We arrived at a small town called ‘Kadiri’ in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. The town is 90 kms from Anantapur, a district situated in the south-west corner of the state. The majority of the population (around 60%) is Muslim and is controlling the economy of the city. Anantapur district is one of the few districts of the state where Muslims form a large part of the population. It is a typical small town of our country with dirty streets often having an open sewer running alongside the corners of the road. The streets are strewn with garbage and animals like dogs and pigs can be seen roaming around. If you spend some time walking the streets you’ll find that it has plenty of butcheries, meat eateries & bakeries. Chicken & mutton are the main form of meat which are available for consumption. Apart from that you can even find turkeys. Pigs are easily available but aren’t consumed for the fact that Muslims don’t eat pork. Hand pushed carts can be found on the streets at night (mostly after 9 pm) selling tandoori chicken. Alcohol, if at all you’ll find it, would be available only at shady locations which are thronged by casual labourers. The bakers sell reasonably good bakery items ranging from biscuits, pastries, traditional sweets & snacks at half the price of the products sold by the bakers in the city. The shops usually sell cold drinks, small biscuit & chips packets (both national & local producers), small snack products etc. I’ve selected a bakery and now I’m planning to try out each and every kind of baked stuff these guys prepare before leaving the city!
People & Language:
The majority of the people here speak Telugu. Urdu is also spoken and understood by the Muslim population. People who speak Telugu may not necessarily be able to understand Hindi (or Urdu). So, in order to communicate with them you may have to use sign language. I personally had a hard time living in the state as Telugu is very different from Hindi or any other languages which are close to Hindi like Gujarati or Marathi. Telugu is an entirely different language with not a single familiar word. Spoken Telugu often sounds like a barrage of curse words to me! Before coming to South India I used to picture the people to be rude or even violent (thanks to the violent South Indian movies I’ve seen or heard about). However, I was pleasantly surprised to find the people to be very friendly. I found them quite better than the people in Bhubaneswar. Once I gave a Rs 500 note to a shop keeper to get Rs 100 change in exchange. This happened after I bought something from her. She asked me whether she should give me Rs 500 in change back or cut the prices of the things I bought and then give me the remaining money back!
Anantapur district is known to be the second driest districts of India after Jaisalmer in Rajasthan (which is situated in the Thar Desert). However, when we arrived here it was overcast with chilly winds blowing day and night. It rained for the first 3 days. It was a terrible experience considering the fact that we were expecting the minimum temperatures to reach only upto 18 C and a dry climate as told to us by the company representative. At that time we regretted the fact that we didn’t bring any warm jackets. But after 4 days time the weather became dry and back to normal. The sun was up in the sky. It has become warm. It feels like the March of Ahmedabad. Now we thank god we didn’t bring any jackets otherwise it would have been an added burden to us as we had to carry it across the villages and all! The nights are cool though.
Stay & the Company
We’re staying at the office of Earth 360 Pvt Ltd. It is a company which is processing millets and also encouraging millet production & consumption. It is a start-up which came into existence last year by Mr M.N Dinesh. The company premises are pretty ordinary which consists of three structures – one consisting of the processing unit, one made up of two offices and the other one being the toilet. We’re staying in one of the rooms of the office structure. The structures are having a roof made up of asbestos (which makes the rooms pretty hot on a sunny day). Our office consists of one computer table, one almirah, four racks, three of which are stacked with books and the other one consisting of space to keep random stuff like water bottles of something. There is also one mattress-less bed which is holding our luggage. Guess where are we both sleeping? We’re sleeping on the floor. Our bed is made up of a chatai and a thin rajai. We brought our own pillows and blankets to cover ourselves. In the first week when the weather was cool it was tough sleeping on the floor as we could feel the cold floor beneath us. Afterwords it became all right but still it is tough on our backs! We’ve no running water. The only source of water in the entire premise is one hose pipe. The guys here fill up a large corroded drum with water every morning and we take our buckets and draw water from that drum. That water is used for morning ablutions. Later we found that the same water is used for cooking and drinking purposes as well! They don’t even boil the water they consume because of which in a matter of days you can find insects and bugs floating in the water. We were disgusted to find things floating in our water and asked them to boil the water for our consumption. The water has a salty taste to it. It doesn’t feel fit to be consumed but anyways we don’t have any other choice. Boiling has at least reduced our chances of getting infected with water borne disease. Now as we’re working with a person who is obsessed about bringing back Millets to mainstream consumption, all we are eating day and night is….you guessed it right – Millets! We’re eating millets in different forms ranging from Bajra roti, millet based idlis, millet rice you name it! Because the dishes have a touch of South India to it (ingredients and all) I sometimes find it difficult to adjust to the food. I liked the combination of millet based rice, peanuts & chillies. I particularly liked the peanut based chutney (I don’t know how to describe it). When you put it on rice, it takes its taste to another dimension. Bajra rotis are quite different from what I’ve eaten in Gujarat. It is sold as dried rotis just like we’ve khaakhras in Gujarat (although not exactly like that) having sesame seeds in it. It is eaten with groundnut chutney and chilli or mango aachaar (pickle). The workers which stay with us (in the adjoining room) make pretty decent bhindi too. A big problem we’re facing here is dealing with mosquitoes! They’re everywhere from our rooms to the toilet to outside. They bite you when you’re taking a bath, brushing your teeth, drawing water from the drum, drying your clothes you name it! To get rid of the mosquitoes we close our room at around 5 pm and switch on all-out for the next 4-5 hours and switch it off before going to sleep. In this way we’ve been able to sleep peacefully without getting annoyed by them. On our first night we fixed mosquito nets around our beds. However, as it was a time consuming process and we had to remove the net and tie it again every day we stopped doing it from the next day onwards.
One thing which I liked about the city is that it is surrounded by mountains. Now I’m a person which has basically lived half of his life in a totally flat terrain (Gujarat). So, for me, it was a really good experience watching the mountains in the background. These are really dry mountains having big boulders of stones. At some places the mountains are covered with green grass but the majority of them are quite stony. We happened to go out for a village trip one day. It was a cloudy day and the clouds literally covered the top of the mountains giving the complete look of misty mountains the kind which you find only in hill stations. I went out on a walk near the mountains (as they’re quite near to our location too) and clicked lots of pictures of them. The pictures give the city a look of Afghanistan!
If you’re in Gujarat or any other state in the north of the country for that matter, you’ll always find people drinking tea. But here I’ve seen people asking each other out for a cup of coffee instead of tea. Maybe coffee is the more popular beverage here because of the fact that the coffee producing state of Karnataka is not too far from here. The coffee here tastes exactly the same, however these guys put a lot more sugar in it than us thus making it taste a bit more like sugar water. Effective anyways 😉
We went out one evening to the market to try out the street food. We had tandoori chicken, roasted groundnuts, chilly bhajji, papaya, masala pineapple and some barbecued beef. Tandoori chicken was served with onions and lemon. It was very tasty. Chilly bhajjis are like chilly pakoda. The only difference is that the chilly which is used to make the bhajji isn’t a hot one. It tastes just like capsicum but only a wee bit stronger in taste. I enjoyed eating it with onions. One afternoon the people who work at the unit roasted groundnuts ‘Rayalaseema’ style. They set fire on some twigs and put the groundnuts over the burning wood for 5-8 minutes. After the groundnut was roasted they brought in some salt and chillies. In typical Rayalaseema style you put salt in your right hand and the groundnuts are put on the salt. In your left hand you hold the chilly (usually red chilly). Then you eat the groundnuts with the chillies. It tastes great!