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City of Pearls

Hyderabad, India

sunny 98 °F

The next destination on the journey was Hyderabad, a city in the center of India that is famous for its pearls, diamonds, and delicious Biryani. More recently, the city has become India's home to a plethora of Western companies from Deloitte to Google to Novartis. I only had a little bit more than 48 hours in the city, and after some much needed sleep, I ventured out on Thursday to see what it had to offer.

The first stop of the day was the Qutb Shahi Tombs, final resting place of seven kings and their wives. The tombs are situated across a sprawling complex in Hyderabad, and they were built at various times between 1518 CE and 1687 CE. They were in various states of repair due to ongoing refurbishment, and some looked very new while others looked like they had been left to the elements in the five centuries since they had been built.

Tomb with a reflecting pool at the base

Another tomb, not yet restored

A tomb in the middle of being refurbished

The inside of the refurbished tomb

Another recently completed

The second stop was Golkanda fort, the capital of the Qutb Shahi dynasty. The fort is unique because of a collection of clever engineering marvels. The main gate is almost a perfect right angle, this design was used in order to prevent war elephants from having enough room to charge and topple the gate. The base of the fort has a large atrium where soldiers could simply clap if an invading army was approaching, and the sound of the clap could be heard at the top of the fort, one kilometer away. The halls were designed so that wind could be funneled to the interior of the fort during the oppressive summer heat, forming an early version of an air conditioning system. Lastly, the fort had an intricate network of pipes that allowed the fort to continue to get water from four surrounding lakes during weeks where invading armies would lay siege to the outside of the fort. Golkanda is also famous because it once housed the Hope Diamond in its vaults.

The main courtyard

The hallway leading up to the top

The massive boulders surrounding the fort, a defining feature of Hyderabad

A view from the other side

The King's quarters can be seen at the top

As we traveled back to the hotel, my driver recounted an interesting legend about the Indian king, Jai Singh. In 1920, he went for a walk in London in his civilian clothes and came across a Rolls Royce dealership. He tried to ask the salesman questions about the cars on display, but the British salesman took one look at the Indian man in plain clothes and escorted him out the door.

He went back to his hotel room, changed into Royal garb, and instructed his servants to call the dealership and inform them that the Maharaja of Alwar in Rajasthan was interested in coming to the store to purchase a car (after researching the story in more detail, the legend may actually be about King Nizam of Hyderabad, but all the other details hold true). He returned to the store, dressed in full royal attire, and a red carpet awaited him with a full team of salesman. He paid for six cars in cash and instructed them to be shipped immediately to India.

This is where the story gets interesting. He converted all of the cars to garbage collection trucks because of the initial salesman's slight, and word quickly spread back to Britain that luxury cars were being used as garbage trucks in India. The revenue of Rolls Royce plummeted because previously interested buyers began looking down on the company because they knew that India used the cars to collect trash. When Rolls Royce realized its mistake, they sent a telegram to the king and apologized profusely. The company offered to give him six more cars for free in order to make up for the way he had been treated. Satisfied with the proposed reparation, the Indian king accepted the gift and stopped using the cars for trash collection.

That evening, I rendezvoused with the Deloitte staff to watch a friendly game of cricket. Cricket is the national sport of India (they are about as passionate about it as Americans are about the NFL), and this was my opportunity to learn a bit more about the game. It's amazingly similar to baseball except there are only two innings, the bat is flat instead of round, each team pitches a set number of times (instead of having outs), and two batters take turns hitting. The star players on each team were the ladies, and the two stars each accounted for the lion share of their respective team's runs. In the end, Danielle's team made a good showing but lost the match 98-94.

Danielle getting warmed up for her Deloitte cricket game

The star player of the Red team

And her star counterpart for the Grey team

Graceful even in defeat

Day 2 in Hyderabad started out with a trip to the Sudha Cars museum in the south of the city. I had heard about a man named K. Sudhakar who built his first bike when he was 14 and, soon after, decided to try to make abstract things into motorized vehicles. I will let the pictures speak for themselves, but ALL of these cars actually work and can get you from point A to B. The comfort and street legality of said cars is still up for debate.

Arriving at the museum

The world's largest tricycle

It was definitely wacky

The lipstick car can go up to 18 mph on a 60 cc engine, and it took five months to build and was completed in 2012. The bag car can go up to 31 mph on a 100 cc engine, and the construction took 14 months

Stiletto car

Sofa car

My favorite, the toilet car!

Camera car

I want Windows XP back

Nice car, but probably tough to park

A fellow warrior in public health

My last site was a Hindu temple called Birla Mandir. The temple was constructed and 1976 and is made completely out of marble, 2,000 tons of it! The murals, statues, and shrines are all carved into the facade. They strictly prohibited cameras, so I was only really able to get one good shot of it before entering (see below). The craftsmanship is stunning, and I spent a lot of time looking at the detail of each of the murals. I really wish I was able to show pictures of this amazing site, but alas, those of you interested in this architecture will have to make the journey yourselves. Together with the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, I feel incredibly lucky to have seen two remarkable places of worship on this trip so far.

Birla Mandir

My trip to Hyderabad was short, but it is definitely worth visiting should you find yourself in India. Off to Bandhavgarh, more to come soon!

Posted by mbeymer 08:27 Archived in India

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