Landing at N.T.Ramarao airport I was a little apprehensive. My first time in Hyderabad. Had just got off my first ever flight (yes & yes I am 24…so?!). I know this is nothing eventful for the frequent flier whose Flying Miles register goes ding everyday. But for a novice it was an experience of a lifetime.
An early morning flight saw me getting up at 3.30 in the morning. Reached the domestic airport at 5. Checked in, had a coffee, waited for 16 years and finally it was time to go. Stepping on to the aircraft, I am greeted by an airhostess. A very cheerful “GOOD MORNING”. So cheerful that I started doubting the genuineness of the greeting. Nobody in their right mind can be that happy at 5.30 in the morning. Anyway, I let it go. I went and found my seat & deposited myself in my seat. AN AISLE SEAT!!! Yeah I know, I also know you know what I mean. It had been only two minutes and I was taking in my surroundings, admiring the back of the seat in front of me, perusing the very entertaining emergency manual, when a shadow loomed over me. I looked up to discover a 6 feet male smiling at me in a very sinister manner. Immediately I realized he had some hidden reason for smiling at me. Why, you ask me, did I suspect him and his beatific smile? My reason I have already given you. It was bloody 5.30 in the morning. How does anybody be so cruel as to wish people good morning or even smile at them.
HA! I know I had caught him. He knew I knew. The smile was gone and the real reason finally came out. “Please excuse me” he threatened, “the window seat and the seat next to you is mine” he concluded. Hmmm…a ruse to get me out of my comfortable aisle seat I deduced. Then his wife joined him. I was outnumbered. I had to give in so I got up grudgingly. They had some logistical problems but they finally managed to shove themselves in and ultimately I was allowed to gracefully plonk my ass on my seat.
And so started my adventure. 15 minutes later everyone was settled. The maniac next to me started snoring peacefully. His wife asked for ear plugs and resigned herself to admiring the wings and the beautiful engine. A couple and their children in the seat behind me settled into a very entertaining game of “crying-barfing-crying-pacifying”.
And then started the announcements. The guy on the address system hissed & lisped his way through an already confusing set of instructions and after finishing it in Hindi, he went on to show his oratory prowess in English. That done, the captain came online. THE CAPTAIN…Indiana Jones, Sean Connery and that man from “Gods must be Crazy” rolled into one. He enlightened us mere mortals on the temperature outside, the air-pressure inside, the wing span of the BOENG 737-800, the fuel capacity, max speed, year of manufacture and then concluded by informing us that the said aircraft is the one we are residing in and that it will take off from Runway No. 14 in ten – “Fiften” minutes. PIN DROP SILENCE prevailed. Not a word (or a snore). We were in awe of this enigmatic Captain. Anyway, so he finally meanders the plane to the runway (14). Everything and everyone in position. And then the burst of speed and we are on our way.
The aircraft reaches the intended height, stabilizes and the warning “deploy seat-belts” sign goes off. I immediately jump up to visit the loo. Anyway I get back to my AISLE seat and my left elbow is obligingly smashed to pulp by the over-polite stewardess. I glare at her, she gives me a saccharine sweet smile, a miniature bottle of water, a credit card enrolment form and coolly walks away. The rest of the flight was uneventful except when we hit turbulence. This was thanks to a middle aged gent at the back of the plane who had gorged on gujju farsans for breakfast. The gaseous cloud spread its deathly tentacles in the cabin…oxygen masks deployed… “deploy seat belt” sign on…fifteen minutes of prayer and everything is back to normal. High fives all around. HURRAY!
Finally its time to land. ALREADY?!? I enquire and as if he sensed it, the captain informs me from inside his cockpit that we are 15 minutes ahead of schedule. Everyone seems to be pleased by this piece of information. So even I plaster my face with a smile and flash it to everyone who cared to look in my direction so that they don’t think of me as a novice, a debutante. Frankly, I was very disappointed. I thought the daredevil captain will do a few 360 degree turns, a free fall and a steep ascend. But no, no show.
SUDHANSHU meets YEHANGIR:
I get off the plane in disappointment and a set mind to go and give some advice on “Inflight Entertainment” to the aviation minister. I am mulling over the draft of the letter when I observe a man standing at the reception with a placard proudly proclaiming “S-U-D-H-A-N-S-H-U” Shukla. Hmmmm. This is the 114th time these guys (Pragati Offset Pvt. Ltd.) have misspelled my name. I decide to avenge this slight. I walk up to the man, confide that I am the criminal whose “WANTED” poster he is carrying and in return I ask him to introduce himself, his post and his permanent account number. He says his name is “Jehangir”, then informs me that the rest of the questions do not apply to him. From then on I start calling him “Yehangir”. He seems unfazed, delighted actually. He thinks it is a very “cool” twist to his name. I can imagine him standing at a corner “chai-walla” and being introduced by his cronies to a newcomer as “Yehangir Jehangir, pathfinder & light bearer of Pragati Offset Pvt. Ltd.” We move on to concretize our friendship by having breakfast together at “KAMAT Hotel” The breakfast consisted of 3 idlis, 1 wada, 3 cups of sambhar, 2 cups of coconut chutney, 2 cups of garlic chutney, 1 tea, 1 coffee & 1 visit to the loo (mine). And finally I am deposited by him at the offices of Messrs. Pragati Offset Pvt. Ltd. I spend three and a half hours “working” and then am free to run amok in HYDERABAD.
Hail a rickshaw and divert it to “Char Minar”. Am a little disappointed by the structure. Photographs paint a very flattering picture of the monument. Anyway, I find my way up and into the monument. The guards there are very interested in why I am sitting on top of CHAR MINAR and scribbling in a book when I can behave like a normal visitor and write on the walls. I tell the interviewer that it’s not my kind of literature. It’s pretty emotional I tell him. The guard gives me a look he usually reserves for “out of town-ers” and correctly informs me that I am from BOMBAY. I smile my assertion and he smiles back. I smile some more (it’s OK….it’s 12.30 now). Emboldened, he confesses that he too is originally from the BOMBAY. From then on I am treated like a king by Mr.Pratap Singh and his guardian brothers. They shoo away anybody who surrounds me threatening to give a few pointers on creative writing or the kids who come pointing at my book attracted by the “JETIX”, “DISNEY” and “POWER RANGERS” images on it. But within half an hour it becomes pretty much like a circus, so the star performer decides to leave and go have some Biryani & Kebabs.
I get down the pipe I came up through. I hold on to the walls for dear life. People in front of me do the same. But the moron behind me decides I am a better support incase he falls. So after holding on to the ultra clean walls he goes on to wipe it clean on my white shirt. I come out looking like a poor, harassed human coming out of a Delhi Transport Corporation bus. Never mind I tell myself. Hail another rickshaw and ask the guy to take me to a Biryani place.
SALAR JUNG Museum:
After lunch I decide I need some history lessons. So “SALAR JUNG” Museum is my destination. Named after “Salar Jung III” the place is beautiful. Portraits of all the Hyderabadi Nizams, an English text book belonging to SALAR JUNG III himself to an ivory horse carriage are just a few things on display. 3 things that caught my attention and my fancy are:
1. An 11th century wood sculpture depicting Radha&Krishna on a swing under a tree.
2. The nizams clay fighters who had unique features of the real soldiers belonging to his personal troop.
3. An Italian sculpture called “Veiled Rebecca” by G.B.Benzoni made in 1876.
I waited for a few minutes (longer) in front of Ms.Rebecca, waiting for her to unveil herself, but being the snob that she is she did not oblige. So I took myself somewhere else. But frankly speaking she was beautiful…BEAUTIFUL…very lifelike.Besides the museum had the usual exhibits: furniture, weapons of war, textile, cutlery (sic), paintings etc.
The NIZAMS Jewellery:
I walked out of the Museum and visited the “Nizams Jewellery” exhibition. I was plain lucky to catch it in Hyderabad. It is usually displayed in Delhi. Mannn!!! Those jewels and the jewellery are so amaaazzzzziiinngggg! The best by a long way was the “Imperial (Jacob) Diamond”. This huge stone, 118 carats (I think, when uncut 300+ carats). Besides I read the entire history of all the Hyderabadi Nizams and forgot it the moment I stepped out of the building. One thing that I remember though is the amount of money the Indian Central Government paid the Nizam for the entire collection of 173 pieces. A whopping, STAGGERING 250 crores. Whoa!!! was my reaction and they say it was undervalued. OK!!! If u insist! Enough, I say, I am getting out of this place.
Outside one more rickshaw is hailed, and I find myself being driven to the “Golconda Fort”. Reach the place after traveling for half an hour. It’s around 6 in the evening and the sun is about to set. The whole place is glowing in the twilight. I decide I will go around the place on my own. But ofcourse that is a wrong decision, so I have to come groveling back to the “guide” who I asked to bugger off fifteen minutes ago. He is gracious enough to show me around the place. In the entire fort, the most interesting place is a passage where even the slightest of sound is amplified so Mr. King sitting in his room can hear who is coming into his concubines chambers and also so he can eavesdrop on anybody bitching about him. Weirdo!
So that was the last place I saw in HYDERABAD. I am told that there is much more to be seen. True, but I had only a few hours in the city and I realized that the best thing to do was to be a proper tourist and let the locals guide you around. This way I was able to meet quite a few interesting/weird people, not to mention the other “out of town”ers who want to know where you are from and then want to speak to you in the MARATHI (in my case) just to form a connection.
Friday, November 24, 2006