Arriving in Hyderabad was like walking straight into an oven, from -5 in Oslo, to +30. Having visited Mangalore in 2015, India wasn’t completely new to me, but Hyderabad was. Not being much of a tech-savvy person — in fact, not at all — how would I fit in?
There are several ways of befriending a city. Some people prefer venturing out to see the most famous landmarks, others count on friends and family when getting to grips with a place. Staying with two friends who are just as unfamiliar with Hyderabad as I am, however, makes option two a no-go. Not that I am particularly interested in museums, either. There was no other way to get to know Hyderabad but to venture out on my own.
Unlike in Norway, it is surprisingly easy to talk to strangers in Hyderabad. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m an outsider, or my lost facial expression, that makes people reach out. Maybe they are curious. Or just maybe, it is the simple kindness, as GD Roberts remarks in the first pages of Shantaram (cliché, I know) when an airport porter hands him his guitar, echoing the words that may seem to represent the national character of India: “I’m here to help. Welcome to India”. No matter what their reasons may be, people talk to me. Or I talk to them.
In fact, I got into surprisingly personal interactions with people everywhere I went. The two lawyers at Starbucks in Jubilee Hills who invited me to lunch after a guy at the neighbouring table became just a little too friendly, who also then proceded to give me a few tips on where to go for a drink and where to spend a calm Sunday (they are actually my best friends here now); the two female architects I talked to when I had danced too much salsa at a salsa social in Gachibowli, who I ended up hanging out with the rest of the night; the girl in the airport who walked me to the Ola taxi stand when, in fact, she was heading a completely different way; or our next-door neighbour who invited me to her house (and actually cooked dinner for me) when I rang her doorbell and asked to borrow her charger… Something I have always noticed about travelling to new places is that talking to the people living there makes everything less foreign and more “homey”. No wonder a friend from one’s own town is referred to as a “homie”, I mean, that’s what they do, these homies — they make you feel you belong somewhere.
And so, after days and weeks, Hyderabad feels more like home. The more homies I have, the more at home I feel. And travelling ‘alone’ doesn’t actually feel so alone anymore. Hyderabad, I decided, might not have much going on in the way of natural beauty (except for the rock formations, of course), but its people are excellent. My tip is to get out there, meet people, and talk to them. It is refreshing. You’ll feel like ‘Queen’, when she runs away from her fiancée, over the bridges in Amsterdam, on the way to her new friends. Trust me!