Pearls, But No Swine

Pigs were a commonplace road-side decoration in Mulukanoor Village where I had collected my research data, but now as I am back at the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) for data and sample analysis, swine  are few and cattle seem to rule the highway medians leading to downtown Hyderabad. I suppose I am intuitively drawn to notice livestock and new animal species anywhere I travel. This past Tuesday, I sat packed like a sausage up against a bus window on the way to shop at the markets and bazaars surrounding the historic Charminar monument and mosque. I couldn’t help but notice the water buffalo walking lazily past a crowded tea stand, yoked zebu waiting under the shade of trees growing out of sidewalks, and monkeys gleefully raiding a pile of coconuts on a wooden wheeled cart.  When my cohort Maureen, a PhD student from Cornell, and I finally arrived at the bazaar after a few additional rickshaw rides, we entered upon a different kind of zoo. Although the Charminar market has slowed significantly after the passing of Ramadan when large crowds come to purchase goods and clothing specific to the occasion, the streets are still bustling with a an amazing array of people flooding textile shops and our target for the trip; pearl vendors. Hyderabad pearls are plentiful and inexpensive in many areas of the city, but if you feel the need to tour over 40 jewelers and pearl artisans in a row, this market is the place to be. It is also a good location to learn some bargaining skills. I often feel uncomfortable demanding lower prices and theatrically getting up to exit until vendors lower prices, but Maureen takes to the bargaining scene naturally. One vendor jokingly told her that she should switch her PhD from Animal Science to Marketing and Business. As we sat and looked at the variety of colors and designs, vendors also displayed the authenticity of their pearls for us by holding them under a flame and describing their slightly uneven but natural surface. I felt slightly more at ease this time in the market after travelling through the crowds of people and climbing the Charminar towers a few weeks prior. It was at that time that I paid a small fee to climb up narrow, twisting stone steps with strangers closely in front and behind to reach the views from the Charminar balcony. Just before mild claustrophobia set in,  I emerged from the dark, pillar steps with the massive crowd to overlook the bustling streets below.

A view from the Charminar balcony

A view from the Charminar balcony

Approaching the Charminar Mosque through the Market

Approaching the Charminar Mosque through the Market

On the same day as my first visit to Charminar, I was also able to visit the historic Golkonda Fort in Hyderabad, Telangana. Although the current remains of the fort were constructed beginning in 1506, the fortified hill has been a coveted spot in the hands of many kings starting in 945AD. It is famous for its surrounding mines of gemstones and its impressive architecture. There are sets of outer and inner walls and many, many (emphasis on many) steps to reach the mosque, Hindu temple, and towers at the peak of the fort. With the sun beating down on us at noon, I attempted to race a 10yr old boy up the steps while his mother laughed at us from behind. I did ‘lose’ the race to the delight of the boy, but we both won a fantastic view of the ruins and the city beyond:


After taking in a sufficient amount of pearl shops and bargaining deals, I made my way back to the research institute to work on searching out more jewels (jewels of knowledge that is) in my data analysis. Although studying water buffalo milk production may not always seem as glamorous as searching out ancient ruins, I am excited to compile my results and refine the next steps for the improvement of livestock and livelihoods in this area which is certainly a different, but valuable treasure.

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About gglandin

I am a third year veterinary student at the University of Pennsylvania that loves livestock and undertaking local and international adventures. I am learning to combine these interests in the cattle rich fields of India this summer and seeing firsthand how veterinary medicine can be used to develop and support rural communities.