Friday, June 16, 2006

Mini Adventure

My friend Annie and I had a sort of an adventurous time a few days ago. We decided to go to Taramati Baradari, an old ruin a few kilometers away from Hyderabad, in the cantonment area, on my trusty Scooty! :D

Taramati Baradari was where courtesans danced for the kings of Golconda fort. I think it was named after a favoured courtesan, Taramati, but am not sure about that. Anyway, this ruin has recently been developed by the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Board. A restaurant, a sort of arena and, a souvenir shop have been added.

I love ruins! I’m a great ruins buff, if you will. So I just had to check this place out. And who else to take along, but my partner in, well not crime, but silly antics, Annie!

So we started out bright and early in the afternoon (!) at about 12:15 or so. We soon reached Taramati Baradari (TB). We decided to eat first as we were starving. After lunch we set off for TB. We had to climb up a few steps after which I was left quite winded, just showing how out of shape I really am! There were quite a few tourists around too. Annie and I thought about playing a prank on some unsuspecting tourists by posing as tour guides and making up some convoluted history about TB! But we soon abandoned the idea, as I just could not stop laughing. So we just climbed up and took a look around. The view from the top was quite amazing. We could see Golconda fort in the distance, and another Baradari just a few meters away. It was a perfect day for outdoor activity!

We then started clicking pics of the beautiful surroundings as well as ourselves. We struck up silly poses, which had both of us in splits! We both struck up dance poses and spent an hour or so sitting on the lawn just beyond TB. We tried our hand at trick photography; in one of the pics it appears like Annie is hanging off a rock into nothingness!

After a while we decided to go for a short ride. On the way we came across a bunch of army guys sitting by a gate. All of them just got up when they saw us approaching. We wondered what that was all about! Probably hadn’t seen many girls riding around those parts on a Scooty! LOL!

We were a few kilometers away from the Gandipet dam when we decided to turn back and go home. After passing TB we came across another bunch of army guys who were jogging by the side of the road. We hooted and yelled out, “Keep it up!” as I speeded away on my Scooty! We just collapsed with laughter at our juvenile antics!

We then came across the road that leads to Golconda fort, and on the spur of the moment decided to go there too. We raced some RTC buses to the fort! He, he!

At the fort we actually forgot to buy the tickets at the entrance and had to go back and buy them!

There are always many guides hanging around over there, looking to make a quick buck. Some pestered us to hire them. Annie, who is a Tam Bram, doesn’t speak Hindi too well. So she went around saying, “No thank you!” to all of them. This just made them even more persistent! I told Annie that they probably think that she is a firang and that she should just learn to speak in Hindi. So there I was shooing away all the guides in Hindi, assuring them that this was not the first time that we had been to the fort. But one really persistent guide actually launched into his spiel, saying that he would give a free introduction! Man! These guys sure are enterprising!

As a child I had been to the fort quite often, so I donned the role of tour guide and explained a few features of the fort to Annie. We passed through this hall full of extremely noisy bats, with me cowering beside Annie, and covering my ears and almost jogging to get out of there as soon as possible! This hall smells really bad and I have always hated it! An uncle of mine had once commented that it smells like moldy cheese!

Anyway, we then made it to the area where a Sound and Light show is held every evening.

There is a fountain in the center, surrounded by beautifully carved walls. People visiting Hyderabad should not miss the Sound and Light show. It is truly breathtaking! The Hindi version gives the best effect, and is voiced by Amitabh Bachchan himself.

Anyway, there was still a long way to go to get to the apex of the fort, but as Annie was too tired we decided to sit and ogle at a good looking foreigner we spotted! I’m sure he could make out what we were up to! ;-)

After a while we decided to head out and buy some water, as we were dying of thirst! We settled for a Fanta and Limca instead. We then headed for home at last.

Just before you enter the fort area, you have to go through this narrow enclosed passage like road. It is so narrow and curving that there is a signal at each end indicating when you can drive your vehicle through, so vehicles coming from the opposite directions do not collide with one another. Just before this passage was a nasty speed breaker, and I tried going as carefully as possible, but it was really bumpy. Annie bounced on the seat behind me and banged her ankle on the side of the bike and yelled out in pain. I was of course very apologetic, but jokingly said that it is a must to get injured somehow on trips like these! She threatened to do some serious hurting from behind if I did not shut up! :-))

On our way back, I was the first in line waiting to pass through the narrow road. As I was making the first bend, Annie suddenly asked me to stop by the side. She sounded really urgent and I wondered if she was going to throw up or something. I tried telling her that I didn’t think that I could just stop, but she sounded really insistent, so I stopped and tried to park the Scooty as close to the wall as possible. But there was a bus behind me and it could not pass until I was totally out of the way. So I had to leave poor Annie standing by the side while I had to zoom out of the passage. I stopped a bit away and went back to see what the problem was. Turns out that while trying to adjust her pants her leg had cramped up. I then told her that I was only kidding when I said that an injury is a must on such trips, to which she showed my her fist and told me to start the Scooty if I didn’t want a knuckle sandwich! Annie sure does have a way with words! LOL!!

We got back to her home at about 5 o’ clock in the evening and just collapsed on the couch. We were thoroughly drained! But both of us decided that it was a day well spent indeed! We want to go back someday to Golconda fort for an entire day and explore every nook and cranny. But that will be another story for another day.

I’m going off on my tour of Chennai, Pondicherry, Kanyakumari and other places tomorrow, well actually, today if you take the time into consideration (which is 2 AM right now)! I’ll be gone for about 2 weeks, after which I’ll resume my blogging with gusto, hopefully! :D

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Democracy? What Democracy?!

The two topics that I am going to talk about have already been done to death, but I cannot help adding my own two cents!

First I want to talk about “The DaVinci Code”. What a hue and cry has been made about this movie! If people are so sure that what has been depicted in the movie is terribly wrong, then why are they so upset? Well, the fact is nobody likes their beliefs to be attacked and to be told that what they have believed in since they were children is completely untrue, and that their truth has been distorted. This could range from a child realizing that there is in fact no Santa Claus to an adult vociferously standing up for his or her religious beliefs.

A few years ago I had told a Christian friend of mine, S, about this article that I had read, which stated that Jesus Christ probably had short hair and not long hair as He is usually depicted. She reacted with a, “What a load of crap!” And this was only about whether Christ had long or short hair!

I could take my own example. About 3-4 years ago a friend, A, came to me with an article she had read in a magazine about Parsis. It stated that contrary to popular belief, the first Parsis had not landed in Sanjaan (Gujarat), but in Diu. Guess what my immediate reaction was? “What a load of crap!” :D I had been told all of my life that when a group of Parsis had first come to India, they had landed at Sanjaan. There is also a fire there in our temple that the first Parsis had ostensibly brought with them. A was quite puzzled by my reaction. When I saw the look on her face I was confused myself. Was I reacting too harshly or too quickly? After thinking it over for a while I conceded that it is indeed possible that the early Parsis had indeed landed in Diu and not Sanjaan as it is popularly believed. I was not present at this historical moment so I would never know what was true.

So that to me is the power of our beliefs. Some like me don’t really care all that much, but others have only their beliefs to fall back on. And one reason that we do not want to question our beliefs is that we feel incredibly uncomfortable when we do. We are so perfectly comfortable with our belief systems that we do not wish to step out of our comfort zone when we are faced with a decision to change them. Instead we react with indignation, violence, and of course bans!

Nowadays every other group or community is seeking a ban against some form of art that is apparently against their beliefs. Some of the bans do make sense, but most of them are quite ridiculous. “The DaVinci Code” was released in Bombay, with a disclaimer at the beginning and end of the movie, stating that it was a complete work of fiction. I just rolled my eyes when I saw that. I think that at the end of the day, people are going to believe whatever they choose to believe, a disclaimer here and there is not going to change that.

Some scholars believe that Christ had been married, while others believe that the very notion is complete hogwash! There are always going to be two sides to any issue, or even three, four, five…! And anyway, if one had a strong faith in one's beliefs then why should one feel threatened by apparently wrong views?

So how about letting the public decide if it wants to watch a movie or not? I know that many of my friends in Hyderabad have been disappointed because the Andhra Pradesh government has banned “The DaVinci Code”. Oh well! They may just have to go to some other state to watch the movie, like three men from Gujarat came to Bombay to watch “Fanaa”!

The ban against “Fanaa” is first of all grossly unconstitutional. We are living in a democracy for God’s sake, not a bloody anarchy! And as far as I can tell, Aamir Khan has not spoken a single word against the Gujarati community, nor has he said that the dam should not be constructed. All he has stated is that the people who would lose their homes as a result of the construction of the dam should be rehabilitated. Is that too much to ask for? Does the Gujarat government not want to rehabilitate its own citizens? This is a prime example of creating a mountain out of a mole hill. Of course this has taken a religious tinge too; as many people say that Aamir Khan is being targeted because he is a Muslim. But it would take a separate post to get into that topic.

It is quite courageous of Aamir Khan to stick to his guns and refuse to apologize. He is refusing to get bullied into submission, and for that kudos to him! A few member of the film industry have stood up for him, but I think that the entire film industry should stand solidly behind Aamir Khan.

On a lighter note, last night I saw this quite comical bit of news. Motilal Kashyap, the fisheries minister of Madhya Pradesh wants to, hold your breath, pass a bill stating that prawns should be considered a vegetarian item!!! I burst into laughter as soon as I heard that! His reason for this bill is that people from various communities eat prawns, so it should be considered vegetarian now (?!?). He is prepared to fight for this bill! Of course there are others who are hell bent on stopping him and have labeled this bill nothing short of blasphemy!

Really! Who said that all our politicians do is throw chairs at each other or snooze when someone else is trying to discuss something? Apart from changing the names of cities and every other gully, they are now investing their energies into changing the food groups! Lucky us!