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Tuesday, Feb. 20
The Indiana Daily Student

arts travel

Navigating Indian customs and culture

My first month in India was a cultural learning curve.

Since I arrived  in Hyderabad in early July, I have learned how to eat rice and daal with my right hand, haggle for prices with auto drivers and properly match a kurta to the rest of my outfit.

More than anything, I learned this city is full of interesting juxtapositions.

IT giants and internet companies, including Google, are located in an area known as HITEC City, or Cyberabad.

Down the road, Shilparamam, an arts & crafts culture village, sells traditional South Indian handicrafts. Locals can enroll in classes to learn art forms including sari embroidery and sand painting, and visitors can explore the sculpture gardens.

Old City, another section of Hyderabad, has a population that is nearly 60 percent Muslim — unusual in a predominately Hindu country. Glittering saris peek out from underneath burqas in the bustling markets.

Before leaving, people usually responded to the news that I was studying for a semester at the University of Hyderabad with excitement or trepidation.

Western media tends to portray India as an exotic land full of bright colors and spiritual people or a country struggling against poverty and violence.

I was asked numerous times if I felt safe being a woman in India.

A large portion of our program orientation was devoted to safety, but the advice was similar to advice given to women anywhere — don’t walk around alone at night and be aware of your surroundings.

Some stereotypes about India have turned out to be true. Water buffalo, initially mistaken as cows, tend to wander through streets and near shops in my neighborhood. They occasionally block traffic.

I’ve accepted their presence because they provide the milk used to make delicious chai.

With four months still to go, I know I have a lot left to learn in Hyderabad.

It would be a shame if I left the city without being able to speak authoritatively about where to find the best veg biryani.
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— kmthacke@indiana.edu

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