Oh, the film city. Hyderabad is the home of Tollywood (the Telugu analogue of Bollywood) . Ramogi Film city is an attraction in the area that is half Universal studios, half movie sets– and totally an India experience.
I’ve actually been to the Ramoji film city once before with Jann, Natasha and their excellent friends David and Chad. We had an outstanding time rolling our eyes and clowning around with cheesy characters and movie sets. You can ride the train to “Fun-dustan” or crawl through a genie’s mouth and to arrive in a menagerie of acrylic animals. There are life sized maniquins of Angelina Jolie as the Tomb Raider (complete with pouty lips), Darth Vader and Charlie Chaplan. There are also some really cool topiary gardens, which are my favorite. Its quite the tourist destination, people come from all over Andrah to ride the train to Fun-dustan.
So naturally, when my dear friend Theresa found out that her sister, Selene and her brother in law, James were coming for their first visit to Hyderbad: Ramoji Film City is exactly where she wanted to take them. It is, in fact, the place to be.
She asked me to come along as well, and I was more than happy to oblige. It was a gajillion degrees though (104 F, which might as well be a gajillion), so I was not overly excited about walking around an amusement park. But Theresa is one of the kindest souls I know, and she has been my rock since the day I stepped foot in Hyderabad. I can deny her nothing. Armed with sunscreen, water bottles, a pom for the road, and lots of banana chips (Theresa has got me hooked on banana chips) we were ready to roll.
We took a charter bus to the theme park, and when we got there I marched up to the ticket window to get my admission ticket. Theresa was two steps behind me, taking it all in (this was her first time at a theme park) but when she realized what I was doing she flipped out.
Flustered, she squeaked: “You are my guest! I have to buy your ticket!”
“Please no, Theresa. It’s okay, I’d like to buy my own.” I answered as I shuffled through my rainbow bills. The tickets are 600 rupees ($12) each, which is probably more than a daily wage for a lot of my working class friends here.
Then she started looking really upset as her eyes filled up with tears, and I realized that (yet again) I was breaching India etiquette and truly insulting her. So I reluctantly stepped aside and let her buy my ticket. The moment passed, and Theresea, Selene, James and I set off for our adventure.
Everyone really seemed to enjoy themselves, and I was excited to find another elephant for my collection. (Side note: Have I mentioned my elephant collection? I am making an effort to procure a small elephant from all the different places I visit in India. Its going well, so far I have 8. I’m really far more excited about them than should be considered normal.) We took photos in the topiary garden, experienced a 4-D rollercoaster (you know, its theater that you sit and watch a screen with moving seats? And they spray water at you and blow wind etc), and had lunch at a small café on site, where Theresa also bought my meal.
Coming home, everyone was tired but happy. Selene and James are staying the whole week, and Theresa is trying to come up with some more awesome adventures.
I am still a little uncomfortable with Theresa’s overwhelming generosity today. Theresa’s role at SRH is certainly one of servitude. I don’t really know the details of her salary and all, and she is very well cared for in terms of necessities (housing, food, etc), but I get the impression that her role as xray technician and assistant to Dr. Beine is similar to that of the nuns who live here. Her work is centered around service, not income. This is my Theresa who helps me bargain my poms down to the lowest cent in the market because she is adament that I should not be overcharged just because I am foreign. My Theresa who would rather walk miles in the sun in spite of her bad back, because it is frivolous to waste a few rupees on an auto ride when “God gave us two good legs.”
I know that she has been saving for the very special occasion of her sister’s visit, and I am touched and honored that she included me. It’s just very difficult for me to accept something so significant when I have so much, and those around me have so little.
I need to think of a way to appropriately reciprocate her kind gesture. I’ll work on it.