We have some to rest now. Yesterday we moved into our flat in Begumpet, Hyderabad. The view from Dehli was hot and cloudy. So our arrival in Hyderabad was pleasantly surprising. The rain was cool, and the breezes come an go, keeping us fairly comfortable. Hyderabad turns out to be as welcoming on my return as I had hoped.
The Nitty Gritty
Our flat was a bit of a chore. The support provided by a Fulbright Fellowship is substantial. In fact, any trouble we’ve had finding a place to move into has come from my insistence on keeping within a budget that allows us to exceed the 6 month time frame of the grant stay. We want to use up our visa’s, and I hope to add some personal work on the back end of our stay. As it stands, we are still living a very expensive life here relatively speaking. We are also spoiling these two children with rooms of their own. It is a bit ridiculous really, but in the end I think their separate rooms are more for Stephanie and me, than for them. One less contentious issue between two 12-year-olds is one less reason to consider ways to send them home.
The chore comes from trying to find a place inside of my budget (₹26,000 total, Rent, Utilities, Technology). The first offer was from the United States India Educational Foundation itself, who is funding our trip. The flat they told me about while in Delhi was about to be vacated by another Fulbright recipient: ₹40,000 rent. This flat was in a district named Jubilee Hills, which is popular with the ex-pat community, and wealthy Hyderabad residents. I did not get the details, as this is a fair distance from my post at St. Francis, and the rent alone is beyond my plans. There were moments in the last week where I considered abandoning my budget guidelines for expediency. Luckily, once I was at St. Francis, everyone around me was on board with the budget, the distance, and our requirements. Today, I am happy that we stayed the course.
On the day that I arrived in Begumpet, and went to St. Francis to meet everyone, I was clear about wanting to stay in the neighborhood of the school. The sisters and my colleagues at the college immediately answered that this would be very difficult, and that the neighborhood was quite expensive. As I mentioned before, we hope to make this budget last beyond the terms of the grant, and have been given permission to do so. However, the relative generosity of a Fulbright Fellowship has come into stark relief now that we are deep into the process. For some of my peers from the United States, a Fulbright is a financial sacrifice, I am certain. For me, it has been quite a windfall. In relative terms, as a non-tenured lecturer from a fine arts department, I am actually much closer to my Indian colleagues in terms of the cost of living we exercise at home. I’m not sure I have an opinion formed about this just yet. I am only full of observations at this point.
Truth be told, had I not come to Hyderabad in 2008 and made some connections, I doubt I could have even entertained the budget I’m attempting now with a family in tow. I can only gush on and on about how lucky I am to be here right now, and know the people I know here.
My friend KG, who has become Deputy Editor for a local culture magazine, Channel 6, has been the pillar of our visit so far.
Without him, our flat would still be a question, and tonight I would be sleeping on the floor for the second night in a row as we waited for beds to be delivered. KG is the master of Hyderabad. He’s got a no nonsense approach to most everything, which is likely the reason we have stayed in touch for these past 5 years. He knows where all the food is, and how to get things done on the fly. A ride on the back of his motorbike down Ameerpet road, and there- everyone has a place to sleep tonight!
This is the Hyderabad that I remember best. Everything begins with a motorbike ride, and ends with some food and a place to sleep.
Romance aside, what I think I’m saying here is that support systems matter. It’s this wonderful outpouring of support for a week that has made any of this possible. From Pranay’s assistance with phones (you must have a mobile) and KG’s assistance with everything else, to the new connections with my peers and students at St. Francis and the people of USIEF, the support has been priceless. Certainly, the grant would be enough to just drop us off here and we could make it. Right now though, I already feel like I’m living here again. I am grateful for friends, old and new. And, yes, many of the things that we undertake are on the expensive side. This occurs due to expedience, and also to the fact that we pay a certain premium because of the assumptions attached to us on sight. I can’t claim that these assumptions are inaccurate when it comes to money. We are most often willing to pay more for things, especially this early in a trip. On the other hand, we don’t have any trouble with eating the food, nor are we looking for the nearest church.
What a week. Time to go to sleep. Tomorrow, I’ll be watching Sanjay Kak present his new documentary, Red Ant Dream, at St. Francis College. I’m excited for this, as I have wondered about the Maoists ever since the first time I came to Hyderabad, and happened to be in the police station while 3 Maoists were brought in under arrest.
Now that the first week is over, the next task is language re-acquisition. Also, I need to come up with some posts that do not ramble.
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