porsches recently: one Boxster and a Cayenne. How a Boxster copes with the potholes I don't know. The Cayenne shouldn't have too much trouble, but a Porsche off-roader is just fundamentally wrong. I find driving here more entertaining than I thought I would. The lack of rules is quite liberating. You can drive like Mr Toad without upsetting anyone, because everyone else drives the same way. Red lights are advisory, give way is a foreign concept, and overtaking can be carried out anywhere. The main trick is to assume any vehicle will attempt to pass you, cut you up, or drive straight at you at the earliest opportunity. Once you know this, the crazy logic required for driving begins to fall into place. Someone described it as a real life game of Tetris - got to fill those gaps.

I've mainly made a few short drives to local shops and restaurants, but last Saturday I drove to the town centre. I impressed myself by flawlessly navigating the route from memories of auto-rickshaw journeys and a quick look at Google Earth before I left. The drive took me past the five star hotel where Angelina Jolie and some bloke called Brad, who's tagging along with her, are staying. Pune, on grounds of security, is standing in for Karachi, Pakistan, in a Hollywood film about Daniel Pearl. Considering what happened to Mr Pearl in Pakistan it's probably a wise decision. The Times of India newspaper has devoted endless column inches to their, and their retinue's, antics. A picture of a Sun paparazzo being throttled by a bodyguard being my personal highlight. The return journey was less successful as a road closure forced me off course. After about five minutes of hopeful solar navigation I spotted a sign to Aundh indicating that I was getting closer. Bonus marks are deserved because the sign was in Hindi - औंध.