Museums, Heat And Dust

By Sunil Kumar

It’s dark as I get my first glimpse of the city of Bhagyanagar(Hyderabad). Nothing has prepared me for the unruly traffic; and massive dust in the expanding city. Metro construction seems to be happening everywhere; haphazardly. The great Indian juggernaut has to roll along; but sometimes as a citizen; I feel it has to move a bit more speedily.

The Indian air force helicopter formations per...

Visit The Indian air force helicopter formations perform for more than 6,000 people at the Gachibowli Stadium in Hyderabad, India, for the 4th CISM Military World Games Oct. 14, 2007. The Conseil Internationale du Sport Militaire’s Military World Games is the largest international military Olympic-style event in the world. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Taken by Venky (Venkat) Uploaded to W...

Visit English: Taken by Venky (Venkat) Uploaded to Wikipedia by user:nikkul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Incredible India is a good punchline; something that make me enthusiastic enough to tackle the vicissitudes of life; individual or the collective experience of being a citizen of a great nation. The media feeds me negative stereotypes every day; but the endless spirit of a national consciousness that has withstood millenia of ups and downs makes me go on.

Information Technology; the raison d’etre of my visit left aside after a few meetings; I venture to explore the city. The old fort of Golkonda is in ruins; but a local guide tells me about diamond markets; the Kohinoor; and the dramatic time of kings and emperors. Although he only partially touched on the story of Telegu saint Ramdas; recent rereading reveals a spiritual saint who was rescued by Lord Ramachandra’s personal intervention with Tanashah.  The pantheon of the past is crowded with images; when tyrannical despots controlled the life of citizens; but creativity flourished in art, poetry and song.

The Birla Temple towards the south of Hussain Sagar; Hyderabad’s man-made lake; is a peaceful marvel. A cool breeze was respite enough from a dreadfully hot afternoon; and Venkateshwara; Andhra Pradesh‘s favorite God seemed to dance in the distance; his image carved in the intricately sensual South Indian style. Quietness and serenity can be experienced for a while; but the omnipresent presence of countless people can always bring you back to mundane existence.

Mumbai is the nation’s “filmi” capital; but its crowded film city pales in comparison to the massive monster created by Ramoji Rao. Beautiful gardens; landscaped thrills and wide roads greet me in a complex which should be replicated in more places throughout the country. Some of the programs here are long-winding and painful; but overall the experience is different; kind of fun. A Buddhist cave in the complex reconnects me with the enlightened one; but the experience is fleeting; as we move on to the replica of a train station.

Bollywood films have been shot here; the guide informs us all. But unlike Mumbai; no shooting seems to be happening; and the overwhelming presence of countless people can be jarring. As another eventful day comes to an end; it’s time to head back to “Maximum City“.

But before I go; it’s time to look at Hyderabad’s most iconic representation; the Charminar. The crowded streets around the place and general decay makes me cringe; but then that’s something the country seems to accept with nonchalance. The Asaf Jahi Nizams‘ legendary wealth led to the creation of Salar Jung Museum; which was once one of the largest private collections in the world.

English: Cyber Towers the software landmark of...

Visit English: Cyber Towers the software landmark of Hyderabad. Located at Madhapur surrounded by many software majors like Wipro, IBM and Accenture, the building is a huge tourist attraction. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A shadow of its past brilliance is still evident in the collection; and some wonderful stuff is still on display; but the upkeep is still not comparable to premier international museums; but we should credit the old kings and their nobles with foresight. Our nation and the world at large still seems to be mired between two realities; imagined pasts and a technology-crazed present; and both the worlds seem to be in an eternal tussle. Purusha and Prakriti; Linga and Yoni.

The airport is among the best in India; and as I make my way back from the Pearl City; Hyderabad has left a partial imprint in my consciousness; something that will be replaced in time by other experiences; but the city is living testimony to a world of the past; that no longer exists. Akshara Hassan; recently in Shamitabh flashes a wonderful smile as I leave the airport. A new world merges somewhere in my consciousness. Memories often transmute into fantasies; and where reality ends; fiction begins. Khattam Shud! Samaptam!



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