The chronicle of a lonely do-gooder family doctor who survived.

Friday, January 18, 2008


I'm sitting in the Hyderabad domestic air terminal and every muscle in my body bears the fatigue that only 4 days in urban India can bring. We came here by overnight train and have been enjoying 4 star hotel service at the Taj, an indulgence we usually grant ourselves midway through an India trip just so we can get a hot shower, some A/C facilitated sleep, and a real cup of coffee, not the sweetened condensed milk stuff that everyone here likes. Since we're in Hyderabad, this hotel is stuffed with American business people toting laptops. I feel smugly amused that staying in this hotel is the most luxurious thing I'll do all year while it's probably the most adventurous thing most of these other guests will ever do.

As Indian cities go, Hyderabad is nice. Only 6 million people and many were back in their villages for the festival of Sankaranthi. I'm reading this fantastic book, The Age of Kali by William Dalrymple, a chronicle of the changes brought upon the subcontinent since Independence and Partition and the chapter on Hyderabad describes a vastly extravagant city state of noblemen, wealth, and beauty that persisted until the early 20th century. All remnants of this have now been bulldozed, graffitoed, or neglected but if you really squint your eyes and use your imaginatino you can just imagine the brightly colored onion domes and vast parade grounds, now occupied by bland, underfunded governmental departments that have allowed things to fall into disrepair.

As I said though, Hyderabad is nice. Wide streets, a little development going on here. Our guide is the wonderful hadjiboy (blog), who was open enough to meet up with us and then came over the next day to show us around. Hyderabad was a predominantly Muslim city and at the time of independence, its ruler, the last Nizam, who was the richest man in the world at the time, refused to relinquish power and flee to Pakistan with all the other Muslims. The city retains a flavor that is distinct from the rest of India with mosques everywhere and all the other older building employ typical Muslim architecture. We were here for the festival of Sankaranthi and there were thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of kids standing on their roofs flying kites.

See how quiet the streets are for the festival?

Depending on how things go with health care system in the U.S., I may have to relocate, so it's good to see how much I might make as a family physician in India. 10 rupees is about 20 cents.

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