We’ve been busy teaching, working, and relaxing, but we’ve also managed to squeeze in one or two sightseeing trips. Vempali is a busy little village (of 100,000 people!), about 16 kilometers away from RGUKT. There, we bought some fabric to make much needed clothing for the kids (we seem to have left too much in Hyderabad) and ate a delicious lunch of chicken Biryani. Mostly we just took in the sights — oxen, tricycles, motorcycles, tractors, and cars shared the road (and the burden of moving goods around). Children ran happily by with a clear independence we are still trying to teach our kids. Despite the prevalence of mobile phones, the town sported a payphone that we actually saw being used. The buildings are colorfully painted, the streets and shops narrow.
A few days later, we visited a local (new) temple. Surrounded by rocky outcroppings (temples are usually on/among hills here), it hosted a busy market and a steady stream of visitors. Monkeys ran in and around the people and trees, while music filled the air. The atmosphere was both festive and peaceful. We experienced a personal Puja for the family thanks to our RGUKT hosts and enjoyed the Prasad (blessed sweets) afterwards. We ended our temple trip with a visit to the tomb of the former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh (the state RGUKT is located in), who helped to make RGUKT possible. RGUKT is located on land that he donated, and he helped to ensure substantial funding for the university as well. Unfortunately, he was killed about a two years ago under suspicious circumstances. As a result the university is struggling to find more funding.