Sunday morning at eight o’clock. A scream is interrupting my dreams. It is shrill, loud, artificial. I feel as if I am being in the middle of a weekly market – with only one barker. The calls are in Arabic. They are coming from a nearby mosque. It is the imam who is calling to prayer – five times a day. Usually I keep outside much noise, shield me in my room and create an area of tranquility. But this time, I forgot to close my window. And in less than a few seconds, Hyderabad’s ambient noises pervades my room, too.
It seems like this city never sleeps. In the middle of the night, shady characters walk through the streets in search of drugs, alcohol, women or just to avoid freezing to death when they fall asleep. Rickshaws are available around the clock. Many drivers even sleep in their cars for being always available to customers. And, of course, for earning as much money as they can. Finally, this professional group lives in constant poverty and fear not to be able to feed their own families. With about 50 € net income per month rickshaw drivers can’t afford a regular apartment. They usually live in poorer neighbourhoods, the so-called slums or semi-slums.
I live in a five-story building alongside a semi-slum. Baby cries, engine noise and loud quarrels often penetrate the night air. During the day, these sounds are hardly perceptible. Because – like most large cities in the world – Hyderabad is also very noisy. When you stay there for some time, you will get used quickly to the prevailing ambient noise, which sometimes, only at night time, inserts a small break. And then you hear the quieter voices speak: The woman who weeps again, because she was married to an alcoholic. A baby that doesn’t stop crying, because it didn’t get enough food. And the little boy who runs nervously through the whole house, because tomorrow will be his first school day.
For me, Hyderabad is more beautiful at night, not only because of the silence, but also because there aren’t apparently all 7.5 million people on the road at the same time. Such crowds sometimes cause claustrophobic seizures. You are nowhere, actually nowhere alone. Excluding at night. The streets are almost emptied. And the buildings, monuments and parks shine in the most beautiful colours. An impressive sight. Especially the NTR Gardens are recommended very much after the sunset. This small, urban park near to the Hussain Sagar Lake is a eye candy – even during the day – with its colourful shrubs and flowers. Once the sun goes down, the water features are immersed in a sea of colour. This contrast of natural and man-made beauty is stunning and well worth a visit.
In a city that never sleeps, of course, the night life also plays an important role. But it starts – not typical for many foreigners – about seven clock in the evening and ends with the beginning of the next day. At zero clock clubs have to close. That’s the law in Andhra Pradesh. After the shutdown, dozens of people gush out of “Kismet” and “Rain” in search of a rickshaw or for putting themselves in the driver’s seat. Often also drunk. Friends say goodbye with loud honking and yelling. There is a renewed rush hour on Hyderabad roads, until finally – well after one o’clock – the last ones could find their ways back home. Now for a brief moment the city comes to a rest – until four o’clock when the next day dawns and the first workers trudge to morning shift.