As Liza and I settled into an uneventful Christmas Day at the deserted Matendla School, we received a call from Vandita wondering if we were coming back to Hyderabad since there were no classes. We could leave?! Quickly, Liza and I tracked down Puroshatam and expressed our desire. After the requisite three “No Madames, impossible,” he made a few calls. “Okay, all arranged, thirty minutes.” Our persistence had paid off and would prove a crucial lesson as we began our first Indian travel adventure. We threw everything into our backpacks and climbed into an auto rickshaw that miraculously appeared outside our door and took us into town. The Indian club music playing from the tape deck was a fitting background as we joked about our “jail break,” giddy from the sudden turn of events and already making plans for the unexpected holiday. We arrived in town just in time to run and jump onto the already moving bus that would take us into Hyderabad.
Three hours later we were safely back at Vandita’s flat, just in time to change for the night’s events. First stop was a wedding celebration across the street in a beautifully done up house that felt like walking onto the set of Monsoon Wedding. This was the night before the wedding and the bride and groom were sat awkwardly upon a stage with cameras and bright lights trained on them, while the guests mingled and were served a steady stream of appetizers at our seats. The stage was later used for traditional dances performed by the bride’s family to songs that curse her future in-laws for taking her away from the family! The bride and groom had met face to face for the first time two days earlier and after the wedding she will return with him to the U.S. where he works. Apparently, this situation where the woman is married off not only to an unknown man but an unknown country as well, is increasingly common in the upper classes.
The second event of the night was - surprise, surprise - a Christmas party! Here we had the pleasure of mingling with people our own age, sipping dangerously colored cocktails, and eating delicious goat marsala (which the host jokingly assured us was proper Christmas turkey, despite the fact that we could see the entire goat, head and all in the massive pot). Meanwhile, classics by ABBA, Michael Jackson, and the likes played in the background. Merry Christmas!