Brown. That was the colour that struck and wrapped me from the very moment I stepped out of a nauseating flight which had been shivering like a frightened lamb mid-air, worsened, further, by the indistinct and annoying murmur of the pilot. All I could gather were, ‘Hyderabad’, ‘Welcome’, ‘Sunny’! Brown was the terrain, brown were the rocks jutting haphazardly from an uneven earth, brown was the earth, brown were the tarred roads, brown was the air, warm and heavy, lazily swimming over the earth, and brown were the rain devoid otherwise green leaves, choking under a cloak of brown dust! All that brown did make me frown. But ain’t brown the colour of earth, of nature, of simplicity and oneness with earth? I pondered if the weekend getaway to this ancient city in the Deccan Plateau would lay the foundation of oneness, of a serenity, and pave the way for peace and happiness!
Given the stagnancy of life and an omnipresent hopelessness, my sweetest companion, a sudden change from monotony sounded rich and enchanting. So much better for it was Hyderabad, a city blessed historically, where centuries old monuments seek weary travellers to narrate to them the innumerable stories that their ancient walls have witnessed, gruesome battles, happy tales of love, magical rituals; a city where the old minarets, embellished and carved with awe-inspiring patterns, have bravely smiled at the hundreds of scorching summers; a city where modernity coexists with the richness of culture and history. The city of Hyderabad. The city of the Nizams, of Biryani, of Karachi and Osmania biscuits and the famed Irani Chai!
I was the quintessential tourist, attired in Kurta and sneakers, hopping through the wide swanky streets and narrow crowded alleys, immersing myself in the light, sound and smell of Hyderabad. Hawkers pestered, a cruel yellow sun sapped energy, the dust coloured my sneakers brown, but I walked on gleeful and unfazed.
From the mesmerising Qutb Shahi tombs to Golconda hill and fort, hiding ancient tales in its bosom, I was paralysed by amazement. The Qutb Shahi tombs, in their magical solitude, rising amidst Neem trees, whispered tales and secrets into my ears, the cryptic message daintily floating in the evening breeze. Oh if only I could decipher the stories from the yore! And from the rocky terrain of Golconda I was one with darkness as she shrouded the city in her velvet cloak and defiant yellow lights, fighting the tyranny of the dark, hurriedly mushroomed all over but remained indistinct to the lustre of the heavenly bodies. The tall archways of the fort were lit up in titillating hues, bats screeched and wheeled in frenzy and the echo of voices and feet resonated from wall to wall, the magic thickening every minute.
I saw the setting sun tint the green water of the Hussain Sagar lake in shades of pink and orange; gentle ripples like a million golden pink and orange threads upon the lake, lapped gently towards the boundary while the statue of Lord Buddha lit up in vibrant colours. Although the breeze upon the lake did pinprick the air with a smell certainly unpleasant, the colours that nature painted upon the horizon pushed me through tunnels of despondency into a world of nothingness, where subtle joy reigned.
I remember sitting in a happy shade at the Makkah Masjid near Charminar, overtaken by a bewitching mysticism, reflecting upon life, staring aimlessly at the lengthening shadow of the monument, watching pigeons whirling around a fountain, smiling to myself, and morose suddenly at the emptiness of life. And amidst my spiralling contemplation, sharing notes with a friend miles away that an old frail woman comes over and sits next to me. What happened next, and the lesson she taught me, could be one of the greatest lessons of my life. There she sits, smiles and before I could smile back, I swear by Heavens, farts! Oh the bursting sound!
While I swerved away, miffed that my troubles were nothing but a fart to the world, that an epiphany struck me. May be life is not meant to be taken seriously. Just fart out your problems for it was a case of bad gas! ‘What a ‘pun’gent statement’, claimed my friend. I shouldn’t dwell ‘fart’her and let the winds break the chains that confine my thinking, I resolved.
Thanking the old woman silently, I smiled back at her and she happily paraded her toothless grin, through her wrinkled face. And as I walked back, a happier man, a dance in my gait, I smiled at strangers, bobbing my head in ecstasy, humming a tune, laughing at the brown dust upon my shoes, the symbol of oneness, the hues of Hyderabad.