2/27/2010 | Andhra pradesh , India

Hyderabad Malid un Nabi Part II

The following morning I returned to the Charminar area for the procession I had been told about the night before.  More and more people flooded in to the area opposite the Jamma Masjid on the street leading North to the Charminar.   Some colored there faces with green sparkling paint, a Muslim answer to the approaching Hindu holiday of Holi. Most carried flags, waving them as they the crowds chanted responsively, like cheers at a sporting event.  Being that I was the only foreigner amongst the masses I soon became an attraction myself, and it was not long before I was co-opted into celebration, riding on the back of a motor bike, I found myself leading the chants to the great amusement of my fellow celebrators.  I was belting out, “Allah Takbir” with the crowd responding “Allah Akabar,” until I had nearly lost my voice.  I abandon the motorbike after a while to take some pictures on foot and after walking around for a bit and being mobbed with handshakes, and “What is your name? What is your country?” questions (yes I did answer the truth that I was an American, doing my best to be an ambassador of a country that is not so popular in the Muslim world) some of the organizers sought me out and moved me into a jeep.  Along the route I was introduced to a man whom I was told was the mayor of Hyderabad, amidst a number of other local dignitaries.  I’m pretty sure I had my picture taken more than the mayor that day.  I never did get a chance to check the local newspapers, or TV news, to see if I made it in media.  When I looked back at my pictures a large percentage of them had at least one cell phone camera aimed back at me.  I got out of the jeep which was moving at a snails pace in the massive crowd and walked with one of the organizers for a while, a friendly man aptly named Mohammad, before we parted ways and I returned to the frenzy of hand shakes.  I was told there were 20,000 people at the rally, it I felt like I shook hands with at least half of them and had my picture taken by the other half.  The procession finished (in phases) at a square in the old city where number of V.I.P.s were seated on a platform.  It turned out that one of these men was according to the man who ushered me in to greet him and receive a blessing, was the most important Sufi in Hyderabad.  To paraphrase Bill Murry, “So I got that going for me, which is nice.”  I was exhausted from all the attention and left the old city to grab some tasty Hyderabadi Biryani at a restaurant I had visited before in the Abids area of Hyderabad.  An establishment where I could get a tasty mutton or chicken Biryani that would feed two normal people, or stuff one of me, for the bargain price of 100 rupees (about $2).

As I was leaving the restaurant stuffed with Biryani, I met three guys who spoke English reasonably well.  They were an odd looking threesome one was a bit of a heavy set in a tight yellow t-shirt and jeans, the other a slight figure also in western dress, the third looked the part of a stereotypical Muslim sporting a white kurta full beard.  I learned they were from Afghanistan studying in India, the conservatively dressed one being from Kandahar while the others being from Northern provinces.  They invited me for tea.  I figured it would be interesting to find out their perspective on Afghanistan, and I accepted expecting to go to a nearby chai stand.  It turned out they were taking me back to their rented room.  We crossed the railway tracks and wound through some alleys.   I would call myself a good judge of people, but I do tend to take some risks going with my gut judgment as it were, finding that trusting people can lead to interesting experiences the more cautious person would miss out on.  As we wound through the backstreets I did begin to question my initial judgment and I added that I would not be able to stay long as I had told my friend I would meet her shortly.  I made note to make eye contact with a nearby shop keeper as I walked into the building where they were staying.  As it turned out my initial judgment had be correct and my slight questioning of the situation was unjustified.  They were gracious and friendly hosts.  However, they were more interested in talking about stereotypes of my country in particular if the women were “easy,” than about the situation in their country which was more interesting to me than attempting to refute Muslim stereotypes to the Western world.  I did mange to get answer about what they thought about the American troops in Afghanistan.  They of course would rather not have the soldiers in their country but they said that the security situation was bad and at the moment required it and that without foreign troops it was likely the Taliban would come back to power, a prospect that they seemed to regard as a bad thing.  The gist of it was, yes it’s a difficult situation and there are no good solutions, something I guess I already knew but it was informative to here it expressed from at least a few Afghans themselves.  After a few quick pictures, I thanked my hosts and headed back to the campus of the Indian School of Business (ISB) where I was staying.  After an intense day of “India” it was nice to be back in the island “non-India” that is ISB.

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