Today is a holiday and there was no school so we took the day off work as well, piled eight of us into a car, and were on our way. Well, almost. Approximately two minutes out of Kalleda we blew a tire. Thirty minutes later, tire successfully changed, we were off again. I noticed an unusual number of people walking along the road but figured they were on their way to temple because of the holiday. I was soon set straight, however, as we approached an auto-rickshaw parked sideways to block the road. Yet another Telangana bandh had been called and all traffic was prohibited, with the exception of two-wheelers. It was hard to take the group of popsicle-sucking, barely pubescent boys who surrounded our car seriously but with an auto in our way they had the upperhand. After some conversation, a call to superiors, explanations of the Americans in the car, and assurances that none of us were Andhrans (supporters of the anti-Telangana region) the boys let us through. As we drove past I leaned out the window and, by way of thank you, gave a hearty "Jai Telangana!" to much cheering.
All shops in the city were closed so we settled on fruit from a roadside stand and headed to a nearby lake to picnic. I briefly contemplated swimming but was not yet ready to face the obstacle of the modest Indian swimsuit, i.e. all of my clothes. As we returned to the car I nonchalantly unpeeled a banana and took a bite. I heard all of my friends yelling in Telugu behind me and before I had a chance to turn around a large monkey jumped me from the side and clung to me koala-style! I screamed and threw my banana which, fortunately, he followed. Thus did I narrowly avoid a frantic search for the nearest hospital offering rabies treatment.
Back on the road again we ran into yet another Telangana roadblock, this one much more serious than the last. It took longer to talk our way out but after much conversation, a series of Jai Telanganas and some pro-Telangana songs sung by Raju we were shown a side route through the village and fields to a spot further up the road beyond the block. We continued on our way to Ramapa, a beautiful ancient temple in which a Pujari (priest) still performs blessings in front of the original shiva lingum. The age and history of Hinduism as a religion and culture is amazing. If you think that it was a contemporary of ancient Greece and Rome, yet is still in full swing today. In some temples you will find pujaris whose families have been performing the exact same rituals for centuries. It's like going to the senate of ancient Rome and finding modern day people wearing the traditional togas and debating Italy's political system.
Despite the theft of Mahipal's sandals while we were at Ramapa, we pressed on to one last site, a huge lake with a suspension bridge out to a small island. We wandered the island as dusk settled, took the obligatory photos, skipped a few stones, and raced each other and the dark back to the car. One brief stop to patch the tire and we made it home safe and sound. A successful holiday excursion, against all odds.