The grand ruins of Golkonda Fort

There is some connection between rains, ruins and me. I have always had rains for company whenever I have visited ruins. Be it Tintern or Hampi or Champaner. It is never a heavy downpour, mind you, but a gentle drizzle. So I was not really surprised when rain welcomed us on arrival at the Hyderabad airport last month. I was on a day trip to Hyderabad with Neena, a colleague, and we had arrived early in the city so that we could visit the Golkonda Fort, before getting down to business.

We got that first look of Golconda, rising tall and majestic in the distance from the car we were travelling in. With rain clouds in the distance, it made for an unforgettable picture. As we neared the Fort, we kept getting tantalising glimpses of the Fort, each one a little closer. By the time the car stopped at the entrance to the Golkonda Fort, we were raring to explore the Fort.

The passage leading to the entrance of Golkonda Fort

It was 9 in the morning, and with hardly any other visitors in sight and it appeared that we would have the Fort almost to ourselves. This also meant that we were swamped by a horde of guides before we even got to the ticketing office. Since we had decided not to hire a guide, we had to politely and firmly decline every offer of a guide service.

We hoped to get around the Fort with an information booklet on the Fort, which we were told was available here. To our surprise, the ticket clerk informed us that no such booklets were available for the Indian tourist, and the few copies he had were only meant for international tourists only! So we ended up walking through Golkonda Fort without a guide, without any information booklet and with only a few signposts and boards to help us find our way around. And of course, the rain !

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Attitudes and Appearances

6.45 am. Mumbai domestic airport. The flight to Hyderabad is now delayed by 25 minutes. It is raining heavily and the passengers, most of whom are on their way to Hyderabad for a day trip on work or business, are getting restless. When some of them insist on knowing the reasons for the delay, the air hostesses roll out a standard and automatic response: “ATC has not yet given us clearance for take-off”.

The reason for the delay in take-off is finally understood at around 7.00 am, when about 15–20 new passengers enter the plane. It is quite evident from the tags on their hand baggage that they have arrived on an international flight from a gulf country and this flight to Hyderabad is a connecting flight for them. These passengers, all Indians, probably work in the gulf region and are on their way to home (Hyderabad) for the Ramadan holidays. As soon as the new passengers are in, the plane doors are shut, the air hostesses get busy closing the overhead luggage racks, remind passengers to wear their seat belts, switch off their mobile phones, etc. The captain’s announcement also comes on to welcome the passengers and give the flight details.

Soon all the passengers are seated and buckled to their seats. Except one. He is one of the new arrivals, and boarding pass in hand, he is looking for his seat, any seat, an empty seat. He is a dazed looking, middle-aged man, a little dishevelled and frayed shirt cuffs. One of the air hostesses tells him firmly, “Sir, please take your seat.”

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