Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Living, Rajamundry style

Last Thursday we traveled to Rajamundry, Krishnayya's home town and river-side ancient wonder of the East Godavari District. We had a ball being fed by Krishnayya's brother, and listening to Krishnayya say, "Hey, man, this is my place." Years of associating with American college students have certainly left their mark. He took us to see shop-owner friends who gave us great deals on coral, silver, and cloth. We also got to experience the most amazing fried street food and Artos - the first soda brand in Andhra Pradesh, only found in East Godavari, and Krishnayya's personal favorite.

The next day was a long odyssey of a car trip filled with 12th century temples, goddess temples, the actual Artos factory, coconut harvests, our driver's home village, and a shrine to a modern-day saint who, starting at the age of nine, locked himself up in a room and did not eat or sleep, but meditated nonstop. He would unlock the door once a year and meet and greet his devotees. Apparently word gets out when you lock yourself up in a room, and devotees naturally follow. The trip out ended with the Bay of Bengal where we spent a few minutes wading around before getting back in the car for the bumpy, lumpy, tossy, turvy, looooong ride home.

That is Lalita and Lova, our hired help/friends pictured that came with us for the trip. They're standing on the first bridge/dam built on the Godavari by Sir Arthur Cotton during colonial days. He is revered as something of a demigod around this parts. There are statues everywhere. Apparently he foretold that it would last for 100 years and then it would fail. And it did. 112 years almost to the day. Big flood, big mayhem, and god-like status conferred.

Rajamundry kaja. Persians brought baklava over, it mixed with Indian culture, and this flaky, crunchy, drippy perfect pastry is the result.

Artos bottling factory. Their flagship flavor tastes a lot like cream soda.

Saturday we spent traipsing around Rajamundry proper looking at an archaeology museum, a stone-cutting shop that makes icons, and the cloth district. Yes, please.

Sunday we arrived at the river at 5:30 in the morning for our boat trip. All of the other passengers showed up at 6:30. We spent a lazy, cool morning watching the scenery float past and visiting several riverside temples. Breakfast and lunch were served onboard. Curious to see how they cooked on the ship, Viiraju wandered to the kitchen and discovered an innovative, if ill-advised, method of heating water. Namely, hauling up buckets of (brown) river water, running it through the engine to "sterilize" and heat it up, and then cooking with it. Hmmm...I wonder why I'm feeling a bit off color today....

The afternoon got a bit more exciting when we were asked by the captain to hide below deck until we passed a certain village. Apparently they have a new law out that says that any foreigner traveling through the area is charged Rs. 400. How that's legitimate I do not know. The police spotted two of us, but Rs. 800 is a sight better than the 3600 we should have been charged. The trip was very enjoyable over all, but loooong. And having to choose between sitting on uneven wooden plank benches on the main level or corregated metal on the top gets old after 13 hours on a boat.

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