It's my first full day in India, and I'm really excited to finally be settled in and ready to explore! We began our morning with breakfast at Saffron Soul, which is the eating area in the hotel. The breakfast was really nice, and they had so many options of both American-style breakfast food as well as Indian cuisine. I tried four different Indian dishes: Suba, Kachori, Sabudada Veda, and Kothimeera Veda.
I have absolutely no clue what was in any of these, although I'm pretty sure it's all vegetarian. All I know is it was EXTREMELY spicy. Fortunately, they also had toast and strawberry jam to balance out the hot flavors. Following breakfast, we met with Professor Hinestroza, a Cornell FSAD professor. He told us all about Hyderabad (did you know they use Uber here?) and gave us some info about the different destination options for today!
We had a brief orientation with all of the Cornell students, as well as the students and faculty from the Indian universities that will be accompanying us on this trip, and we learned about the Cornell Sathguru Foundation for Development. For over 30 years, this foundation has researched different ways to innovate economic markets specifically in India, and also in other Asian and African countries. Over the past few decades, the value of a single person has changed dramatically. Young people, specifically Millennials, are much more aspirational. There are over 300 million Millennials in India, and while many of these young people have education, they are not educated at such a high level as we are in the United States. Thus, it is hard for these people in developing nations to achieve success. The Cornell Sathguru Foundation for Development looks for ways to use technology to make changes in the lifestyle of people living in rural developing areas. They want to find a way to improve the overall living conditions without having people move to major cities, which is the typical flow of population in countries like India. Additionally, with all of this rapid development, such as new roads and infrastructure being built and populations continuing to grow, the Foundation researches ways to factor in sustainability and limit waste. Following our orientation, we had lunch, where I was a little less adventurous and decided to stick with rice and naan.
Since we had some time to explore Hyderabad before heading off to our first excursion, we stepped outside of the hotel to finally experience authentic India.
So, what is India really like? Well, for starters, it smells. But only a little worse than Manhattan, so I was well-prepared. After a couple of minutes spent adjusting to the aroma, I began to take in the incredible sights around me. The streets are cracked. Sidewalks are non-existent. People sit on the pavement and eat from carts of fruits. There is a rundown shop that sells chicken meat, and they keep live chickens in a cage right by the entrance. Scooters and rickshaws recklessly weave in and out of traffic. Women roam the streets clothed in colorful saris and little boys walk around barefoot. This city is truly unlike anything I've ever experienced.
The next activity for the day was a visit to Birla Mandir, a famous Hindu temple. Building this magnificent temple took over 10 years and it was completed in 1976. Its construction was funded by the Birla family, a Hindu family that has played a role in India's history for decades. The temple is constructed of more than 2000 tons of pure white marble, sits 280 feet high, and spans 13 acres. Intricate patterns and murals dedicated to Hindu gods are the main focus of this Indian landmark. Upon entering the temple, we were asked to take off our shoes and leave our cameras and cellphones outside, so unfortunately I couldn't snap any pictures from inside! But it was an incredibly spiritual experience, and it was so interesting to witness devout people practicing their religion. At this temple, you can find large trees covered with rope and string bracelets. These bracelets are tied on to the trees by people as they make wishes, and it is believed that if you leave a bracelet on a tree, your wish will come true. It's a similar concept to throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain in Rome!
After exiting the temple, we walked through an area of the city filled with colorful jewelry and sandal shops. Since we were a group of American tourists in a non-tourist area, we became a bit of a spectacle, and many locals took pictures of us. Parents brought their children over to us to shake our hands and take pictures. One group of young girls even took a selfie with us!
After a long bus ride through crowded Hyderabad, we arrived back at the hotel to eat dinner and relax!
More to come tomorrow! Xo!