So today was my last full day in Hyderabad, and it was a great day, with lots of time with the family: John, Shiphra, Joshua, Joseph, Victoria (John's mother)--and then at the end, David, Shiphra's cousin.
We started the morning going to church, of course. Their congregation is Andhra Lutheran Church, Hyderabad Parish--Lakdikapool (area of Hyderabad). It was built in 1993. John endeared himself eternally to me by resisting efforts to notify the senior pastor ahead of time that I was coming, which certainly would have necessitated preaching--they have an English service at 8:00, which we attended, and then a Telegu service at 10:30 (that is the regional language in Andhra Pradesh). Now, I love preaching, don't get me wrong, but after three weeks in India, multiple cities, multiple airports, etc., etc., John knew I would be tired and ready for a break. So, he just snuck up to the pastor before the service and told him I was there. This necessitated only a brief offer of greetings on my part. John took a little flack from the pastor for that, but I was deeply grateful. Yes, he is that kind of a guy! The oldest son, Joshua, did ask me to come and do a quick lesson for the Sunday School classes, and I did do that. It was enough, I felt!
After, church, we engaged in the universal practice of having breakfast out, and they took me to their usual spot-- a restaurant in the Hotel Kamat. I had a very good veggie dosa, and chai of course--my favorite.
Then we went to the Birla Mandir. This is a beautiful Hindu temple made of white marble, built in 1976. It sits on a hill, so it offers great views of the city, and the Hussain Sagar and the Buddha statue. I couldn't take my camera in, so I only got shots of the outside. Incidentally, I am starting to doubt that my feet will ever be clean again. Oh, yes, I am showering every morning, but you take your shoes off everywhere--in some churches, and, of course, in every temple, regardless of the amount of walking required. The roads are dusty, of course, so you can imagine the state of my feet! Let's just say that I don't envy the lucky person who will be giving me my pedicure when I get back home. I think a larger-than-usual tip will be required.
Then we drove home, and Shiphra took me to a steel shop, where everyone buys their dishes & puja items (for home altars). Everyone uses stainless steel here--plates, cups, trays, serving bowls: they last, they wash well, and they keep food hot and cold. I bought just a few cups, and a couple other items. To determine the cost of what you are buying, they put the items on a scale and you pay by the weight.
Then, I went downstairs and introduced myself to the tenant who lives in the ground floor apartment with her mother--her name is Uma, and she had invited me down to talk about her practice of Hinduism, and show me her family's home altar (picture attached). She was really, really nice, and we had an interesting conversation.
That evening, after it had cooled off, we went out to the Shiparamam, the arts, crafts and cultural village in Hyderabad, founded in 1992. There, they have replicas of traditional craftsmen and women at work, and scenes from traditional village life. They also had some traditional Indian dance performances--I could have watched those all night! Then, we shopped around at the outdoor bazaar, where I even did a little haggling--emboldened by Shiphra's company. I'm not very good at it, though! I picked up some lovely sparkly bangles, and a few more small things.
Oh, also, I should mention that to get there, 7 of us piled into a car the size of a mini-cooper (5 adults, 2 children, one of whom, the 11 year old, sat on my lap in the front seat. This is typical.) The driver was Shiphra's cousin David--a very sweet, very kind, very handsome young man! (What 27 year old gives up an evening with his friends to hang out with family and a stranger?? This nice guy, that's who!) He works at IBM, and on our way home, he drove us through the silicon valley of Hyderabad--it has exploded in the past 10 years, and I would have thought we were driving through the Denver Tech Center--that's exactly how it looked! This my friends, is a very different India that what I saw in Varanasi, for example. Talk about a land of contrasts! I'm still kind of reeling from it.
Then it was back home to bed--tomorrow will be a roughly 24 hour travel day, but oh, it will be good to be home! India has been amazing, and I will still be processing it all long after I get home.