Murmeli goes India

An AIESEC traineeship in Hyderabad, India

Trip to Tirumala

We went to Tirumala to see some temples last weekend. The place is one of the most holiest places for the Hindus. The place was just packed with pilgrims. You can clime up to Tirumala from Tirupati, to which you can travel by train. We also walked up, all 9 kilometers. Already on the way it became clear that there is something special about the place. The steps were covered in red dye that people smear on them. We saw some people going up the steps on their knees, most likely an act of remorse or shame or both, I don’t know. Did not stop to ask. There was incense and candles everywhere too.
It got really strange once we got up to Tirumala. The whole city had gone mad with religion. To my understanding it is always like that and weekends are the busiest time there. I’m sure even the most devoted pilgrim has to work during the week and he is not able to fulfill his desire to walk up 3000 steps on his knees until the weekend.

We got accommodation for a very good price and the rooms were not bad at all. We were the only white people among thousands of Indians and we realised this when people started asking if they could have their picture taken with us. It started at the guest house and went on the whole weekend.

On Saturday we went to see the temples in the city. We saw the huge queue outside the temple and thought that there must be a way to buy a ticket that entitles you to a pleasant stroll inside the temple without any need for queuing. We told this to the security guards and they helped us to the VIP entrance. The ticket cost 100 Rupees. Henrik went with the guards to do the paperwork. Yes, almost everything here involves some paperwork. After a few minutes he came back and said that the ticket sellers there can not give us the tickets and we would need to go to another ticket office. Eventually Henrik and Simon found the ticket office about one kilometer away. From there they received a piece of paper saying basically that could you (the ticket sellers in the first place) provide these tourists with six tickets to the temples. Then we finally got to the temple we realised that we actually ended up in the same queue that we had laughed at a few moments ago. Fortunately we only had to be in the queue for about one hour.

The tour around the temple was also packed with people. We, along with hundreds of others, followed a narrow path usually between a wall and a rope around the temple area. At one point there were temple personnel pushing the visitors forward as there were so many people!

We also found that money talks in temples too. A priest or whatever led us to the side away from the others. I thought they want to give foreigners a private tour around the temple. Well, they basically led us to the kitchen and once they got us there they started asking for Rupees.

After the temple tour each of us got two balls of laddu, which is a very special kind of sweet that you can only get in Tirumala. I talked to a couple of Indians, father and son from Hyderabad, who told me this. They said the laddu is so special that they take loads of it home to their friends and neighbours! Our laddu, unfortunately, fell into the hands of the evil ant empire that rules over our flat. Still, Eduardo managed to save some and took some to his colleagues at work.

On Sunday we went to see a waterfall, which we eventually did not even find. We just
got surrounded by Indians who wanted to take pictures of us. Weird. In the afternoon we took a taxi. “Three temples, 250 Rupees”. Yeah right. The temples were nice actually, much nicer than the ones in the city. It was just nice to get away from the hustle for a moment, even though there were still a lot of people around. But at the end we got into trouble with the taxi driver. He wanted 500 Rupees for the trip! We think that actually the third temple was part of a whole different tour on which we had not agreed beforehand. We would not pay and he insisted that we go to the police. We just started walking towards the bus station. The guy followed us and we eventually went to talk to a traffic police officer near the bus station. Finally we came to the conclusion that the best option is to pay. We ended up paying 400 which seemed to be enough for the driver.

Then to the bus. We were wondering why people wait for the bus on the sides of the place where it will stop. When the bus comes people jump and take hold of the bars on the bus windows and throw in a handkerchief or something. Little children are pushed into the seats through the open windows. When we got on our bus I almost got squashed and I almost broke my glasses. We got in safely but one Indian guy started yelling at me and Simon. We had no idea what he was so mad about. All he could say in English was “stand up”. A man behind us said that we should just sit down and said something to the guy. After he had gone a man in front of us explained that the guy had thrown a handkerchief through the window onto our seat to reserve it. And indeed there was one there. Well, you live and learn.

Phew… I think that’s all there is to tell about that trip. We’re planning to do another trip in two or three weeks. There have also been some plans to visit Goa in about a month with a Finnish trainee from Jaipur + a bunch of other people 🙂 Most trainees travel a lot while they are here. It seems to be very easy to get holiday from work and trainees use that possibility a lot. Also sometimes the traineeships here don’t really offer that much to do anyway.

I’ve been lucky enough to get a traineeship where there has been a lot to do. Of course
it is also quite hard. A guy from AIESEC should be in contact with the company tomorrow
about the Saturday work. I don’t feel comfortable about asking for all the Saturdays off myself. If it comes as an initiative from AIESEC it is better, I think.
Now I need to hand over this laptop back to Eduardo, the rightfull owner. Gotta go sleep now, it is already midnight here. Cheers.

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July 19, 2006 - Posted by | Being a trainee, Indian life, Traveling in India

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