I’m not used to young men, either on their own or in groups, blatantly giving me the eye. Initially it was a little disconcerting but two cities and myriad sights later, I was becoming used to it. The girl who still lingers in me preened a little in response and, on occasion, when the mood was right, even threw the eye back. I was safe. They were children. Relatively speaking.
I’m not used to 20 questions about my age and marital status, and the accompanying shocked ‘Why?’ that inevitably followed my saying no, I’m not married. But that, too, found its own level of amusement. Apparently I neither act nor dress appropriately for my age. That was me told and put back in my box.
I was in Hyderabad, in Golconda Fort, a very impressive structure built back in the mid-twelfth century atop a 120 m high hill. So much of it is still standing (wasn’t I just talking about this yesterday?) that it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to picture how it might have been in the day.
Back then, there was no intercom, no mobile phone, no doorbell. There was no way of announcing yourself to those inside except by clapping. Yup. Clapping. If you clap your hands while standing near the domed entrance of the Fateh Darwaza (victory gate), you can be heard 1 km away on the top of the hill. Pretty amazing, given how long ago these architects figured all this out.
The place was pleasantly full. I was struck, not for the first time, but how much monument sites are used in India. They’re not just for school tours and tourists, although busloads of kids are to be found every day at one or all of them. Ditto the tourists. But couples, families, groups of friends venture out, too. They sit, they read, they have a picnic. Some simply sleep in the sun. And it’s nice, nice to see these age-old places still be enjoyed for what they are.
There were two separate groups of lads who seemed particularly intrigued with me. Perhaps it was because I was on my own. Guideless. Manless. Clueless. They followed me, doing a very poor job of trying to make it all look as if it was by chance that we ended up under the same arch at the same time. Hilarious. I was waiting to be asked for a photo, but it would seem that they couldn’t decide amongst themselves who would do the asking. And while I was enjoying the attention, indecisiveness drives me demented.
So I wandered – not at all sure at what I was looking at but enjoying it immensely nonetheless. It fascinates me to think that all of this was built by hand, hewn out of the granite hill on which it sits. It’s an amazing mix of Hindu and Muslim styles (not that I’d know either one of them if they bit me) but I bow to those who do know. It’s very, I dunno, very … well …. there. It’s as if it belongs. As if it is growing out of its environment, spewing forth.
I quite liked the little mosque, still standing, still peaceful, still requiring silence from those who walked by. I read later that it’s a city within a city. And today, it’s famous for its diamonds. So famous that it is from here that celebrity diamonds like the Regent Diamond, the Hope Diamond, and Kohinoor are thought to have come from. Who’d have thunk it…
Like the Charminar, it’s at night it needs to be seen – for the disneyland effect. But I missed it. So I have to go back. Not that I need an excuse. Hyderabad is one very impressive city.
Next stop, Delhi.