We, the families of the members of KSEB Officers' Association, Kannur Dist. were scheduled on a Hyderabad tour organized by the Association, from 20/12/2014, Saturday to 23/12/2014, Tuesday. There were 115 of us, which certainly is not a small group, as compared to all the usual sort of family vacations. (Who has even heard of a family of 115 members?) The trip began with all of us assembling on the said date, at Kannur Vydyuthi Bhavanam at 6:00 pm. The trip was scheduled to begin at the aforesaid time, however, due to slight traffic and other confusions, we were delayed by about an hour and a half. There were two buses, and we boarded them. There was another bus from Thalassery that met with us when we stopped to sup. Then the buses headed straightaway to Kempagowda Airport, Bangalore, Karnataka. Perchance we saw the state boundary, a rather narrow bridge, considering the trouble we took to cross the canal.
We saw the Bangalore city at the dead of night. It was not exactly starlit, with the streetlamps shining like large candles. We reached the airport at about 4:00 am. The airport is a fantastic building, a glass façade, supported by groups of slender columns, slanting to a common origin. We collected our baggage and walked into the airport. There we were handed our boarding passes by a lady at the help centre for Indigo flights. Thereafter the people who had boarded the 1st bus went to check in, and soon left. Our flight was scheduled for about two hours later. We sat and waited.
There were eatables available at the airport, with prices that could be reached only with an airplane. Soon we checked in as well. We went through metal detectors and reached the Gallery!
We saw planes land, take off, and ride about the runway in straight paths. A lady came and led us to the 17th gate, downstairs. We got into a bus that drove us to the plane that waited. An Airbus-A320 Sharklet. Once it was "all aboard", the plane turned to the runway and waited for another to lift off. Then it was our turn. The plane got into a terrific speed that would have taken your breath away, had you looked out.
The aerial view was a stunning spectacle of teeny weenie towns, the feather soft cotton candy that formed an alien world of clouds, and the glittering network of rivers and lakes that shone as silken strands and drops of molten gold with the sunrays dancing over them.
The plane landed and a few buses awaited us. They picked us up near the plane and dropped us off at the Hyderabad airport building. A conveyor belt returned the luggage to us, and so we set out, in search of the buses that had been arranged to take us on the tour.
We reached the hotel well past the 1st group who were blessed with a long break to shower and breakfast. We the 2nd group had to hurry over matters like washing and eating, so as to join the former in the buses.
Our first stop on the tour was the Paradise hotel, renowned for its delicacies like the Hyderabadi Biriyani (which, most regretfully, did not appeal to the tongues of everyone present, and left us diminutively unsatisfied, and with pockets considerably lighter). We returned to our seats and continued. The next stop was Snow World, which I regret to say, I sat out. And therefore ask your forgiveness for omitting it from this travelogue.
The bus stopped at a dirty narrow street with vendors and hawkers forming the sidewalk, which led me to the impression that the shopping spree of the tour had already begun. However, it was the Birla Mandir. We climbed all the way up to reach a marvelous structure of perfect white marble. The Birla Mandir is a temple atop a hill, a sight that can be viewed from the city below. We can view the sprawling city from the temple top as well.
There is a souvenir shop close to the temple, where we bought souvenirs, a keepsake of this trip. By that time it had become evening, and we returned to the bus. Then came the last stop of that day: "Lumbhini Park". It was a park near Hyderabad's famed lake: Hussain Sagar. There is a statue in the middle of the lake. We didn't enjoy the park very much, but the laser show that succeeded was well worth the pain taken by waiting for the tickets. It was colourful as well as informative on the history of Hyderabad. The show ended and we returned to the hotel, from where we went to other restaurants for dining (as the meals available at the hotel were far too expensive and taxing).
The following day brought a pleasant adventure, a film city, the biggest film city in the world, and a nice big Guinness World Record to prove that.
Owned by Mr. Ramoji, this film city stands home to a variety of worlds, let it be the Vedic ages or the Space age. It contains hundreds of gardens, Plaster of Paris models of towns and cities and airports that can belong to any nation. There is a Taj Mahal that makes for a Juma masjid when painted green with the backside forming the Golden temple of Amritsar and a famous hall when painted white, then, a godless temple (the god comes only during shooting on a contract basis), a city railway station with a rural backside, buildings that are real buildings, buildings that are but half a building, buildings that are two buildings in one, and buildings that aren't buildings at all.
We had a tour on a red vintage bus, around the whole place, stopping for five minutes at the shooting scenes of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the ubiquitous airport and the false Hãwã Mahal. We had glimpses of the Sun fountain, a spectacle I will describe later, the Angels fountain, by far the tallest fountain there, that also holds a story to it, as well as a belief (a person who circles the fountain thrice will find love and marriage, and thrice again, a divorce.) I suppose it is a tale told probably used to lure superstitious bachelors, unhappy husbands, spinsters and unhappy wives to the film city; and finally, the Jug fountain, a rather ungainly and ugly piece of art that ought to be kept hidden away.
We were kicked out of the bus at the false Hãwã Mahal with the statement "Tour ends here, folks, now go find your own way (Truthfully, it sounded like "Get out, folks, get lost.") We climbed down the Hãwã Mahal to a snack bar and ate buns. Then we clambered further down to the Amphitheatre, then the Animal Sanctuary Garden, then the Arizona Thorn Garden and the Rock Garden.
The Amphitheatre looks like one of those big structures typical of ancient Rome, in which people thought it "fun" to watch a man fend off a hungry lion or a couple of desperate slaves... The Sanctuary Garden is a garden extraordinaire, with all the hedges trimmed neatly to form a zoo with all sorts of animals. The Thorn Garden was by far the loveliest, its cacti in full bloom. It could be more defined as God's "painful palette". Beauty that can be touched, yes, but only with the sight. The Rock Garden wasn't a garden at all. Hmm...it resembled a jungle, quite an unimaginative sight, but there was the statue of the Thinking man that was of interest. The Thorn Garden contained the bust of a man with no particular name, and a deformed head (perhaps he had fallen into the thorns long, long ago). There was also a white statue of a wild girl standing with a wild wolf on the way down. The Japanese Garden was a long way off the real thing, but I must admit, the set looked good. There was a stream, a waterfall, a bamboo bridge which was not made of bamboo but of either Plaster of Paris or concrete. There was a pagoda at the mouth of the stream, and a lot of bamboo fences that were not made of bamboo but of either Plaster of Paris or concrete as well. It was outside the Japanese Garden that we saw the shooting of a dance scene of a movie. The whole dance was ridiculous; the back ground dancers were good but the hero wasn't getting along well, he wasn't exactly a good dancer.
We got on a bus that left for the Butterfly Garden, and the Bird Park. The Butterfly Garden had two sections: the information room and the enclosure. We left the former with a lot of facts and myths regarding the pretty little creature that we often mistake for a flower. (For example, it is neither butter nor a fly, so I find absolutely no reason to call it a butterfly.) Inside the latter, we found so many coloured friends and watched them flutter about. The Bird Park was considerably bigger, it was almost five sections. The water birds enclosure, with its amazing array of ducks, swans black and white, cranes storks and a big waterfall. The next section was the parrots galore. It had those fine little acrobats screeching and imitating sounds all the while performing feats that only human professionals could do. We moved on to the cockatoos and other exotic breeds of passerines, pigeons that were a hundred-fold lovelier than the pigeons that occupy our electricity posts and wires, and toucans, the likes of which we can never spot in a zoo in Kerala. The tour went through the Parakeets and Lorikeets enclosure, which was incredibly noisy (it made me think of school!), and the Ostrich enclosure. The ostrich is a magnificent bird, with its big heavy body and it ought to be respected for it. It has a very thin neck and legs, and a very shaggy body that makes it look as though it was wearing a fur coat, the kind that Eskimos wear. We then went into the souvenir shop and bought a few (unnecessary) things and left.
We left the scene to find the Kripalu caves, a supposed cave of ancient Buddhists, which had a slideshow at the end. When the slide show ended, a niche appeared, where sat a huge statue of Lord Buddha, dimly lit to produce the startling appearance of divinity. We also went through the Bonsai Garden, aptly described by the words "the magic of the miniature". It had all the usual and unusual big trees made one or two feet tall and a foot wide. The crowning jewel was a tree surrounded by lilies half its size.
Now I come to the most magnificent sight in the whole of Ramoji FilmCity: The Sun Fountain.
Here I stand and bow, for it is a statue of the sun-god and his chariot and horses, towering above steps and fountains of mosaic, depicting the otherworldly creatures like ethereal spirits and mystical mer-people. And high above the statue, the real sun is eclipsed by the sun-god statue's head, and that gives off a halo, a divine glow, a fantastic sight that makes tears well up in the eyes of the mortal below(of course, it is painful for mere mortals to look up at the sun at 2'O'clock in the afternoon).
We stood and admired the sight for about 15 minutes, then we remembered that we were there to luncheon, and that we had been starving when we left the Bonsai Garden. So we hurriedly caught a bus taking us back to the first stop, Eureka, where the restaurants were situated. We went into a self-service restaurant and enjoyed a Lucknowi Biriyani (where the food was excellent, but the service was very poor). Then we went into the Fundustan, a place for children to play, and adults, to be ennuyé to the very death.
The rides were for very tiny children, the games as well, and, heavens; the pavement too! It was the sort of place where adults dump their kids, before hurrying off to the more exciting rides outside. There was a certain "Borasura's Workshop" erected, perhaps to invoke fear, like the supposedly "haunted houses" and the "fearsome mazes" seen at our local fairs. It was fun, but not so frightening, although some of the faint-hearted and sensitive among us screamed unnecessarily. And there were other thrill rides outside Fundustan. However it was avoided, as there was the chance of unpleasantness occurring when people, their stomachs stuffed, go on rides that go 360° and send their insides rollicking and their contents spilling. By then, our allotted exploration time had very well ended, it was time for the get-together, and introductions. However most of us wanted to see the Ramoji Show (here I say "most" because there were some of us who simply wished to get over with it and go home for a Good night's sleep, and who were denied their wish. So, as Marlowe said: "Que sera sera: What will be, shall be."). The Ramoji Show stubbornly refused to be interesting, till the clown acts and the fire stunts. Sometime after 7'O'clock in the evening, we returned to the hotel. Again, we supped, not at the hotel, but at a small Dhaba where they served excellent North Indian roti and dal.
The prospect of going back to work as well as school loomed darkly over the following day. It was the last day of the trip. But it could not deaden our spirits. We had a whole city yet to see, to explore, with its picturesque destinations like the Golconda Fort, the Science Museum, and the Charminar, which is synonymous with Hyderabad. We visited the Fort first.
The Golconda fort is famed for its architectural marvels. It stands today as a piece of engineering which cannot be replicated, with all the "technology" and gadgets that we possess in the modern world. Before the hallowed vault that reverberates a clap to a durbar a good distance away, the magic well that purified itself and pipes that pumped water all the way from the well to the top without any motor, the A/C rooms of the Queen, and the several mysteries it held, we stood awestruck, and humble. Mankind has Genius second to none other than the Creator himself.
The entrance hall is the vault I mentioned before, and there is a cannon and its cannonballs facing the door. There are two mosques in that we saw, one well preserved, a mixture of Hindu and Muslim architecture, depicting the very essence of the Golconda fort, the other in a very poor condition, owing to the fact that it no longer looked like a mosque (we imagined it to be all sorts of things, the best and the worst being the dungeons and execution blocks respectively). It was in shambles. Then we arrived at the Rani Mahal, the aforementioned A/C rooms of the Queen. Then we saw the Akanna Madanna offices. To be painfully honest; it is one heck of a ruin. But since it is a very precious historical building (?) I shall sing its praises: it is almost unrecognizable as an office, but was very beautiful to behold. When we climbed up the big steps, we saw the Magic well (also mentioned earlier, so I shall skip it). We were unable to climb further due to the short half-hour we were given to see all these. (It is surely a feat to run through a fort, and to describe the whole scenery, given the scarcity of time.) So we skipped the durbar hall, which is rumoured to be so sensitive to sound that a single twitch of muscle or the rustle of cloth would be magnified a hundred times so as to warn the king of suspicious movements. Well, the Fort has to be enjoyed by people who actually think unlike "What's the purpose of seeing a few rocks, ruins and a pile of rubble?" (Unfortunately, that is the true mind of most of us humans). So we hurried to the Charminar after a hasty lunch.
The Charminar, an imposing structure in the heart of Hyderabad, has four towers, four sides, and a circular ceiling with a lotus-like bas-relief at the centre. Below the lotus, was a fountain, the very facsimile of the fountain I happened to see at the Golconda Fort. Brazen, of course, but all dried up. I expect the water got finished when tourists collected it as a souvenir in bottles. We ascended a minaret, and saw the whole of Hyderabad sprawling below us: the dotted whites and reds of the city, the faint silhouette of the Golconda Fort, and the distant white marble structure of the Birla Mandir, pale and fragile, against the mist. It was a fitting sight to mark the final day. When the others went for shopping, we went to get lost. And succeeded marvelously, for Hyderabad is a wonderful place to get lost in. It presents a challenge, with its labyrinth of little white shops that looked alike, narrow, dirty, and unnoticeable cul-de-sacs, and lack of signboards and lack of calm roads. And so we were, until a friend who had already boarded the bus magnanimously returned for us.
We reached the airport well into the night and waited. Our return plane was delayed and so we sat, our spirits dampened by the phrase "Goodbye" that we now had to say to Hyderabad. The airport was brightly decorated (it was two days to Christmas) and that lifted our moods a little. The plane arrived anon and we boarded it.
The World is so very dazzling from the sky. Even more so, at night, the City beneath, the startling quilts of gold, green, and flaming orange. It was the necklace of Earth, made from molten golden stars stolen from the many galaxies that adorned the midnight strands of the fair moon-maiden's hair. And Earth, she was so breathtakingly beautiful! I sat and gazed, transfixed, stunned speechless, till in the unlit distance, Kempagowda airport shone before me like a lone diamond brooch in a velvet violet cravat.
We parted ways at the airport, hence I know not of what happened to the others in the aftermath of our Hyderabad tour. I suppose it went fine. Since, as the Bard of Avon, Shakespeare once wrote;
"All that's well ends well."