Monday, January 12, 2009

Khojo Hyderabad

1/12/09  (I posted something below this today also.  Check it out.  Otherwise you won't get to hear about my supercool yoga instructor)

Yesterday, all the students of CIEE Hyderabad Spring 2009 took part in the much anticipated “Khojo Hyderabad”.  Khojo is the Urdu word for “discover”.  The program coordinators refused to give us any kind of details about the activity beforehand, except that we would need sunscreen, and our ids, so we were pretty confused when we all assembled Sunday morning at 9:15. 


Khojo Hyderabad turned out to be an “Amazing race” style scavenger hunt taking place all over the city of Hyderabad.  We were divided in six teams, given 600 rupees for transportation.  The idea was that we had to reach each destination in as little time as possible, and by spending as little money as possible.  Once at our destination, we would have to answer a set of questions about the place.  After hearing the rules, we were set loose with our clues.  Part one was on the University Campus, and we had to answer such questions as “Which is the first building to the left as you enter the main gate?”  “What is the name of a librarian in the University library?”  And so on.  We then had a “treasure hunt” during a clue led us to a location.  In this location was hidden our “treasure”.  We found our location right away.  We searched for our treasure for a long time but could not find it.  Thinking we must have gone to the wrong place, we asked one of the coordinators for help.  He looked, and said that someone must have taken it.  Our team had lost valuable time, so we rushed to move on to part two of Khojo Hyderabad.


Part two had us going into the city on a bus.  Keep in mind that this is a race.  If you miss one bus, who knows when the next will come?  This knowledge spurred my teammates and me to chase down a bus on our bikes until it finally stopped.  Unfortunately, one of the team members was having bike problems and fell far behind.  A Hindi speaking team member begged the bus driver to wait as our friend dragged her bike to the bus stop.  Fortunately, he did wait.  And we were off.


Our first destination was the Safrani school, the headquarters of Safrani Exports, run by Suraiya Hassan Bose.  Safrani exports is a company that produces traditional Indian textiles (Kalamkari style.  In Hindi, Kalam=pen, kari=craftsmanship).  All of the fabrics are woven the old way on handlooms; no machines are used.  Though some of the textiles have patterns and designs woven into them, many of the rugs are patterned using block prints.  The Safrani School educates the children of the weavers free of charge.  Suraiya believes strongly in the importance of keeping her native craft alive; she remembers attending a bonfire at the age of five at which all of the family’s British made possessions were burned.  She took us on a tour of the workshop, and told us about the weaving process.  After answering the questions on our sheet, we were off…


Next was lunch, which sounds easy, but we had to get there first!  Our rickshaw wallah was pretty ornery about prices, but we were in a hurry and just jumped in anyway.  It was pretty tight; I was kind of spread out over several laps.  As we went up a hill, the rickshaw’s engine seemed to fail.  We started creeping along at snailspace.  The driver eventually had to get out and start pushing!  Though the situation was quite ridiculous, he wouldn’t let us off until we coasted down a hill to a stop.  We then ran off and found another rickshaw. 


After lunch we were off to the Salar Jung museum, home to the biggest one man collection of antiques in the world.  The one man who amassed this collection was Nawab Mir Yousuf Ali Khan Salar Jung III, a former Prime Minister of the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad.  We rushed madly around the museum answering the questions on our question sheet.  Though it was rushed, we got to see a lot of beautiful things: toys (including antique dollhouses, trainsets and geisha dolls), far Eastern ceramics, statues and other art, Indian textiles and paintings…really, the list is endless.  I’m not a huge museum person, but it was pretty interesting.  I might go back sometime.


Time for part three, the Vivekanada Institute of Human Excellence.  But we had to get there first.  My team got a rickshaw at about the same time as two other teams.  Determined to beat them, we told our driver to go faster.  Apparently the other teams did the same thing, because before we knew it we were in a full on rickshaw race!  The drivers got really into it and were laughing and shouting at one another across traffic.  It was pretty epic.  Once again I was sitting on a lap, holding, white knuckled, onto the bar in front of me.  (Sorry Mom and Dad)  It was very epic, and tons of fun.  Everyone was really into it, which got pretty hilarious.  “Do you want some yogurt [to eat] with my dust?!!”  And so on.  Our drivers messed with us at times too, which raised the stakes even higher.  Our guy stopped outside of a pearl shop at one point.  “Would you like to go shopping?” he asked innocently.  After hearing the resounding “NO!!!!!!!!!!  DRIVE!!!!!  FASTER!!!!!!!”  he shrugged, and we were off again.  Once we reached our destination we jumped off our rickshaws and sprinted through the gates so as to be the first to reach the program coordinators.  We had beat them.  So much for that… 


The Vivekanada Institute of Human Excellence is basically a religious center for those who follow the teachings of Swami Vivekanada.  I think the religion is Ramakrishna Math (I was pretty tired during the lecture, and the lecturer had a very thick accent)  He stressed physical, spiritual, intellectual, social, and emotional health. (I think the program coordinators put this destination  last very deliberately--some people were getting very competitive and emotions were running dangerously high).  After this we were ready to go home.


Just so you all know, my team did not win the grand prize of 12,000 rupees.  Or the 2nd prize of 10,000, or the third prize of 8,000.  But that’s ok.  We Khojo-ed Hyderabad, and that was the point of the day.   

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