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Saturday, March 17, 2007

4th day – Birla Mandir, Golconda Fort, Charminar

Stop mooning about day 1. I’ll do it when I want to.

Most of the day was spent sightseeing. The first sight we went to see was the Birla Mandir, a (supposedly) beautiful temple dedicated to the goddess Lakshmi, if I’m not mistaken. Gold (yeah, aurum) and marble (mere calcium carbonate), apparently. I didn’t see anything remotely like gold, but the marble part is true. We didn’t see any structure that wasn’t made of marble. Prayer was the last thing on our minds. Who would feel like praying after climbing up millions of steps, then depositing our cell phones and cameras with someone who looked like he couldn't wait to pawn them, then clambering up another million steps, only to be met by a surly (and burly) security guard carrying an unfriendly rifle?

The sanctum sanctorum wasn’t as well-defined as it is in our mallu temples. We stood for an hour in the queue to get a peep at the deity, who was also made of marble. The view was amazing, although it was sadly lacking in greenery. Views (in my book) should feature lots of green stuff; beautiful buildings and huge artificial lakes are optional. At the end of the queue the priest touched a crown to our heads (silver, not gold), and we shuffled out.

The next problem was, we couldn’t find the exit. Asking the gun-wielding guard wasn’t a good idea (his expression wasn't very encouraging). I heard a very short lady dressed in a weird dress (a kameez, a dupatta and an ugly full skirt) ask him for directions to the exit, and our minds thanked her, while wondering about her odd attire. We began to follow her, and I couldn’t help remarking, ‘Ithu enthu vesham?’ [What sort of an outfit is that?] and other comments about her ridiculous fashion sense. (Bad habit, I know. People's weird clothes always arouse my scorn. Not that my clothes are perfect. But, you know. Yeah.) It was about 5 seconds later that she turned round and told her companions (who were walking behind us) ‘Itha purathekkulla vazhi’ [this is the way out] in fluent Thirontharam Malayalam.I think I passed out, because the next thing I remember is waiting on the roadside for our bus.

A few of the girls got mehendi designs on their palms, but it turned out to be some kinda foul-smelling ink. Now I consider the herbal smell of mehendi to be one of its star attractions, so, no. Some of the guys got ‘tattooed’ too. Next stop, Golconda Fort.

We bought water melon on the way to the fort. Mmm…

The fort is best admired at night, but that was obviously out of the question. It was built on a hill, from above downwards. The king who lived there had 360 wives (and 360 mothers-in-law, who he probably executed), according to the nasal tour guide (some relative of Himesh Reshammiya, no doubt, although he didn’t acknowledge the relationship). We climbed and climbed and climbed, accompanied by the weirdo, who gave us remarkably stupid info regarding the fort, the king, his wives, his army, his minister and life in general. I understood every single word he said, but put together it didn’t make any sense. He should have spoken in Hindi, instead of doing horrible things to English. *shudder*

The highest I climbed was only slightly below the topmost part of the fort. The wind was windy, and the heat was less hot. The view was totally awesome, but again, no green. Andhra Pradesh is one desolate place. If you're from AP, come to Kerala. You'll know what I mean when I say I missed the greenery.

The long climb down was made easier by my sandals losing a vital connection, thus maintaining constant direct contact between my right foot and the stone steps. The plantar surface of my toes had attained a beautiful erythematous appearance by the time I reached the bus. I also needed a crutch, but couldn't find one. Ow!

At the entrance of the fort, I saw a foreigner guy standing in the portico, apparently listening to his guide clapping his hands and moving towards the sound. Poor blind guy, I thought, noting his walking stick and dark glasses. Well, it turned out he was getting a taste of the acoustics there. I tried clapping in the middle of the courtyard, and could hear it resonate weirdly. That was an unexpected cool.

Charminar was a beautiful dancer with whom the king held secret liaisons with, in spite of having 360 wives (information courtesy afore-mentioned guide). Reliable sources say different. I’m having serious doubts regarding the accuracy of his other statements.

The climb up the Charminar’s minaret was markedly unpleasant. I’ve always hated narrow spiral staircases. And the view from the top of the tower was no consolation. It sucked. Plus John had found it necessary to proclaim to the world that he loves Michelle by inscribing it on the walls. John, and a lot of other irresponsible creeps who consider historical monuments to be their personal notice board.

The climb down was even worse. Fortunately, I didn’t trip over the broken strap (remember my broken shoe?) and die an ignominious death. The Charminar area has a very famous bangle market, and we decided to check the validity of the statement. It was more than true, and everyone ended up buying a lot of bangles, except for me. I was more concerned with finding a shoe store. I found one, and walked away a lot taller. :)

By then, we were starving, and decided to try the kebab place we had seen on our way to the Charminar. The kebab was excellent, and the prices were very reasonable. Yum!

Another round of shopping, this time in the city (same place whose delights we hadn’t fully discovered the previous day) and I missed a whole lot of bargains. No words can express my disappointment at that. :(

We skipped dinner, and saw Guru instead. We got back to the room around midnight, and began packing. I stuffed everything into my bag, giving it odd bulges in places. The I found that I had packed my toothbrush at the very bottom, and had to take everything out and do it all over again. I somehow got it done by one, and then, off to Never Never Land. I was too tired to do anything else. Going without dinner isn’t very energising.

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