1/27/2008 to 1/28/2008 | India , Karnataka


The city of Bidar is not on the way to much, trains from Bombay heading south blow by town with little more than a honk of the horn, and few tourist make the effort to get to this provincial backwater town, tucked away in the far north of Karnataka.  The city was once the capital of the Bahmani kingdom set up by invaders from Persia and as such is the home of some Persian influenced Islamic architecture mostly dating from the 15th century.  I happed to arrive in town the day before the second annual Bidar Ustav festival.  While I could have seen most of the “sites” in the half day I arrived I decided to take a more leisurely tour of the town and check out the festival the following day.  The festival held amidst the ruins of Bidar’s 15th century fort was what I have come to know as the standard Indian festival.  There were some tug of war competitions, wrestling, kite flying, booths selling food, and an evening cultural program which consisted of Indian music and dance.  Being the only foreigner in attendance my presence seemed to be much more of an attraction than any of the planed events, including the Red Arrow stunt air show put on by the Indian Air Force which runs a large fighter pilot training center on the outskirts of Bidar.  There were well over a thousand Indians in attendance, and I must have told each and every one of them my name and country.  I got a minor reprieve from the nonstop inquisition when I was invited to sit with the mayor and former district supervisor in the V.I.P. seats to watch the wrestling.   Again I think more people were watching me than the wrestling as the largest cheer of the day came when I was wrapped with a safer (Indian turban).  It was a fun day but rather exhausting to have to answer the same questions over and over, even more than usual, and it was really hard to just lay back and become an observer for a while.  Being a foreigner in untouristed areas of India is a good way know what its like to be a celebrity, kids calling out your name (or something close to it, Michael, in my case), people asking for autographs, and having pictures taken with you.  At least I could leave town and become anonymous again, unlike the international celebrities.  I’m just fine with my celebrity being limited to places like Bidar and Hindoli.  I don’t feel the need to be any more famous than that.

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