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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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In the Thick Of It

Infinite games of Frogger would prepare no one to navigate 15 white kids through the tanned 7 million of this city. So we went to the most difficult place to cross the road – the roundabout near the Charminar. The four-pillar archway was built as a memorial to commemorate the riddance of a disease in the city in the late 1500s. Currently, it functions as a roadblock in the central old city.  Tourists infect the area now and we contributed.

Did not realize I had to climb this until I was climbing it.

Did not realize I had to climb this until I was climbing it.

We stumbled up 53 hot and crowded arterial stairs of the minarets. My legs almost failed to reach up some of the step inclines. Then, ducking below the low stone ledge at the edge of the cubbyhole, we emerged above the city.

The top of the Charminar forms a donut. Chew is readily available (and ubiquitously enjoyed by rickshaw wallahs) so if desire you could spit on the people lounging in the shade on the base below through the middle drop or those coming in on all sides from the outer edges without leaning very far. You’re stuck up there as you are at the Arch in St. Louis, but here you can topple out with poor balance. A bright yellow dome caps the middle and gives the center a bright glow without origin. The place is crowded too – the trolling security guard told our group to disperse because too many people were crowding around to take our pictures and clogging the small corridors. I feared more than once that I would be backed straight off of the structure by a horde of Indians taking surreptitious photos on their cell phones.

Charminar dome

Charminar dome

I found an unoccupied space to claim from a safe distance. From this height, the city’s manners display themselves for judgment. The rickshaws murmured and clustered as yellow jackets around the red, blue, green neon signs of the bazaar. Across the street, a mosque presides behind a large fence; blacker pigeons dismounted from its globular points and swirled in its tan archways Further, you could see into housing colonies of the surrounding hills. From this distance they all looked white until the hot smog screened them. They remained unattainable and unknowable even at this elevated glance.

Flowing to everywhere

Flowing to everywhere

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