The paint job is sloppy. Blotches of paint invade the boundaries of the hand-made signs, creating ruins of rectangles. And then there’s that distinctive smell, a smell unlike any other, the smell of Hyderabad’s airport — distant relative of the smell of the airport in Bombay.
We’re out and about. I look outside of the window of the ambassador, and see the driver of an autorickshaw looking pensively at his handle-bars and I wish I had my camera with me. But I don’t like taking photographs of random people engaged in their daily activities. Makes me feel like I’m intruding. I’ll have to figure that one out.
Later, I’m reading a newspaper and on the business page there’s a tiny little ad with the photograph of a young but obese woman. She has kidney disease and needs a transplant. It costs Rs. 5,00,000 and her father simply can’t afford the sum. He takes out an ad in the paper — on the business page — asking for donations from kind-hearted individuals. And most people in India still live on less than a dollar a day. Beneath the fold in another daily, there is an advertisement from the Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers* — fertilizers are in abundance in India. I wonder who the ad is supposed to be reassuring. Every month, dozens of farmers commit suicide in Andhra Pradesh because they’re unable to support themselves and their families. Dozens more all over India.
Here, in Hyderabad’s Old City, beggars make housecalls every afternoon, standing outside the gate of the house until someone gives them money or shoos them away.
After school, children play cricket or football in the street outside the house making a lot of noise. I’m trying to take a nap and their ruckus wakes me up. I look outside, see them playing in their blue uniforms, and I go back to sleep. The next day my grandfather tells them to go play elsewhere, this isn’t a playground.
The media is all over the Left’s opposition to Congress’s increasing ties with the U.S. The Left is rejecting a new nuclear cooperation deal that requires India to buy into the Washington consensus on Iran in return of recognition (of India being a stable and responsible nuclear power) and other benefits. Congress needs the Left’s support in parliament.
Most signs are still hand-painted. But the Telugu Desam Party and the BJP have sharp, shiny signs printed out and placed outside their offices in various parts of the Old City. The BJP, tellingly, has no Urdu on its signs — just Telugu and English. The TDP has all three. There’s a CPI(M) office (or something) somewhere near Charminar but I saw that two years ago and don’t know where it is now.
But I’m here for a couple of weddings. The last two out of the ten of my mother’s siblings to get married. Not my turn, not yet. I realize that I inhabit a completely different moral universe. More on that later, perhaps.
* Earlier I wrote that the ad was provided by the Ministry of Agriculture. That’s not correct. Apparently, India has an entire ministry dedicated to chemicals and fertilizers.