Ughhh something finally got to me. Last night, this morning, most of the day, I was not at full functioning capacity. After a hotel-ridden morning of dizziness and napping, it was time to go out and get some “fresh” (ha!) Hyderabad-ian air. I called up a friend, Kiran, to see if he wanted to hang out and go to dinner with of few members of the group. We had called him before and we all just piled into his car and went out for the night. So following precedent, we met him in the lobby, went down to the entrance, and looked around for his car. “Actually,” he said when he noticed us looking around, “this time I brought my bike. So we can get an auto rickshaw for you…” and then came the magical next words that made my night… “and one of you can ride with me.” My face must have lit up, because the other three looked at me with a look that said, “yup, you’re the obvious choice.” I wasn’t going to argue; I’ve wanted a bike ride since we got here.
We walked up to the street with Kiran, and he bargained up a rickshaw for cheap, then he and I started walking towards the rows of parked bikes. I started to panic a bit as we passed a quite a few nice bikes and it seemed like we were heading toward the rickety awful bike down at the end. But he passed that bike, too. Then I saw one more bike in the row: The Bajaj Avenger. The red, sleek, comfortable, practical, well-kept motorbike was going to be my path to dinner, and I couldn’t have been more excited.
Now, when on the street, I try to keep my cool and not look too out of place (although, on the ride there, I felt myself grinning a bit too much, just loving the ride). On a zooming motorbike, I was mostly unnoticed by the rest of the city. But then the red lights and traffic jams. Oh what a site, the fair-skinned strangely dressed girl on the back of this bike just waiting in the crowded night streets of the city. Cars, rickshaws, and other bikes would even pull up next to us just so that the Indians inside could stare. But stopping was also sort of nerve wracking… I had a back pack on, I’m an easy target…. Normally, I don’t like to be this paranoid, but even Kiran seemed uncomfortable when a driver next to us (who had spent quite some time staring) got out of his car, still looking at me. Kiran, looked over at him and decided not to chance it–he weaved forward through the stopped traffic just far enough so that the other man wasn’t in sight.
I’ve been told several times that the driving in Hyderabad is some of the worst in all of India, but not knowing whether that was true, I asked Kiran (who has done much much traveling on his bike throughout India) and he laughed. “It’s true. The traffic is crazy and no one follows any rules. In other parts, it’s not this bad.” But Kiran drove like a gentleman; we didn’t almost die or hit anyone, we didn’t go head-on towards a speeding car, bus, or truck, we didn’t run anybody else off the road (norms for the driver who takes me to work). However, he didn’t keep from showing his Hyderabad driving skills–we *did* drive on the wrong side of the road, we squeezed into unreal spaces between buses and medians and cars, we made some crazy turns and he made the bike dance on the street once or twice. I trust him. I kinda had to.
I’d been on the night streets before, but tonight they came alive. The lake, the lights… everything! It was beautiful. For those of you who have ridden on a motorbike before, I’m sure you know (some of our group members are bike drivers themselves). The feeling was amazing. We got to our destination, and the rest of our small group arrived shortly after. A good dinner, a tasty dessert, a nice walk, and the trip back home… =0D