The First Day

Daniel Robert Kelly - photo
Where did I leave that? How did I get up here?

Today I started teaching at St. Francis College for Women, in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India. So far my return to Hyderabad has been very nice. The friends I’ve kept in touch with have been kind and helpful.

I’m excited to be here. The sound-scape is amazing and, as I remembered, the palette of India is a non-stop parade of color and light.

The rain has been a bit of a surprise. While it was a pleasant relief for us compared to the heat on our arrival in New Delhi, I imagine that my Hyderabadi friends have had just about enough of the grey and wet days that are the monsoon. As I write this, the near constant drizzle that has been here since our arrival has turned into a real downpour. Given that a major mode of transport for most is a motorbike, I can see how after a couple of months, this might be a bit of a drag. Already two friends and a real estate agent have decided that the rain was enough to cancel meetings.

I had felt that I was familiar with this city from my last trip. It felt as if I had been all over the place here, and that I would be returning to something at least vaguely familiar. However, I am seeing how that feeling is more a product of pleasant memory than an accounting of actuality. I have barely scratched the surface of this sprawling small city of India (ok, it’s the 4th largest, 6.8 million, says Wikipedia). What’s more, everything I thought I knew has been replaced or added to with something bigger. There are moments of recognition, of course. Mostly they are from the video I shot while I was here last. Overall though, Hyderabad is an exploding city in an emergent economy, and I am a tiny, early career Fulbright Fellow, at a Catholic Women’s College, 8166.57 miles from home. Again. I need a motorbike. I need to regain and immediately add to the paltry language skills I had before I left last time.

I am encouraged by my peers at St. Francis, and by the students there. There is a strange synchronicity at work, although I don’t yet want to call it out. I am also encouraged by my students as well. Hopefully that encouragement will carry me through my current culture shock. I am once again struck by the differences in the approach to space and time- two things one would think are universal in human experience, and yet can be so different across the two cultures. Hyderabad, mapped by Google, with reviews pinned to various locations and GPS coordinates, is not a Cartesian coordinate society. Official position here is always relative to oneself, or a known landmark. That is how navigation is both accomplished and related. “Beside Lifestyle Building Lane,” or “near nectar gardens,” are real addresses, real coordinates, in the Hyderabadi system. As before, after 6 means 8:30, or perhaps not at all, although lately I’ve been surprised by a couple moments of extreme punctuality or even early arrivals. Change, of course, is the only constant; albeit in the case of Hyderabad, this trip, and myself in India, change might better be described as an exponent.

 

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