A Weekend With Bharavi & Sugathi
Last weekend I accompanied Emma, Jenny and Alex on a weekend trip to visit our lovely India hosts, Bharavi and Sugathi in Secunderabad. Two buses and an auto away from Kismatpur, they actually live in a tiny town called Ammuguda; where their airy home sits overlooking lots of colourful houses and has a really gorgeous view. It was particularly beautiful bathed in afternoon light, with the sun filtering through meandering branches as Bharavi showed us his much-grown red-chilli plant and gave us a tour of his cabinet full of little odds and ends he's collected or been given over the years.
After lunch on Saturday we relaxed and watched Big Bang Theory and Friends on TV as we waited for Jenny and Emma to arrive. After a wee catch up when they arrived we went to a little arts & crafts market in Secunderabad in Bharavi's little car, which involved Emma & I sitting on Jenny & Alex's knees and laughing at the stares we got from passers by whenever we stopped. I got a new watch and a purse which I'm very happy with. Indian markets are so colourful and lovely. We came home and Sugathi made another lovely meal for us - getting food not made in LVPEI is a highlight wherever we go, but it's extra special when Sugathi makes it because her food is amazing!
We set up the beds in our little room, chose some books from the library built up by previous volunteers and got ready for bed, with Emma, Jenny and Alex in the big bed, and me on a single on the floor (benefit of being a kicking-prone sleeptalker is never sharing a bed!) only waking up at 7 the next morning to the sound of Sia blasting somewhere, and two noisy pigeons having a fight outside our window. I had breakfast whilst unsuccessfully swatting mosquitoes that were determined to bite my feet and felt truly at home. Bharavi and Sugathi are endlessly hospitable and kind. We stayed until early afternoon and I had a really wonderful time.
Then Sugathi walked us to Ammuguda station, where our train was delayed for 25 minutes.When it finally arrived, we hopped on, clutching our little cardboard tickets tightly. Everything was going well until four stops out of the six to Secunderabad, the train stopped for about ten-fifteen minutes. We were a little confused, until an announcement came over in Telugu saying our train would no longer be stopping at Secunderabad. Finally realising why so many people had been getting off and going to this other train on the other side of the massive platform, we jumped off the train and ran across. Jenny & I managed to get a hold of the train just as it was beginning to move, and were hauled on by two men, but poor Alex and Emma had to jump on as it was moving, making it a little bit harder. So scary! As soon as we were all on safely we descended into the we-just-jumped-on-a-moving-train hysterics, and it gave a good hostel-dinner-table story, so it was a good laugh, even if I never, ever want to jump on a moving train again. I suppose it's one to cross off a bucket list though!
Anyways, dangerous things we probably shouldn't have done aside, we made it back to Secunderabad in one piece, which is what matters. It was also so lovely to spend time with everyone - our hyderafamily- and to see a little bit more of the city. The train station is just beside Secunderabad market too, so when we arrived we did a wee bit of shopping for all the little things we were needing. Then, in the catastrophically busy Secunderabad Market, Jenny spotted a pop-up Christmas shop!
Unable to resist going in, we both ended up buying Christmas decorations for our room and the shop assistant was so sweet that he gave us a 25% discount on everything. How many Christmas shops do that three weeks before Christmas?
The experiences of last weekend were entirely surreal but also honest-to-goodness fun and generally hilarious. Lovely friends were made and many interesting people met and I learnt my new favourite Hindi phrase (‘bas theek’!) A perfect weekend has been followed by a lovely, albeit strangely calm week, which I am incredibly thankful for.
Parts of LV Prasad are currently in the middle of a complete renovation, and one such place is directly outside the education department and thus everyone's patience has been rather tested. It was fine for the first few days, but after nearly a month of constant noise, coupled with sights that would give anyone remotely concerned with health and safety a heart-attack and lessons being regularly disrupted by the sound of drilling, manoeuvring cranes and the sound of bricks falling to the ground from a great height, we have all temporarily relocated to another corridor.
We're beginning to see things quieten down again, and our four classes have been temporarily reduced to just two again. The majority of our VTs leave on the 24th of December, and are in the midst of exams, so our 8:30am English Class is postponed until a new batch of VTs arrive in the new year. Nevertheless everyone is friendly, all our students are bright and funny and the trees outside every window are still as green and blooming with flowers as ever which lifts my spirits every time I look at outside. I have enjoyed getting all my Christmas mail, as one of the mail men in LVPEI is possibly the happiest old man I have ever met. Every morning he waves as we arrive into the hospital, exclaiming ‘Good Morning Mams!’ in exuberant tones and bringing a smile to everybody’s faces. We have simple conversations in Telugu whenever I pass his desk, and when I pronounce a new phrase correctly I know because he grins and tells me I'm super. Yesterday he sat down beside me at breakfast to ask how I was getting on with such heart-wrenching kindness I almost wanted to cry. We're made to feel so welcome here.
I am still enjoying talking with the classes and getting to know my students, (150 people and counting) , but we especially love the nurses who are so cheerful and energetic now they're all back from the chickenpox outbreak. Alex was teaching them some idioms the other day, like 'bull in a china shop' but at our end of the week quiz, when I asked what animal it was, I was treated to "cat! no, no mam dog! pig! yes mam, pig! ELEPHANT MAM! ELEPHANT! no mam it's a goat! Lizard! Lion mam! Not lion mam- tiger! mamm" They’re comically sweet, but I don't think any of them got full marks in that quiz! Our mornings are filled with fun, but in the afternoon our older students tell us about their children, or places we need to visit, their Christmas plans, and baby due-dates and it's so subtle but already we can see their English improving, which is so encouraging.
I am still besotted with Hyderabad. The dusty streets and the hanging baskets of flowers in the middle of the roads, the old men in punjabis standing on their doorsteps watching the day pass by, the wind dancing along the surface of the lake, the buildings painted in colours so bright they make even the greyest day more lively; it’s dreamlike. Today a tourist on the bus stopped me to ask for directions (she said I looked Indian! hurrah!) She was incredibly sweet and after figuring out where we were on my map and thanking me profusely, she and her two companions whipped their floral handkerchiefs out of their handbags and waved goodbye to me as I got off the bus and went down the street. We've also had our fair share of hilarious auto-drivers recently, our favourite being the man who was so delighted to have 'Americans' in his auto. We said we were from the UK about three times, but he kept saying things like 'dollar' 'obama' and 'usa' - even shouting at a car that nearly hit him about how he was driving americans - that eventually we didn’t feel like breaking his heart by telling him we weren’t even from America. It was just another reminder of how friendly people are here, and how willing people are to make a connection with complete strangers. It’s such a refreshing change.
Goodness, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to writing so much about myself! Please do tell me how you are doing too! I hope you’re well. If you get the chance- send me a letter and I'll write back!
Lots of love! xx
i take the loveliest photos of Alex getting ready :P
Bharavi put our pocket money in personalised envelopes!
the noisy pigeons!
when you catch that pesky mosquito!
Bharavi's red hot chilli peppers ;)
Sugathi making lunch
Bharavi and his notebook (full of quotes, interesting thoughts and notes about us all)
buying our train tickets!
Cardboard train tickets!
trains so seldom pass through that this is considered perfectly safe!
enjoying our wee train ride before we jumped onto a moving one!