(This the first part of a series of bogs I plan to write about my visit to India 29th-6th Feb 2011)
I had a week off for Chinese New Year between the 29th and 6th of February. This was the best time I thought, to visit my hometown, Hyderabad in India to spend a few days with my mother and sister who live there. My daughter Akanksha who is waiting for her 'A' level results also accompanied me.
Its a strange mixture of conflicting feelings that I experience whenever I go home to Hyderabad. I am happy to go home, but the strangeness of the city I grew up in makes me sad and happy and bewitched and angry and proud all at the same time.
We landed in the brand new Hyderabad airport at Shamshabad, at about 3.30pm. Lovely airport --didn't feel like India at all--rather, a great international airport. I was asked to come to the departure area and give a "missed call" to Hyder, our driver, who has been with my parents for the past 19 years. Giving this missed call would enable Hyder to drive into the departure area from where it was more convenient to pick us up. Hyder will never park at the parking lot because he doesn't like paying the parking fee. So he will arrive at the airport, wait at a distance from the airport and wait for our "missed call".
As we drove home to Begumpet from the airport, I thought of Thomas Hardy's book title--The Return of the Native. That title summed up what I felt. The long fly-over took us from the airport at Shamshabad to Mehdipatnam--where the college I taught Psychology for 5 years between 1990 and 1995 is located. As we passed that road, through Masab Tank and Banjara Hills to Panjaguta.....memories of years gone by flooded my mind. How many times have I driven on that route! How different that route was now! At least 2 fly-overs have sprung up, and hordes of shopping malls dot the road now making the once deserted route a hustle and bustle of activity.
We finally reached home that is located in the heart of the city, in the midst of shopping centers --Shopper's Stop, Nalli's Silk , Pantaloons and Lifestyle! My mind went back to year November 1981, when we first moved to Mayuri Apartments, Begumpet. The road would be empty with just a few vehicles passing once in 10-15mins. Now there is hardly any silence for 10-15 seconds.
It's good to see that Hyderabad has such an excellent, world class airport. It is sad to see the heavy traffic on the road with constant noise from honking vehicles---crazy, crazy traffic. It's great to see the shopping malls, indicative of economic prosperity and material progress and at the same time sad that the quietness and calmness of a city I knew is lost. It's good to see the vibrancy in the faces of people--they seem happy and excited and alive. The once sleepy Hyderabad has become crowded with people and vehicle traffic, noisy and polluted.
Ironically, in this very city, on its outskirts, began my inward journey into the depths of my mind, freeing it from many shackles and bondages, and putting me on the road to real peace and real happiness: The 10 day Vipassana course at Dhamma Khetta, Vanasathalipuram, on the Nagarjuna Sagar Road.