Oh man, was the trip to Hyderabad short, sweet and totally energizing like a can of Red Bull!
I reached Hyderabad in the morning and was met right away with the sight of my cousin towering above the crowd at the railway station. He very sweetly waited for 2 hrs for the train to arrive which unusually, they said, was late. Unusually. As he explained the course of the day while ably (**cough** NOT) riding towards his house with me sitting pillion on his bike, I took in the orange beards of middle-aged men, open cow sheds and mucho dust-o.
We had agreed beforehand that the best way to crash course the sight-seeing into 2 days was the hop on-hop off bus. After a quick tidying up, we spent time eating a HUGE breakfast of masala dosa and tea at a Kamat hotel before boarding the bus while judiciously skipping the first stop, Birla Mandir on account of the number of steps leading there.
Soon we were skipping in and out of Salar Jung Museum’s halls. Nawab Mir Yusuf Ali Khan Salar Jung III spent his lifetime and much of his wealth in collecting the artifacts here. Only to be siphoned off a lot of it by his employees. Watching a tiny timekeeper come out of a compartment inside a clock and have a go at the bell for as many times as the hour was a delight.
Next up was Chowmahalla Palace. So called because of the four graceful palaces called Tahniyat Mahal, Mahtab Mahal, Afzal Mahal, and Aftab Mahal. It bore witness to our photo session in Nawabi costumes.
Then came action packed Golconda Fort. We roamed around testing the clapping portico in the Fort. It has on one side a series of arches, each smaller than the preceding one. A sound wave generated under the dome of the portico would get compressed and then bounce back amplified enough to reach a distance of more than a kilometer. The guard at the portico would clap several times each for friend, enemy or VIP visiting to warn the royals living up the hill. How awesome is that!
But the whisper halls knocked my socks off till the next hill! I stood facing the wall in one corner and my cousin against the opposite one. More than 15 m away. I whispered into the wall and he could hear it! Clearly, the Sultan had no trust in his employees and wanted to eavesdrop on them while they whispered away in these corners (!?)
We slowly moved into the courtyard where the real action was. A movie shoot! Complete with a dashing hero, white chiffon sari clad heroine and ogling onlookers.
As we had no clue about the movie scene in Telegana, the scene bored us after some time and we made way for the bus waiting in bus stand. Inside a tea shop, we munched on Karachi biscuits and hot tea under the constant companion, The Dizzying Sun. We ditched the next stop, Laad bazar, as I was just not in the mood to see a lot of bangles that I was never going to buy or wear, and we hatched our own plans.
I had read up on Paigah tombs while planning the trip. There weren’t that many mentions of it and most of the info was scraped out of TripAdvisor. With Google maps to the rescue in a phone which screamed low battery, we got into an auto rickshaw to take us there. We lost our way a lot and nobody en route seemed to know what we were talking about. Finally a guy pointed at a faded blue board that said Paigah tombs. When we walked inside after haggling with price and begging the driver to wait for us, a calmness spread all around us. The whole area was as quiet as the tombs from 200 years ago.
Paigah family were fierce loyalists of the Nizams. Some of them belonged to the courts of ruling Nizam and matrimonial allainces with Nizams made them prosper more. They crafted these tombs with exemplary craftsmanship. The Mughal and Moorish styles on the walls and Turkish domes are painstakingly created to match the carvings on the tombs. An old caregiver very excitingly described it and took pride that it was up to him that we owed the beauty of the establishment. We were leaving towards the closing time of the tombs when he introduced us to a member of the Paigah family who had come to pray at the adjoined mosque. He politely accepted our respects and bid us farewell.
Soon we traversed the busy streets of the city to visit the Hussain Sagar Lake built by Hazrat Hussain Shah Wali in 1562, during the rule of Ibrahim Quli Qutub Shah. We strolled around at night in the boulevard surrounding the lake, taking in the many craft stalls selling wares under dangling bright halogen lamps. The speed boat finally caught our fancy and we swished across the lake in it, laughing and clicking awkward photos of each other. Double ka meetha and a sumptuous dinner later, we came back home for a well deserved rest.
We had the next day to our own devices. The plan was set. Climb Charminar, eat The Acclaimed Biriyani and board the train back to Chennai.
Charminar was like a piece of mud coated marshmallow sitting amidst the bustle of circling ant-humans. I savored the glimpse of this beauty. The view of the austere Mecca Masjid from one of windows was a pleasant surprise. A few clicks later, I scoured the stalls nearby for souvenirs.
By now our stomachs were screaming lunch and we happily obliged. By gorging on the famour Biriyani. Mine was all vegetarian but man, was it spicy! A juicy paan was indispensable after that. So was a scurry to buy more Karachi biscuits for home.
My cousin waved me off at the station and I leaned back in content to the koo-koo of the train sighing at a weekend well spent.