Hyderabad Street Life from the Safety of a Car

So here are some snaps from my voyages to and from the office…

Everything is a taxi
Everything is a taxi
Lonely puppy looks on
Lonely puppy looks on
New building and unfinished street
New building and unfinished street
Bamboo scaffolding
Bamboo scaffolding
An auto rickshaw with a fare
An auto rickshaw with a fare
Food court
Food court
Looking for work
Looking for work
Army guards near the hotel
Army guards near the hotel
What I must have looked like during that first ride
What I must have looked like during that first ride

So one of the things I noticed about India so far is that there is a huge disparity in almost everything you see whilst out taking in the sights. For example, I’ve passed beautiful new buildings sitting on what amounts to a dirt lot, surrounded by piles of rubble on an unfinished street.

There are many, many buildings in varying states of construction. I was wondering if they’d just been abandoned, but today I did see some crews welding on a very tall skeleton of what will be an enormous building. On both sides were empty fields strewn with rubble, and no discernible way to walk to the building on a flat surface. Maybe that’ll come later.

It’s really quite fascinating how extreme the extremes are. Along the streets are all manner of tiny business crammed in to 3-story buildings, broken up by small tent cities of blue tarps and bamboo poles. There is rubble everywhere. It’s quite overwhelming when you first experience it.

By today, however, I found myself quite comfortable weaving through the ever-flowing mass of people, cars, motorbikes and auto rickshaws. I’ve finally gotten used to the graceful ballet of chaos in the streets of Hyderabad. It’s a fascinating place.

To be honest, when I first learned of the opportunity to travel to India, I was very hesitant to commit. It’s eight thousand miles away from home, a completely different culture and without a doubt sits one on the edge of one’s comfort zone. But having been here and having now experienced this wondrous place, I’m really very glad I decided to come.

Tomorrow I hope I’ll be able to get out and see some of the history. Then it’s onward to Bangalore, then back to my home. How I miss home.


Last night in Hyderabad

Today was the last work day in Hyderabad. I decided to leave the office at 4pm since things were pretty well wrapped up. We had a final lunch together at the campus cafeteria. Oh and be ‘we’ I mean the guys. Evidently the ladies on the team don’t usually dine with the guys. I’m not sure if that’s a cultural thing, or if they just don’t like each other.

Good food at the cafe, and cheap too!  One day I had a heaping tray of vegetarian biryani, raita (cucumber sauce), a small cucumber salad and some bread for only 45 Rupees, which was about 75¢ US. The most I spent was INR135 on a kebab, biryani and chicken dish with naan (baked flat bread). That was the range I spent on food so far.

On returning to the hotel, I found the courtyard abuzz with activity. The Indian Endoscopic conference was just starting, and cars and people were mulling around. I also spotted what I assume are 3 Indian Army soldiers, in their distinct splotchy camouflage fatigues. One had a rifle. I decided maybe tonight isn’t the best time to venture out beyond the gate for a walk.


Just as well anyhow. The hotel is located in a weird place. It’s surrounded by swamp and open field, plus the myriad half-finished buildings and small enclaves of tents. So, there wasn’t really much I was missing out on. That and the hoard of potentially malaria-carrying mosquitos that call the swamp home sealed my decision.

So, I’m stuck inside.

I did manage to just go walk around the grounds for a while. I do need some exercise, and it is very pleasant tonight, 86° and gentle winds. Not too bad! I even got a glimpse at the sunset. So all tolled, not a bad evening. I’ll probably work for a bit then head on down to the Premier Lounge for some snacks. I’m too full for a full meal.


Tomorrow morning my travel partner and I discussed going on a short tour, but he’s not feeling well tonight. Seems he has not had the best of luck gastrointestinal-ly in India. I should have told him about the endoscopy conference. I’m not sure if I’m willing to venture out on my own, after seeing a lot of Hyderabad already on the journey to and from work. Besides, the flight is at 5pm, so I need to be here at 2:30. I don’t know…I’m on the fence. I feel a bit adventurous, but my spidey-senses are telling me to err on the side of caution and just stay around here.


Night out

My coworker and I were invited out for dinner by our host group. It was another opportunity to enjoy the cuisine and capture a little bit more of the culture. The food was very good and our hosts and us had a very interesting conversation about India, cultural differences and travel.

I really couldn’t tell where the restaurant was in respect to my hotel or the office, since it blended in well with the landscape, as does most every other business. The street was busy and loud, the buildings holding a vast mixture of different types of business, scaffolding here and there, and lots of small carts and auto rickshaws buzzing by.

The interior was quite unique. It was a buffet-style restaurant, with a couple tables built in to “re-purposed” auto rickshaws. In the center of the buffet line was a huge living tree that reached it’s canopy out over the serving line. It was very modern and elegant, and everyone enjoyed the evening.

There were some interesting murals on the wall. Here, you’ll have to see for yourself…

Chicken Man


Buffet line



Rickshaw table




Minority Report

You know, I just realized something interesting.

Here in India, I’m definitely in the minority. In fact, the only other caucasians I’ve seen were at the hotel, and then there were maybe 2 or 3 only. So for me it’s a fairly radical departure to my usual environment. But you know what? I really don’t notice it all.

I thought that was utterly fascinating. Not so much in how I might be perceived (yes, I have received a few stares as I walk around), but more in how I perceive myself and my surroundings. I feel completely comfortable and at ease.

Perhaps it’s just that my presence here is readily accepted the indigenous population. Certainly in larger cities like Hyderabad and Bangalore, seeing the occasional white guy probably doesn’t create a sensation. If I decided to venture out into the countryside, I might see a couple more wide eyes.

But even so, it’s an interesting observation to me. I really don’t feel like I’m any different, even though at least in appearance I am quite so. It just goes to show that the color of your skin needn’t make you “different” as long as your accepted by everyone.

That’s kinda cool.

Second night in Hyderabad

Yesterday was productive. We met the team, discussed goals and…well, work stuff.

But this blog isn’t about work stuff.

So the first non-work thing was lunch, which was *at* work, but not really *about* work. It was about trying the culinary delights of India!

The local cafeteria is huge, and the area we were in had 3 venues. One Indian chain called “4 Seasons”, a Subway sammich shop and a Dominos pizza. Although my brain chose pizza right away, telling me “duh, that was easy”, I opted to try the local fare. So, I had chicken biryani, which is basically a coupe pieces of chicken and some rice, plus a small salad of carrots and cucumbers, and a tasty cucumber desert. It was quite good and spicy. I’m glad they provided the cucumber. It acts as the dishes “cooling agent”.

The ride back to the hotel was, once again, like a scary movie that you’re cast in where there are no stunt doubles. I’ve taken to looking out the side window as opposed to front window for the same reasons I mentioned earlier. I managed to snap some more pictures of traffic and the goings-on en-route. In fact, here’s a short movie…

Hyderabad Traffic

The hotel was busy when I returned, and I finally made the connection that there is a convention center directly adjacent to the hotel. I walked around a bit and heard what appeared to be some live-music concert. There were several events going on, including an outdoor dinner buffet. I walked a bit outside, still on the hotel grounds, and just enjoyed the evening air. Not too warm, not too chilly. Looking up I noticed the Orion constellation, which was weird because I also see it from California. Maybe not now, tho. I have to check when I get back.

By now I was getting tired, so I headed back to the room. On the way I found the “Premier Lounge”, to which I was told I have access. So after grabbing the copy of the SF Chronicle I grabbed from the airport, I walked over and actually relaxed for a bit. Snacks and coffee were served, and the atmosphere was excellent. I’ll definitely return in the evenings. It beats sitting in the room watching TV.

Work day #1

So far everything is going swell.

I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to get to the office today, but the fine folks at Novotel had a car waiting for me, and outside of me not having the proper office address, everything went smoothly.

Our sponsors here have been great, and I had a chance to meet the “offshore” staff whilst “onshore”, which was my top goal. It’s always good to put faces to email addresses, and to have the chance to collaborate real-time as opposed to “near real-time”.

The campus is beautiful. I’d love to go around taking pictures, but it expressly says I can’t do that on my visitor badge. Ah well, I’m sure there are plenty on-line already.

I’m looking forward already to eplxoring and relaxing at Novotel this evening. The plan is to hit the gym for a bit. I’m tempted to jump in the pool after dark and relax, but now I’m worrying more about the large, and I mean LARGE, pond out behind the hotel property. I just barely got my vaccinations in time for the trip and I really don’t want to put them to the test if I can avoid it.

Finally made it

Hyderabad airportMeeting the crowds

After a short hop from Dubai, here I am in Hyderabad. The flight was good enough, and I ate well…TOO well. I had ordered the mezze platter and some fruit, wanting to err on the lighter side, but the flight attendant told me they were out. So, she brought a couple alternatives instead, including some smoked salmon and a curry potato dish. They were yummy. However, as I dug in, she appeared again with a mezze platter from First Class! Not wanting to be rude, I thanked her and accepted it. Now my tray was full of food again, which is what I was trying to avoid. Everything was delicious and I was soon over any guilt for overeating. Hey, you only fly once halfway around the world in business class,! Right, Dave? 🙂

After picking up my luggage and converting $100 to Rupees, I found my driver, a local by the name of Christopher Joseph. We left the airport in a nice Emirates car and headed out in the darkness to the hotel.

I think I went a bit more gray after that ride.

First off, some observations. These are not meant to be specifically against the wonderful people of Hyderabad, who have, to wit, been very accommodating and quite nice. But the fact of the matter is, I became quickly convinced that traffic here is at best organized chaos. It’s also clear to me that I could never operate a vehicle here, not without killing myself or others.

I think I can best portray the movement of cars, motorbikes and pedestrians as a well-orchestrated ballet. Expressive, flowing, and at all times on the knife’s edge of impending doom and destruction.

The first thing Christopher warned me about is that “there are really no traffic rules”. This got the blood pumping right away. While we were on the open highway, I saw a few sparse examples, like the truck parked in the far lane, facing the wrong way, with his bright lights on (Christopher reacted most expertly in avoiding certain doom). I also didn’t hear much of the legendary honking I’ve read about.

That was because we were still on the highway, at night, on a Monday.

Getting closer to town I realized the full and awesome spectacle that is Indian vehicle traffic. I actually had to look away from the front window, MANY times, just because I didn’t want to “see it coming”.

Nobody stayed in their lanes, I was completely surprised by the number of motorbikes carrying 2 people, both of whom wore sandals and maybe one helmet between them (about half), and just how utterly precise one’s skills have to be to pass another vehicle with only INCHES between! I’m not kidding. Inches. I was telling myself, far too often, “Oh yeah, we’re going to lose some paint this time.”

The other behavior I didn’t expect was people brazen enough to just step off the side of the road and cross while this metal-and rubber ballet continued without losing it’s pace. I remember seeing just faces..calm faces…as people appeared from nowhere right before us. I’m sure my brake foot has several sprains I haven’t yet noticed.

It was literally a hair-raising experience. We made it to the hotel safely though, and the only reason I figure we did is that everyone is intimately familiar with the ebb and flow of the chaos, and so it’s just natural for everyone to expect and react to what I saw as certain metal-crunching doom.

So, last night was an exciting start. Today my coworker and I are off to meetings at the remote campus, so it looks like most the day will be spent in meet-and-greet. And so until later, adieu.


Enjoying Shiraz at DBX

Well, after a nervous wait for the shuttle back from the Mall to the Marriott, I’m happy to report I’m back at Dubai International airport, enjoying a nice Shiraz in the Business Class lounge. Dave was right, they take good care of you on Emirates. I’ll have to save up to bring Sheila out here one of these years for some golf, beach-bumming and shopping. And of course, a trip to the top of the Burj Khalifa!