Weekends are interesting here. Most of us don’t have classes on Friday, which will make it nice for traveling if/when I decide to do that. A lot of people do travel nearly every weekend here, or some of the students who have family nearby will go home, so it’s typically pretty quiet. Sometimes we go exploring, other times we go shopping.
Grocery shopping isn’t nearly as casual here as it is at home. It’s kind of a production. You have to decide ahead of time to go, get a group together, mentally and physically (sunscreen and plenty of water), prepare yourself for the half hour walk to the main gate. Then you get to catch a rickshaw!
Last weekend, a few of the girls and I decided to visit Reliance Mall, which is less of a mall and more a complex of several stores: Reliance Trends (clothes), Reliance Fresh (groceries), Reliance Tech (you get the idea) and so on. After consulting with Mr. Das, who works at Tagore and essentially knows anything and everything there is to know about Hyderabad, we set out with a hand-drawn map and instructions on how to haggle with the rickshaw drivers. We survived the trek to the main gate, and, after risking our lives crossing the street, found an available rickshaw and discussed pricing. It’s not quite like a taxi service, where there are meters or flat rates, but something you and the individual driver decide. After a bit of a back-and-forth, we settled on a rate of 80 rupees (reasonable for six people) and set out on our way.
If you don’t know, a rickshaw is comparable to an open-air taxi, but much smaller and possibly less safe. However, this is the cheapest, easiest mode of transportation here, and most of the time we’re driving so slowly anyways that it doesn’t even feel dangerous. We did get quite a few stares though: six, fair-skinned girls crammed into a rickshaw is not an everyday occurrence around here.
The Reliance stores were pretty much your standard clothing and grocery stores, with the exception of everything inside being Indian instead of western. After a long time trying on clothes and determining sale prices and modeling for each other, we made our purchases and headed next door to the grocery store.
After grabbing a few essentials, we hurried next door to what Mr. Das had called “the best bakery in all of Hyderabad.” Entering, it was air-conditioned bliss, and smelled like chocolate and sugar and heaven. It was a bit pricy, but a few of us splurged on a box of brownies to split (#treatyoself) and it was well worth it.
Shopping tip for India: always carry a large purse, or bring a reusable bag with you. In all the stores I’ve been in so far, you’re charged extra if you need a “carry bag,” as they call it. This is simply genius to me: it eliminates waste and promotes sustainability!
This weekend, we decided to do something a little more local. Kind of. Considering our campus is 2,300 acres, you can walk for over an hour and a half and still not reach the edge of it. However, this does mean there are tons of opportunities for hiking and exploring without even technically leaving campus. A few of us decided to hike to Mushroom Rock: a large, free-standing stone tower of sorts that looks like a mushroom. According to “wikimapia.com” (not sure how legit this source is…) “a student of University of Hyderabad must visit this location.” I was sold.
One of the girls had already ridden her bike to the location, so assured us it would take under an hour to reach our destination. As it turns out, when you factor in different walking speeds, the 90 degree heat and scorching sun, and a few wrong turns, it took us more like an hour and fifteen minutes to complete our hike. Even still, it wasn’t a bad walk at all, and enabled us to see a different side of campus.
Mushroom Rock itself really rocks! After admiring it from a distance, we crept closer and noticed that someone had fashioned a ladder and crudely attached it to the side. Slightly nervous, we tested the ladder, and, upon determining it would hold, scampered up.
We were greeted with a lovely view of the surrounding greenery, as well as some buildings and structures like Gachibowli Stadium, where one of the local cricket team plays. It was also quite shady underneath, which was a pleasant surprise. The huge rock on top is held up purely by two smaller rocks underneath, so I spent a lot of the time praying the whole thing didn’t collapse on top of us. Spoiler alert: we lived. It was also covered in graffiti, but somehow graffiti in Telugu is much prettier than English graffiti.
We relaxed and chatted for a while, and watched a pretty lizard crawl around on one of the adjacent rocks, before deciding to head home so we could make it in time for tea (since pretty much everything revolves around tea here).