| Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy (left) with minister for overseas Indian affairs Oscar Fernandes at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Hyderabad. (AFP)
Hyderabad, Jan. 9: Pickles, pearls and packets of henna and biryani masala stuffed in bags, pravasi bharatiyas here are giving a miss to something also very Indian ' endless speeches of leaders and their goodwill overkill.
After the shopping, they would rather save time to check out could-be brides in their preferred homeland, wherever that may be, Connecticut or Colorado.
And Hyderabad, it seems, has a lot of good desi housewives to offer. Like the malls, the city’s marriage bureaus have their counters crowded.
But halls decked up for discussions to polish the badge of Indianness are woefully empty.
“I have heard enough of these lectures by the high and mighty and I have chosen to do exactly what I had planned,” said Lukshmi Gadde from Coloradao.
As she walked into her plush hotel suite, would-be brides and their parents started streaming in with special appointments.
The Vijayawada-born Lukshmi, a grandma now, is an ambassador for several eligible Indian boys working in the US, Canada and the UK whose parents have authorised her to make shortlists.
Telugu, Punjabi, Bengali, Tamil and Malayali girls filled the foyers of the hotel as Lukshmi picked out some 25 of them in 90 minutes flat.
“Most of them have already been interviewed online and I am only assessing them through face-to-face interaction,” Lukshmi said.
She was not the only one. Many such grandmothers had to go through a hectic schedule interviewing those lined up by bureaus from Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam, Rajahmundhry, Bhimavaram, Eluru, Anantpur or Nizamabad.
The elderly women have also come armed with forms for boys looking for girls abroad.
Anusuya Parvataneni, who runs a language school in Washington, said such meets are pass'. “We are habituated to meetings only with detailed agenda.”
As the grandmothers interviewed potential brides and grooms, the younger diaspora queued up for the mehendi shops in old Hyderabad.
“I love the new textures and stripes,” said Jaunaki Ramki (Janaki Ramakrishna), a 21-year-old from California.
With her Indian cousins, she went around Lad Bazaar, Pathergatti and Rein Bazaar to buy masalas for the authentic Indian biryani and the pickle stores in Ameerpet and Chikkadapalli. “We also bought curd chillies and chutney powders,” said Brahmi Rao, a software engineer from Silicon Valley.
While the elderly men kept harassing the organisers for lack of facilities, information dockets and lack of punch in the liquor served in the official cocktails, the middle-aged caught up with friends and relatives.
“Some hired helicopter services to visit parents in Vijayawada and Anantpur,” said Saumitri Ganesan of TCI, who organised the visits.
Among the thousand-odd delegates there were seven honeymooners.
Anita Krishnan’s parents organised a feast in honour of their son-in-law where nearly 750 guests turned up.
The Nizam’s jewellery, on show at Salar Jung Museum, was also a crowd-puller. “We’d sold out our souvenirs in the first week itself,” said Kedareswari, the director of archaeology. And the glass replicas of the Jacob diamond and other dazzlers sold like hot cakes.
“I finally have something very Indian to show my friends. All the gift shops in India sell artificial items,” said Radhika Bhanumurthy.
Business or tourism propositions made by government agencies or ministers were hardly of any interest.
Siddhartha Madapati, 48, a dentist working in New York, said: “Basically, I’ve come for a good time' to be with my friends in India. It is easy to organise meets and visits when we come on such trips. On private visits, everything is difficult.”