Tag Archives: enchanting

An Ordinary Evening in Hyderabad

In the end, in the whole psychology, the self,
the town, the weather, in a casual litter,
Together, said words of the world are the life of the world.

– Wallace Stevens

We hadn’t climbed high enough at the Charminar. The Golconda Fort was higher, and older. If you clap in a small area of the entrance the sound will carry all the way to a specific point hundreds of meters up a hill to the fort lookout. When the fort was in use, the clapping signaled a friendly visit or enemy approach. Now it signals to the vendors above, “Tourists ahead and willing to overpay for samosas!”

We walked around the once-grand rooms. Their yellow crumbles were plain in comparison to the Red Fort and the equally red Agra Fort but more expansive than both. Couples on secret dates took privilege of the cool stone inside the infinite, half-exposed spaces inside. Back home, kids go to Sonic to steal-away; here they murmur among ruins. Both inspiring.

I see you.

I see you.

The fort had been conquered enough times over to fill a 2 hour light and sound show. I don’t know what the significance of it was beyond that we had climbed to the top of it. We were walking up this rocky path between of boulders and ruins that looked like boulders because that’s the way everyone else was going and by the time we were halfway up we realized we were halfway up and someone said, maybe we can buy mineral water if we keep going.

I sat down on the ledge, tired. Sparrows darted around the thousand hidden cubbyholes in the stone that would make a bird happy. They captured the wind, letting themselves be whipped and riding it up above our heights. From this vista you can see the entire city seeping up and abutting the old fort wall from distances until the setting sun obliterates it at the horizon.

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I would like a shower.

Hyderabad

Hyderabad

Then, I heard the cry of the occasion. A voice plaited with a dense but wafting iron timbre suddenly crescendoed through the hills. It’s sustained its tone even as its notes painted a huge range. The sound had reached me, but I was so captivated that I thought the entire city surely could hear it too and had stopped to listen. It took me a few minutes to realize that the cadence of this strange language was reciting the 5:00 prayer from a nearby mosque.

Within minutes, every mosque in the city below was broadcasting its version. The voices did not drone nor harmonize together but formed a rounded edict. I could hear each separately if I listened closely. I sat in the spot to see how the city responded when swaddled in its own words. The hums were parts of the reverberation of this windy night. Forming their own current they grasped at each other between the streets, moving higher than me, extending from the birds. The clapping, not of one hand but so many voices, had reached the lookout in proclamation at last.

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The City of Love

We spent our time in Agra lounging in the shaded outdoor restaurant. We read, we walked around barefoot, and we petted the emaciated kitten who tickled our feet while eating. This is the sort of safety and relaxing we expected from our few weeks of vacation before school. We ask the manager to rent us a car or send some more mineral water up to the room, and he says slowly, “Don’t worry chicken curry,” and our request is filled.

Sounds of the city float in from the street – someone playing or singing a song, cows mooing, clamor of a cart, the generator that sits next to the street kicking in. On our last night in Agra, I was sitting in the courtyard reading in the waning light and I heard a louder commotion echoing closer. I went to investigate.

“What is that?” I asked a group of hotel employees chatting in a circle of lawn chairs.

“Wedding.”

I rushed upstairs to tell the others and grab my camera. As we are leaving, the boy who brings us water was waiting near the door.

“You must be very careful,” he warned, sternly. “The men will be much drunk and may cross over the street to greet you. Do not talk to them.” Again, the aid and protection of strangers surfaces at the most unexpectedly important times. This hotel especially has undertaken our well-being with vigor.

What approached us in the dark was like a moving vigil, but with trombones. Men marched blowing into brass instruments and holstered bass drums. Their notes blended with music emitted from speakers attached to a shiny cart leading the procession. Among the musicians others carried swinging bright lanterns, four per pole. The groom sat sternly upon a horse near the back of the train. Illuminated by the lanterns, his face remained somber among the swirl of beats and laughs and colored robes. Behind him a circular light show spun its colors, also on wheels. Truly, a wheel of fortune.

“Agra is the City of Love,” the jovial silver shop owner had said to us earlier in the day.  Our departure was full of it, both ours for the city and in this unexpected march of vows.

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