Monday, April 29, 2013

Day Trip To Warangal - The Thousand Pillar Temple

It's been on my mind for a while now. I wanted to visit Warangal and see, really see, the Thousand Pillar Temple, the Ramappa temple  (which I visited when I was very young) and the Warangal fort (which I never visited). We stayed in Hanamkonda, which is a town contiguous to Warangal, for four years in my childhood but I never made it to the fort for some reason.
Bhongir fort

Memories of the Thousand Pillar Temple were vague and old and I remember a rather uneven floor, many pillars (which we tried to count being the sceptics that we were) and a temple that needed some restoration and repair. After all it was a 1163 AD temple built during the reign of Rudradev. The Kakatiya dynasty ruled this area, including the Golconda, before the Bahmani kings took over the Golconda.
Close up of Bhongir fort

So, when we got an opportunity to go to Warangal with my sister Nalini who had some work there, we started off early in the car. We left Hyderabad at 7 and reached Warangal by 1030 or so, stopping for breakfast on the way. The roads in decent condition, toll road from Uppal to Bhongir (toll of Rs. 105 for two way), and a rather narrow single road the rest of the journey. Travelling a road that I passed by many times in my childhood I suddenly realised how much I had missed earlier. The Bhongir fort is one, sitting atop a huge hillock, one that must certainly be scaled one day. Lovely piece of work.
Town hall Hanamkonda

Then I saw a very interesting structure, the Princeton Junior College which looks like a pre-Independence structure built by the British with its dome at Jangaon.
Princeton College Jangaon

The many rocks reminding one of the rocks of Hyderabad as one reaches Kazipet, the huge round hillock at Kazipet, my old school St. Gabriel's in all its splendour, the old buildings of Hanamkonda.
St. Gabriel's ground, Kazipet

Much of Kazipet looked familiar despite the decades gone by (I stayed there during 1974-77) and I could find my way about it easily. Hanamkonda seems to have grown.
1000 pillar temple, Hanamkonda

I also detoured a moment to take a peek at the bungalow where we stayed for four years then, one that offered many childhood memories filled with Enid Blytons, cricket, mangoes, trees, swimming, friends, rocks and wide open lands.
One face

Anyway we passed by the quaint town hall which looked like a Pre-Independence structure itself and found the thousand pillar temple. It appeared to have shrunk because I remember there being more pillars, corridors etc.

The temple itself is a trikutalaya, with Shiva, Vishnu and Surya as the presiding deities inside. Intricate carvings on the pillars, the typical Kakatiya style of construction with heavy granite slabs, a huge basalt Nandi facing the temple, make the thousand pillar temple an awesome sight.
Anjali near an elephant sculpture

Between the three idols, only one of which is now functional, the Shiva temple, is a rangamandapa. An old pond on the outside, an old entrance mark the area of the star shaped temple. The temple itself is supposedly built on a platform which is raised 1 meter above the ground.


It boggles the mind to think of the weight of the structure. Apparently, the temple was so designed by the famed architects of the Kakatiya reign that one could see the deity from any point in the temple and the building near it without any pillar obstructing the vision.
Walking around the temple
Outside of the temple

The sculpture, the architecture, the sheer perfection of the work makes one wonder. What happened to such thought, such art, such dedication to work to creation? This was not just a flight of fancy, it involved detailed plans, perfect calculations and perfect execution. They do make you feel pretty small.
The way to the entrance
View from the front
Some of the 1000 pillars
Another view

Despite the heat there were quite a few visitors to the temple. We brought some prasad and headed out after spending a while in the temple and around it. From there we decided to head to the Warangal fort and see the famed toranas of the swayambhhu temple there.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Some T20 Bowling Recipes

For bowlers who are hoping to make it big in T20 formats here are some areas to work on. Bowling in T20 games is the biggest challenge and it's something that all good, skilful and big hearted bowlers would love to do. One over, can change the game, and that's how critical bowling can get in this format.

1) Learn to hold your delivery until the last moment. This comes naturally to those who fall into a good rhythm quickly and who understand the biomechanics and process of bowling, But there are far too many bowlers who merely run up and bowl and have no clue where the ball is going to land. Such bowlers need to first figure this out. Running in with more control, working on the action, release and follow through can give this control and you can soon graduate to 'pitching it in the right areas'. Once you have it, it gives you that much more control over the delivery and where it is pitching. By this you can hold yourself one second longer and improvise your length in small ways. Not the way the spinners are doing it but more like how Steyn does.

2) Swing, Cut. Swing, cut, seam are traditional weapons to bamboozle batsmen and make them uncomfortable. Whatever happens do not be predictable. Never allow them the luxury of being able to hit through the line i.e. develop some lateral movement, cut etc. Rajat Bhatia uses the leg cutter well and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar makes the ball talk at lesser pace with his unpredictable swing.

3) Change of pace. One slower one could get too predictable so its better that one has two or more variations of slower balls. Balaji is an expert at bowling those slow balls, slow bouncers and just watching him can be a revelation. England used the slow bouncers to great effect. Balaji is brilliant and so is Malinga with his slower ones.

4) Yorkers. These are key deliveries and one must be able to bowl them at will. The yorker needs more focus, more practice but its one of those weapons that may not fail you. When you have 10-15 runs to defend, yorkers, bowled well, can keep it down to singles or doubles. Pity that one does not see good yorkers any more. If I was a bowler I'd set myself to bowl 24 yorkers if I could. You cannot beat Malinga when it comes to yorkers and if there is one weapon all T20 bowlers need to develop, it is this.

5) Using the crease. Pollard is using the depth of the crease well by bowling from two yards behind. I find few bowlers changing the sides, using the width of the crease, or even bowling the odd ball from a short run up. Sammy does it once in a while.

6) Cut the angles for the batsmen. It is all about being fully aware to the batsmen and his intent. You know how most batsmen play and you must learn to cut out the angles he is looking for. Giving someone like Dhoni length balls or short balls is suicidal especially in the latter overs when he is going for it but we see so many bowlers still doing it. You may not succeed all the time but you must try to make each ball count.

7) Vary the length. If you can get enough control over your delivery and where you can pich the ball, you will know that just before the ball is delivered there is a spot you can hustle the ball into which cuts many free stroking options out for batsmen. Any batsmen. It is not really the good length, but its a restricting length that one finds based on how the batsmen is winding up. Watch Steyn and Rampaul from behind the bowling arm and mentally figure out the best length for them to bowl to restrict - 90% of the time they are in that area. This comes from knowing the correct length to bowl, lengthening or shortening it at the last moment. Again far too many bowlers bowl without really exercising enough control or thought on the area to pitch the ball and we are talking not just domestic players, we talk internationals too.

8) Create angles, wide of stumps. The lines are marked so you can go as wide of the sumps as you possibly can, which could cut out angles for some more batsmen. Create new angles from between both creases. Surely you can surprise the batsmen for that one crucial delivery if you work enough on that.

9) Experiment with new deliveries. Years ago when I read Dennis Lillee's 'Art of Fast Bowling' I was astounded at the number of variations he mentioned in that book. He had a slew of slower ones - knuckle ball, one finder ball, ball held deep in the palm, back of the hand leg spinner - and so much more. Obviously even in those days, for someone who was known to be a tearaway fast bowler, Lillee worked on ways to deceive the batsmen. Bowlers need to work on the same.

10) Keep your head. At all points don't go in with fixed ideas. The basics will normally work. What you can do well and what you have practiced will certainly work. But don't always think you can bowl six yorkers, six slower ones, six bouncers or six length balls. Flow with the tide and keep your best options open till the last moment. Don't lose your head if one ball or more gets hit out. Even after getting hit for three sixes, you can come back with three dot balls if you keep your head. Again this is something that gets better with practice and experience. Breathe, clear your head and decide to come back stronger.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Foreigner - Arun Joshi

Arun Joshi was born in 1939, has a Masters degree in Management from the M.I.T., wrote five novels and short stories and was selected for the Sahitya Academy Award. He is considered an author of rare sensitivity and talent. If friend Vinod had not discovered him, I would never have known of him. Which would have been a pity because 'The Foreigner' is an exceptional tale that stands good even today and will stand the test of time for a long time to come. It is a tale of love. And as with all tales of love, it is also about betrayal, hate, jealousy and retribution.

The protagonist Surender Oberoi (a.k.a. the foreigner) is slippery and rationalises himself out of all situations and commitments. He cannot get involved, believes in detachment. Having no family of his own and no real beliefs or joy or sorrow, he is a loose end and has no moorings and perhaps no purpose, but for his academics. Sindi as he is called, is an Indian who was brought up by his uncle in Kenya after his parents' death, and then moves to London where he has a series of intense relationships that leave him drained. Just when he does not have any more stomach for relationships he finds June, a pretty young American girl, and there begins another intense relationship that he tries to stifle with his detachment. After he rejects her or manipulates himself out of the relationship June gets into a relationship with Babu Khemka, a naive young Indian who comes from a rich family in Delhi and is controlled by his domineering father from Delhi. But Babu wants to be free and experiment and he dives headlong into love not knowing that it can cause pain too. The story begins with the shocking news of Babu's death and the derailment of Sindi's life after that event - and ends in Delhi where Sindi opts to live. All the reasons why people fall in love - escape for Babu, a sense of purpose and meaning for her life for June and Sindi's own fear of the most sublime of emotions - comes across.

It is a book that says much and one could perhaps gain more by reading it again as Arun Joshi packs it with thought, human sensibility and a lot of honesty. His style is direct and he gets right to the point. But where he really scores is in getting to the innermost emotions of people which is why his slippery character Sindi can be easily identified by all of us. Just as Sindi thinks he is a foreigner to every place, one who belongs to no one and no where, somewhere deep down we all feel that I suppose. It is resolved well too. Again, just as I felt with another writer whose writing was a bit similar, one of this generation, Musharraf Ali Farooqi, I found Arun Joshi's book taking me on a visual journey and by the end of it, I felt as if I had seen the entire movie, scene by scene. The books of Arun Joshi, Vinod says, are difficult to acquire, as they are out of print and he acquired this one in his used books market at Abids, but if you can get your hands on it, do read it. It is as good as any English fiction writing you can get from Indian writers and shows far more depth, style and sensitivity than so many who are so much better known and hyped in India. Reminds me of Murakami slightly though I don't know why.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Movie Review

This one is an adaptation of Milan Kundera's novel of the same name. Reading the synopsis of the movie after watching the movie I realised that the movie left me with a totally different understanding of the story.

The 1988 movie (as I understood it) revolves around a surgeon in Prague in the 60s. The surgeon is an intellectual, an artist and a womaniser too. Women are drawn to him and he sleeps with them. He believes that sex and love are different. Anyway he marries a rather staid woman that he meets in some rural hospital but continues his philanderings. The wife is unhappy - she has not such liberal views on sex - rather has opposite views on the same. Enter an artist girlfriend of the surgeon who has her own philiosophies and lives life in the manner that the surgeon does. She finds a staid man too (opposites attract) and snares him out of his marriage and when he leaves his wife, leaves him. After the Russian invasion of Prague the surgeon and wife go to Geneva where she finds some artistic inclinations and the artistic girlfriend of the surgeon. Unhappy again, surgeon's wife returns to Prague and the husband follows. Now they have a dog too. The get menial jobs in Russian occupied Prague. The wife also tries her hand at being 'light' and ends up having an affair which she probably does not enjoy that much. Then they all move to the country because she cannot stand being in Prague and eventually die in a car accident.

The book apparently looked at 'Lightness of Being' is about living the one life we have to the fullest without any regrets and guilt and heavy thought of after life and repentance and hell. So the surgeon is light and the girlfriend too and the others are trying in many ways to be. Anyway it was not a light viewing for me and I somehow thought that the story was not told well through the movie. Obviously there was far more to those characters than merely sleeping around - and it was that element to them that did not come through. For some reason it is critically acclaimed. Apparently the writer was not too happy with the way the movie came out. I guess with some good reason.

What Are The Coaches Doing?

What are so many coaches doing in the IPL with such large support staff? If that were not enough we have mentors and other experts as well. I have an issue with so many people advising the team because then nobody has a clear responsibility.

In fact I think that a coach at best, with his support staff, should be more than enough if one does not have a captain who can handle the strategy part. Shane Warne did a wonderful job as captain, coach and mentor for Rajasthan Royals. It makes sense because one individual takes the call, follows his procedures and establishes communication lines with the players. The line of authority, communication is clear and avoids all confusion and duplication.

My issue is this - the man out there is the captain of the side and he has to take the calls. But you undermine his authority by having a coach who, in my opinion should play the mentor and advisor role, and not get too involved in day to day strategy. At best he ought to have an advisory / support role and allow the captain and vice captain to take the decisions. What I see are too many captains who have almost no say in the proceedings and too many advisors who may give conflicting advise.

One of the biggest jobs of the Coach would be to develop and empower captains. Let the captain take the decisions and the ownership on the field. All strategy on field must be done before hand and at best some new inputs may be given during breaks etc.

As for the large coaching contingents I would like to see the coaching staff do a lot more of stuff that I do not see them doing. For example getting bowlers to bowl yorkers! After yesterday's game against the Sunrisers Hyderabad MSD mentioned how his bowlers seem to have forgotten the art of bowling yorkers. In fact it is not a malaise that only CSK suffers from - almost all other team suffer from the same problem. Save Lasith Malinga I cannot think of many other bowlers who can bowl yorkers at death. In fact I would ant two bowlers who can bowl 8 yorkers on the spot in 12 balls each in the last 4 overs. Yorkers are a practiced skill and the more you bowl the better you get. The fact that even Steyn forgot to bowl yorkers to Dhoni is indicative of something falling short in that department.

If Malinga can bowl yorkers at will it's because he practiced them to perfection. Cannot these bowling coaches teach their internationals to bowl yorkers, slower ones and other variations as the game demands? How come half the bowlers do not even bowl line and length and are all over the place? What's the coaching staff doing?

To think that the only innovation I have seen in this IPL has been the Pollard ball, which he delivers from two steps behind the bowling crease, is a shame. And that is an old trick that bowlers used in the fifties too. So what is new? Rarely have I seen bowlers change the angle by using both width and depth of the crease. Rarely have there been exhilarating spells of bowling save those from Sunil Narine, Steyn or Mishra. 

To me it's pretty simple. You cannot have so many Coaches unless they are adding clear value. If you have expertise then use it. It must show on the performances. if it's not then get rid of the Coaches and let  the players figure it out by themselves.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Between Clay and Dust - Musharraf Ali Farooqi

This is a classic too. Rarely does one come across a story that is told with such brevity, such clarity and such purpose. Musharraf Ali Farooqi impresses right away with his sparse and direct tone, the short chapters that do not go beyond 4-5 pages and no unnecessary flourishes in the language. A story must be told and nothing compromises that in 'Between Clay and Dust' and it is this feature that I loved about his work the most. It is very visual too and makes you see and smell the story as it moves along at a rapid pace. Another thing that I really liked was the way his characters rise above the ordinary, despite their ordinariness, and show glimpses of how our lives could be too if we gave in to that part of us. In these times when we celebrate mediocrity, such high paths and thought are rare, welcome and must be celebrated.
Aleph Books, 213 p, Rs. 450

It is the story of champion wrestlers. Ustad Ramzi is the title holder of Ustad-e-Zaman. He is proud and devoted to the art, and keeps it going in the traditions he was taught and beliefs he was brought up on. But he is now old and needs a successor to defend the title and also take over the akhara's management. His brother Tamami is a strong wrestler but of the newer generation, not so much driven by the passion to the art as much as the vanity of being the title holder. But his older brother does not relinquish the title in his favour, sensing the immaturity and irresponsibility of his younger brother. Tamami craves for his older brother's, his hero's, approval but gets none. In his life devoted to wrestling Ustad Ramzi never marries and in his older and lonelier years finds solace in the music of Gohar Jan and her kotha. She, in return finds a sense of purpose that wears off from the older, brooding and purposeful Ramzi. As the frenzy increases from challenges to the brothers, fixed fights, Tamami's rise to fame and infamy, his sinking into drugs and the old Ustad's uncompromising values the story takes us through human strength and fallibility, love and hate in their weird shades, but mostly of lives lived and lost with passion.

There were a couple of moments in the book when I thought Farooqi could have turned its course and made it something much bigger. A fight between Tamami (who is built up so well as a prize fighter) and their natural enemies, that could have killed all the demons between him and his older brother, perhaps a moment of truth between the lonely Gohar Jan and Ustad Ramzi that could have given them both some peace, would have raised it all towards the climax into something of epic proportions. Even Malka goes away without any resolution - too many similarities between Ustad Ramzi and Tamami's relationship with Gohar Jan and Malka's to let go so easily. Perhaps that's just the filmy type in me that craves such endings but I suddenly felt cheated at the way Tamami recedes when there was so much potential. But then, all stories need not resolve themselves happily and there are mistakes to be made and lessons to be learned.

It's a brilliant book. It's a story well told. After so long have I read a book that leaves you with the same feelings as perhaps a great movie does, it's that good in its story telling and clarity. There is never any confusion about what happened and to whom and why and where unlike most books where you don't remember the who, why, what, where and how and all you are left with is beautifully written prose. I suspect that the story will remain in its pristine clarity in my mind for eternity. I loved it for more than one reason. It's in a way sports fiction too, which makes it even more fascinating. Farooqi's descriptions of the wrestling bouts are picture perfect and take you right into the akhara, into the clay and dust, the sweat and fear, so good is he. And it's such a quick and pleasurable read that you can do it all in four or five hours. Do read it.

The Bicycle Thief - Movie Review

Classic movie. How does one define that. To me its the kind of a movie that does not necessarily rely on technical wizardry, musical and locational brilliance and still tells the story in such a manner that you do not wish to miss even a wee bit of it. I could not tear myself away from the screen for the smallest moment and savoured each and every scene as if it were a favorite dish that I hid for myself. So rich and so well told is bicycle thief.

Directed by Vittorio Di Seca, the 1948 movie is an adaptation of a novel by Luigi Bartolini. The pace is rapid and far more interesting than a Mission Impossible which stuns you with scenes and that's something I wish certain movie makers realised. In the first scene itself the protagonist Antonio Ricci is offered a job in post War Italy when jobs are scarce and people are pawning away their belongings to feed their families. Antonio gets a rare job, of pasting posters on the city walls and he is thrilled to bits, but the condition is that he must have a bicycle. Now Antonio has pawned his bicycle earlier so he somehow lies his way through and gets the job. His wife pawns the sheets and mattresses at home and they get the bicycle back, which is stolen on the first day itself. Antonio and his seven year old son who knows the bicycle even better than Antonio go searching for the bicycle in all the markets for stolen goods. During that period the father and son go through all that is required of anyone in such adversity - until we come to the moment of reckoning. In a world full of bicycles, is one less bicycle better off than searching for a bicycle that is lost for all purposes? The choices that the father makes, the all too early growing up of his son as he faces up to the reality of life, the unfairness of life and mostly the drama of a human life are revealed in a measured, exacting manner by Vittorio Di Seca. It is one of those movies in which you can never forget the look in the actors eyes, where you can always feel the sadness, hope, weakness, strength and the loss of an illusion. Beautiful stuff that will remain forever.

If one has to write scripts and stories they had better be like this. You don't need big stars to make movies like this - both the father and son were first time actors. Every moment, every expression, every change in mood is to be savored. Super stuff.

I wonder if anyone in the Hindi film industry copied it in the 60s (when it could have worked). But I found a faint similarity in 'The Better Life' which was the story of an immigrant Mexican and his son and their search for a truck he brought for work.

Keep The Faith - Theodore Roosevelt

I received this quote in the mail from Ramaraju today - a quote by Theodore Roosevelt on critics. In a world full of promises, hopes, expectations and intentions, it is finally the work done that matters. All else remains just that - words.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder. Well for these men if they succeed; well also, though not so well, if they fail, given only that they have nobly ventured, and have put forth all their heart and strength."

- Theodore Roosevelt

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Anjali - I Will Not Give Up

There is something that happens when we decide upon certain things. It is that thought that helps us rise over the mundane and be what we were meant to be.

Faced with the daunting prospect of climbing up the rather steep and stark granite steps that lead up to the top of the Golconda Fort I was pretty much geared up for some carrying her up at some point. But halfway up he hill, some warrior spirit awakened within her and she said, her face resolute - "I will not give up. I will climb all the way to the top."

Alright, here goes
One look at her face and I knew that she would climb it all the way up by herself, that's how determined she was. And climb she did and in good humour, cracking a few jokes here and there. Once when she was about to complain in a moment of weakness, she caught herself and reminded herself and me - "I will not give up". She climbed the entire distance, enjoyed herself and was proud of her achievement.
I will not give up

On the way down she complained a bit, but then she decided that she will get off the hill and that I must carry her when we get to the flat area. I said it was fine by me and she climbed down the steps.
That resolute look - I did it

It is that thought, that decision that we take, which is the critical, the creative part of our lives. All champions talk of that moment when they decided that they would not give up, that they would rather die than give up - and only after that decision has been made do they achieve those big goals they set for themselves. It is a decision that interests me no end because all of us have the capability to take that decision as often as we can, in all things that matter to us most, so we can achieve big and bigger things, be more creative, feel more free and express ourselves. And it is such decisions that make up those moments when life stands tall, at its best and noblest.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf - Movie Review

Made in 1966 this movie is adapted from a play of the same name written by Edward Albee. I never saw Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in such intense roles before and was pretty stunned by their acting prowess and screen presence. Taylor strides the screen with such ease and power, slips into her role so easily and with such grace and beauty that you wonder when we will see artistes like her again. Ditto for Burton. It is apparently the only film to have been nominated or all 13 categories in the Academy Awards and won five including one for Elizabeth Taylor and Sandy Dennis.

George is a middle aged college professor married to the free spirited Martha, who is also the daughter of the college President where George works (hinting at a compromise somewhere). They have been married several years and it's obvious that Martha controls George as the tale unfolds one evening at their home. She orders him around, shouts and abuses him, knowing fully well that she wields control over him through her father's position. The two are drinking and we see the shades of their relationship - of compromise, power, love, ego, violence, hatred, resentment - you name it you have it.

Martha tells George that they are expecting a young couple home and though its late George has no option but to play along. When the young couple come George gets his own back at Martha by engaging in some weird games where he draws the young couple in to reveal their secrets. Soon Martha gets into the vicious game and exposes George, tries to have an affair with the young stud, and by morning all their lives stand revealed with their human motives, fears, doubts and needs.

Powerful and intense, it's the stuff that most marriages are about in some way and shows how human nature is the same across the Universe. Brilliant performances by Taylor, Burton and the younger couple, played by George Segal and Sandy Dennis. The movie has all the qualities of a play as it involves long dialogue but its fascinating to see how it unfolds especially in the hands of the actors.

No One Knows About Persian Cats - Movie Review

An Iranian movie made by Bahman Ghobhadi 'No One Knows About Persian Cats' is a docu-drama about the underground music movement in Iran. The storyline is thin - it explores how humans find a way of expression despite all the restrictions that governments and societies thrust upon them. This movie more so focuses on the restrictions that Iran probably has on rock music and more specifically the underground Indie-rock (alternative rock) scene in Iran.

The story picks up with two youngsters, a boy and a girl, who have attended a rock concert and were arrested by the police. They decide to go to Europe to play their music and approach a middle man. He takes them to a person who can give them passports, visas and even green cards - all forged - for a fat fee. The two youngsters agree. The middle man, a youngster himself, tells them that it is better they stick to their music since they play such fine music (he listens to their tape) and offers his help to put together a band. Thus starts the underground journey of rock bands that play hidden in cellars, in faraway cow sheds, in dark dungeons and so on. They meet rock musicians, grunge musicians, sisters who make a living singing, drummers and guitarists who dream of nothing in life but to express themselves through their music. The two traverse the underground music scene and find much good music and many frustrated souls who wish to express themselves.

Nothing much by way of the story but an interesting docu-drama into the underground music scene, the needs of the young and their absolute right to express themselves. 'No One Knows About Persian Cats' truly sticks to the soul of Irani movies which somehow protest loudest against their systems and somehow find the space to express themselves. Thanks to my nephew Avinash to gifted me this.

Golconda Fort in Pics

Went to the Golconda fort yesterday as part of my new-found know-my-heritage trips these days. Raja was keen and Anjali had a school project so she decided to join in too. 
One of the outer gates
The curtain wall, I think

So the four of us, Shobhs and I, Anjali and Raja headed off early to Golconda fort which opens at 9 a.m. Why? Why not 6 a.m. when it is much easier to climb up and take some fine shots? Maybe its too early for the ticket counter walas to get up.
Map of Golconda

Raja and Anjali guarding the narrow entrance to the inner fort
So many people have to come at 9 a.m. and labour up in the hot sun and labour down in the same. I'd recommend that the fort be open much earlier.
Anjali and a plaque

Entrance from the inside

Why did I think Golconda was a small fort in my earlier visits? It is not. I was then unimpressed by the stories of how the fort held off Aurangazeb's Moghuls for a year.
An idea of the climb

What's the big deal about this little thing was my thought? I don't know what I was thinking then but when I went to it this time it pretty boggled my mind. It's a tough fort to crack with so many gates, the steep incline, the many surprises that the resident kings could spring upon attackers including boiling oil and molten lead. The Quli Qutub Shah sultans were warriors and lived there most of their lives from the 1500s to the 1700s when Aurangazeb captured Golconda.
Some greenery and yellowy

Another plaque giving information

Anyway you land up at Golconda and find that the entry ticket is only Rs. 5. It could be more right? Charge some more and maintain it well - more signages, a small museum or information room at the bottom that gives you the story in detail as in Chowmahalla palace, clear garbage, erase the X loves Y writings.
Impressive structure

Some graffiti
As you walk in you find some directions, some plaques but overall I felt that if they had more signs and boards it would have been a better experience for most. There are several guides but one never knows how long and how far they will guide you because some of them are known to desert you half way and say there is nothing much else to see. (I had that experience in the Qutub Shahi tombs and I also met an old man who had been deserted by one this day.) Also why don't they have a proper system of guides who are trained, accredited and who charge a standard rate? Why can't they organise that better and draw more crowds? But it works either way - hire one and you get a slot of stories, not all of them true, and some entertainment. Or do some research, keep your ears and eyes open and piece it together by yourself. I prefer the latter.
More of the same

Taking the steep way up
The Golconda fort was a mud fort built by the Kakatiyas in 1143 A.D. Legend is that it was suggested to the king Pratap Rudra Dev by a shepherd that a fort could be built here. Hence the name Golla (shepherd in Telugu) and Konda (hill). In 1363 A.D. the fort was passed on to the Bahmani's by the Kakatiyas under a pack and for a while was called Mohammed Nagar after Mohammed Shah.
Tacky plasticky pink

Well hidden garbage (What would the Quli Qutub Shah sultans kings say?)
The Bahmani governors of Berar, Ahmed Nagar, Bijapur, Bidar and Golconda became independent when the Bahmani dynasty grew weaker. In 1518 Sultan Quli Qutub Shah broke away and established the Qutub Shahi kingdom at Golconda.
The tank with the not so well hidden garbage
Seven kings of the Qutub Shahi dynasty ruled the Golconda for a period of 169 years (1518-1687). They were of Iranian descent. The first sultan was Quli Qutub Shah (1518-1543), Jamshid Quli Qutub Shah (1543-1550), Ibrahim Quli Qutub Shah (1550-1580), Mohd Quli Qutub Shah (1580-1611), Mohd Qutub Shah (1611-1626), Abdulla Qutub Shah (1626-1672) and Abul Hasan Tana Shah (1672-1687). (One other sultan, Subhan Quli Qutub Shah, son of Jamshid was seven years old when he was made sultan in 1550, and he as quickly deposed of by his uncle, younger brother of Jamshid, Ibrahim.)  Tana Shah was captured and imprisoned in Daulatabad Fort by Aurangazeb in 1687 thereby ending the Qutub Shahi dynasty rule. The Moghuls ruled over it until the Asaf Jahi kings or the Nizams ruled over Hyderabad under the Moghul sovereign.

A palace

As you get into the fort near the main gate, the one where you can clap and it reverberates and where the clap is supposed to echo on top of the fort some half a kilometer away thanks to the wodners of Iranian contruction, you are better off going to the right and climbing up from that side. Unfortunately there are no directions that tell you the same so many end up climbing up from the steeper sides which are not too friendly on older people. You head up past the Ramdas prison and the secretarial offices and other such.
Shobhs with the Palace

Us three and the view to the top

Ruins of Golconda

The entire expedition could take you 2 - 3 hours depending on how much time you wish to spend. It is a big climb with several steps, some steep as well. Definitely the shoe, cap, shades, water and jeans kind of an outing. The view at the top is fabulous and one can see Taramati Baradari on one side and the not-too-pleasing growth on our growing city on another. Thankfully Golconda is surrounded by a cantonment area on some sides and there is a pleasant spread of greenery there. On the other side its concrete and ugly structures.
Framed - old man deserted by the guide
Impressive - granary perhaps

View of the city
The fourth king Sultan Mohammed Quli Qutub Shah was the one who founded Hyderabad across the Musi in 1587, built the Charminar, Mecca Masjid and other buildings and palaces in the city. He named it after his love, Bhagmati. Bhagyanagar was known as Hyderabad as Bhagmati's name was changed to Hyder Mahal upon marriage to the sultan.

Ibrahim mosque


The Baradari or Durbar Hall at the top

The amount of construction work, the way the blocks of granite are placed, the acoustics of the royal palaces indicate high degree of expertise in the construction. The Quli Qutub Shah sultns were Iranian and there was enough influence of Iranian architecture and engineering.

Another view

Good view of the ruins

Going up the highest point of the Fort, Shobhs at the Baradari

The Baradari behind me

Long trek down

I did it

Anjali trekked up all the way by herself telling herself and me every now and then that - she will not give up - until she climbs it. She did that easily and climbed down as well. It was only after she came down to flatland did she ask me to carry her. I'm impressed. We clicked loads of pictures, ate some kulfi and ice cream and descended.
Taramati Baradari at a distance

Premamati mosque (I think)

Way down

Steep descent, stony steps, unforgiving heat

But there's so much to do and explore in the fort. The outer walls for that matter, the parks, mosques, tombs could all take up more than one visit to get a comprehensive understanding. But this was the fort where the Quli Qutub Shah dynasty ruled, the fort considered impregnable, so much so that it held out against Aurangazeb's Moghuls for almost a year and even then, fell only due to betrayal. It carries much history, romance and drama.

Rocky and stark

Flatland and rest


Queen's Palace

One can visualise how it must have looked

Impassive after centuries

Near the secretariat

The Armoury (I think)

The right route up with the famous heritage walkway

Sadly there is not even a face to associate with the fort, as in who were the rulers of this fort and what they looked like, which could be addressed by opening a small museum at the base with pictures and portraits, stories and histories, for the uninitiated. From the famous love stories between the Iranian sultans and the Hindu courtesans, one of whom was responsible for laying down the city Bhagyanagar that we now know as Hyderabad, the development of the famous diamond and pearl markets that made the Nizam, the richest man in the world, there is much that is silent.

Ideally on cooler days it's worth a climb at 4 in the afternoon and descend down to the sound and light show by 6 or so. But one could go up the Golconda every week if you live close by just for the exercise. That's a bit like how the Puneites do - walk the Parvati hill or climb the Simhagad every week. It's a great combination of health and fun and heritage.