Friday, March 07, 2008

An afternoon in Bijapur

I've had the most amazingly fantastic afternoon! On my way back to the hotel I was persuaded to take a tour in horse-drawn rickshaw (local transport, not a tourist novelty - as I said, this place sees only a few dozen foreign tourists a week). He drove me around the sights - a massive cannon, a medieval watchtower, a couple of mosques, and ended at the town's largest monument, Gol Gumbaz.

The grounds around Gol Gumbaz are a popular picnic spot, and as I walked up the path I caught the interest of a group of Muslim women and children. They invited me to sit with them, I took some photos, they offered me lunch. The matriarch piled my plate high from several containers (they thoughtfully provided me with a spoon for my rice, though they ate with their fingers). Oh, and - this one's for Roger - they were impressed with my Hindi when I said chapati!

Two hours, 20 photos, a gift of a necklace and three exhausting games of tag later, they invited me to their home. I said I would love to, of course. The three older girls (two 20-year-olds and a 14-year-old) disappeared back under their black overcoats and veils (I guess married women don't wear them?) and off we went. I was again glad I decided to invest in a few salwar kamiz for myself when one of the ladies pointed out a foreign couple and expressed disapproval at the woman's outfit: T-shirt and knee-length skirt.

It turns out they're from three separate households, all neighbours, so I spent the evening shuttling between the three, drinking chai, watching Bollywood movies (sometimes in colour, sometimes in black & white), and entertaining small children and the inevitable curious onlookers. I finished up at the home of the only English-speaker in the group, for a dinner of spicy rice and fried chicken. It was very tasty, although as guest of honour, they had obviously given me all the 'best' bits - the most succulent bits - the bits next to the bone. And we all know what I'm like with meat on the bone. But I was very good (despite still being full from the massive late lunch) - I even tackled the curried hard-boiled egg.

Eventually I felt it was time for me to get back, and announced my departure. They were worried about me walking the short distance to my hotel alone in the dark, but I assured them that an autorickshaw would know it. In the end they put me on the back of English-speaker's father's motorbike, and all three families waved me off as I left.

Indians can also spot a foreigner on the back of a motorbike, in the dark, behind the glare of the headlamp.


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