Thursday, 26 April 2018

A Night Walk For Knowledge

Essentially, this is a post about a walk that I went to on the 22nd of April, 2018. The walk was held by Hyderabad Trails -an organization that holds walks across monuments or places of historical significance in Hyderabad.

Thirteen of us (eleven adults and two teenagers) set out that fine evening, after a wonderful course of tea and biscuits, with one of the most influential guides in Hyderabad-Haseeb Zaffri. Below is a list of all the places we visited and wonders we stumbled upon in the narrow gullies of old Hyderabad.

1. The Mahboob Chowk Clocktower:

The Mahboob Chowk clock tower is also known as the Jame Masjid clock tower as it is next to the famous Jama Masjid mosque. The concept of a clock tower was introduced by the first Nizam of Hyderabad. A clock tower is a tall, rectangular tower with a pointed, prismatic top with clocks fixed on all four sides.

Clocks like these were usually established in chowks (an open market area in a city at the junction of two roads) where people could look at the time. Back then, many people couldn't afford watches as they were considered a luxury. The clock tower is placed in an exquisite green garden with tall trees and well-maintained bushes. However, since the park around it is open 24/7, many homeless people have made it their abode.

The Mahboob Chowk clock tower is a five-storeyed architectural structure that was built in the year 1892 by the prime minister of Hyderabad, that is the Paigah noble Nawab Asman Jah Bahadur. The tower's grandeur really steals one's breath away.

The first storey (the base) has humongous wooden doors fitted in so that people could go into the tower to wind the clock or set the time (currently the doors are sealed to prevent entry). The second and the fourth storeys have intricately carved Persian/Islamic work on them. The work is done on blocks of stone and mortar coated with an earthy brown coloured cement.

The fifth storey has large old clocks fitted on all four sides. The clocks are circular and white with long, distinguished-looking, black hands. The best of them all is the third storey. It has long, royally shaped doors, inlaid with delicate carvings and a very unique, and admirable structure. Both the third and fifth storeys have balconies with black railings that starkly contrast with the color of the structure, making it look exceedingly beautiful.

Right next to this clock tower is the famous Jame Masjid Mosque. The story of the devotees in this mosque is quite impressive and funny. Five times a day, many religious men walk into the mosque for their namaz. For about a few minutes, they sit in rapt attention, reciting their prayers with all the devotion their soul can offer to God. At the end of the namaz, they rush out of the mosque, back to their bustling businesses but a vast majority of these men climb down the stairs into a large cellar that acts as a workplace for artisans.

2. Khursheed Jah Devdi:
Khursheed Jah Devdi is a European styled architectural palace located in Hyderabad. It was built by the Ancestors of the celebrated Paigah noble Khursheed Jah Bahadur. Its interiors were once adorned with expensive carpets and exclusive chandeliers, the gardens blossomed with flowers and fountains made the ambiance livelier. It is located at Hussaini Alam, just a kilometer from the famous Charminar. Despite numerous demands for restoration by heritage activists, the Khursheed Jah Devdi, once home to the majestic and powerful Paigah nobles, now lies in ruins.

Right behind the grand palace lies a government degree and PG college. The thirteen of us rested for a while under the trees there, eating sweets that we had bought on the way. The sweets were indeed as delicious as the owner had claimed.

There, under the trees, we met two sweet little girls who, as their age required them to be, were inquisitive and asked us many questions about who we were and where we came from. Needless to say, once they had gotten all their answers, the took us to a small cluster of trees beside which their little hut lay. We had the honor of getting to meet their goat and their hen, whose eggs had just hatched.

3. Yahiya Pasha Dargah:
The right words to describe this marvelous dargah would be- cream, green and serene. After a long walk from the devdi, the little group reached the Yahiya Pasha Dargah and as we entered through small iron gates, we visibly noticed a drop in the temperature. The dargah seemed much colder than all the places we had visited earlier.

The trees seemed to whisper greetings above us as we walked forward listening intently to the guide. At the main structure, we were asked to remove our shoes and socks. The ladies were then lead to an attached courtyard (because women are not permitted to enter dargahs or mosques) while the men entered the dargah to pay respects to the divine Pasha.

The floor of the dargah was covered in sand while beautiful glass chandeliers hung from above. The women covered their heads with dupattas while men tied handkerchiefs around their forehead as it was obligatory for an individual to cover their head before entering the dargah. The women sat there for a long time praying while the guide showed the men around the dargah. I prayed to God to grant me the strength to survive my upcoming exams and to take good care of everyone I knew including himself.

An honest confession? After praying for a few minutes (at the most), I began feeling bored and drew patterns on the cold, hard cement slab on which we were all seated. Then I proceeded to admire the colorful and tastefully hung pieces of glass in the dargah.

When the men returned from inside, the whole group slipped on their shoes and began walking to our next and final destination.

4. Dargah Syed Shah Raju Qattal:
Hazrat Shah Raju was eighth in the lineage of the Sufi saint Hazrat Syedna Khwaja Banda Nawaz Gesu daraz of Gulbarga. He was most popularly recognized for being the guide and teacher of the Eight Sultan of the Qutb Shahi dynasty- Abul Hasan Qutb Shah (nicknamed "Tana Shah").  Abul Hassan had a good voice and sang well. He also had a certain innocence about him. Shah Raju, therefore, gave him the nickname of 'Tana Shah' which meant "a child saint". 

After Tana Shah married Abdullah Qutb Shah's elder daughter and settled in as the eight and last Qutb Shahi ruler, Shah Raju Qattal Hussaini sent a pomegranate for Abul Hassan Qutub Shah (as a blessing) but Tana Shah only ate 14 pieces (seeds). When informed about this incident, Shah Raju Qattal Hussaini made a prediction that Tana Shah would rule Hyderabad for a short but prosperous period of 14 Years. And only for 14 years did Tana Shah rule. 

14 years after his coronation, about the period of 1683, Tana Shah began becoming irregular in the payment of his taxes to the Mughals and his relations with Sikandar Adil Shah also caused concern among the Mughals. Abul Hasan Qutb Shah consequently refused to be a vassal of the Mughal Empire and prompted Aurangzeb to initiate a campaign to assert the rule of the Mughals on Golconda. He attacked Golconda with his commanders, Nawab Khwaja Abid Siddiqi (Qilich Khan) and Nawab Mir Ghaziuddin Khan Siddiqi Feroze Jung, father and grandfather of Nizam I (Asaf Jah I). 

Tana Shah defended the fort for eight months, but Aurangzeb succeeded in capturing Golconda at the end in September 1687. Abul Hasan Qutb Shah surrendered and handed over the Nur-Ul-Ain Diamond, the Hope Diamond, the Wittelsbach Diamond, and the Regent Diamond, making the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb the richest monarch in the world.

Tana Shah was taken as a prisoner and was imprisoned in the Daulatabad Fort, where he would die after twelve years of captivity. When the Sultan died, he was not buried alongside his ancestors and other Qutub Shahi Kings but in a modest grave at Khuldabad near Aurangabad
 
Here's another very popular story about the saint:
Shah Raju Qattal Hussaini was known to meditate at a particular hill, a little further away from a village settlement in Hyderabad. Everyone in the village knew the saint and respected him. One day, they saw him walking down the hill towards the village and all the villagers dropped whatever they were doing to rush to the saint. 

The saint, in a most humble tone, asked for help from the villagers and the villagers, eager to help their beloved saint, agreed. The saint then revealed that he needed help burying a dead body near his cave. Startled but obliging, the villagers rushed back to the village to gather tools for digging the grave. When they returned to the spot where they had met the saint, they were surprised to see his absent. 
But still determined to help the saint, they marched over to the saint's cave next to which a body lay shrouded in a white cotton sheet. When the priest uncovered the body to give it a ritualistic bath, the villagers were shocked to see their beloved saint, lying there, pale and lifeless. Just a few minutes before he died, the saint had personally come to inform them. They marveled at the miracle and solemnly gave him the most religious and respected burial. 

When one sees the dargah with his or her own eyes, they understand better the love that the people had for this Sufi saint. The dome of the dargah is one of the largest in all of Asia and rises majestically into the sky. The inside is even beautifully built and decorated. When, at night, the lights come on inside the dargah, they illuminate every building around them.  It is a  truly marvelous sight and leaves a great impression on those who have the fortune to see it with their own eyes.

The dargah is also said to be a great place to pray. Every night, hundreds of Muslims flock to the dargah to plead with the Sufi saint to grant their wishes and ease their pain. Men write their wishes to a piece of paper and tie the paper to the rails around the shroud while women sit in the attached corridors and pray silently. Men also sit in the main courtyard, back to back and shoulder to shoulder, to read out their namaz five times a day. 

By the grace of our very friendly and influential guide, the group got to meet one of the main figures behind the running of the dargah. The guide had originally caught hold of the leader's little son and had asked the boy to call his father. When the father arrived, the guide exclaimed: "How audacious the boy is to have gone and called his father at my request!". This took the group by shock and one of the members asked the guide about what he meant. To that, the guide replied: "When I was a little boy, I didn't dare to interrupt my father during a prayer in the constant fear of receiving a hard slap to the face!". 

We spent a good deal of time laughing about it. The leader (who happened to be a distant cousin and great friend of the guide) then elaborated to us about the greatness of the Sufi saint and the dargah and stated that a number of individuals found inner peace while meditating here. He said they felt as if their sins had been wiped clean and they had been handed a new, fresh slate to rewrite their life as they wished it to be.  Thanking him and promising to visit again, we left for the main road where we parted ways. 

After we parted, I began feeling hungry. I approached my daddy dearest and squealed and whined to him about how hungry I was and how it would be a great idea to eat out for dinner. He agreed and the three of us (my dad, mom and I) began walking through narrow residential streets to reach my favorite restaurant- Shah Ghouse. There, we ordered a biryani and tandoori chicken. When the food arrived, we dug into the delicious, steaming flavored rice and the tender, spicy chicken with great relish. My mother, being vegetarian, ate the veg biryani along with some spicy gravy and raita. All in all, it was a wonderful night and I am sure you would enjoy it too.


In hopes that you would follow the same route and enjoy as much as we did (or even more), I enclose the link of this map that will act as a tour guide (walking is the best mode of transport). But remember, to always do more than the tour guide tells you to. It's more fun that way. Don't you agree?

For the link of the tour guide map, click here: Tour guide map link

Be sure to contact me on my email ID: tholakarimedida2003@gmail.com
(you can also contact me on my other ID: chinuku.medida@gmail.com or on my
Instagram ID: tholakari_medida) and share your experiences and suggestions.

Thank you for reading and au revoir!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Pondicherry

Once upon a time...

Nah, just kidding! It felt like just yesterday I was enjoying the salty sea breeze blowing in my face as I stood by the beach, played with the water and built castles in the air about studying there. 

And today, I am back in Hyderabad, sitting at the computer suffering from writers' block holding a steaming cup of elixir(my coffee)...Yeah right! I am definitely not suffering from writers' block. 😀 

Essentially, Pondicherry is a place of absolute peace and nature. Sure there is the town but it is never as hectic as major cities like Mumbai or Delhi. Pondicherry has everything from street vendors to high-class shops, from small inns to huge 5-star hotels, from chicken to fish, from cabbage to zucchini, from...Halt! Too many 'froms'!  What I mean is that Pondicherry has everything you can ask for. It even has this bakery called Baker's Street (Sherlock Holmes reference). It is a French bakery which has the best ginger cookies. They are just très impressionnant! 

The part I loved the most is either the beaches or the streets. They were pretty clean and neat. A night in the city or by the beach is amazing. 

A note for the fashion lovers out there- this is a place that you've GOT to go to...it has a two storey Vera Moda outlet and a HUGE Hidesign outlet. I bought two limited edition Christmas dress that wasn't so expensive and honestly, I never regretted buying those dresses. 

Pondicherry is called the "Ville des Rythmes". The very title suggests the major influence of French on this proud union territory. 

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Madikeri, Coorg...

Madikeri is a hill station town in Karnataka state, India. Also known as Mercara,
it is the headquarters of the district of Kodagu. It is a popular tourist destination.

I stayed at Madikeri for two weeks this summer. It was an exciting trip that brought back so many of my childhood memories. I had gone to Madikeri before with my parents when I was 6 or 7. Only this time, I went alone.

I flew to Bangalore where I was picked up at the Bangalore airport by a family who had known me since I was just a baby. Nitin (the father), Neha (the mother), Rahi (the elder sibling) and Sufi (the younger sibling). I had known Rahi since he was an infant (in fact, I was there when Nitin and Neha brought him home) and I was two. Sufi was just a baby when I went previously.



Sufi to the left, Rahi in the middle and Me at the right

We went travelled to Coorg via Mysore from Bangalore. That night, we stayed at Mysore. The concept of 'homestays' is very popular in many parts of Kodagu (Coorg), Mysore and Bangalore. Homestays are where people stay at a house for a few days and pay the rent to the owner/caretaker. It is like renting a house but only for a few days. This is done so that the owner can earn money for the maintenance of the house/mansion. All the houses there, are ancestral except a few buildings and most of the shops. Most of the common people in Coorg have/work in estates. These estates grow only coffee, spices, and cocoa beans as Madikeri is situated in the western ghats.

Neha and Nitin have a huge ancestral house with a few small houses and trees in the front yard and backyard. There is this huge tree in their front yard which has a swing tied to it. It was tied during my last visit, when me and Rahi were still very young. But we both remember that time very clearly. Both Rahi and I were insisting on throwing the ropes to the men standing on the tall tree while Nitin kept denying our pleas because red ants were biting those poor men...😅

Neha and Nitin have many trees in their backyard. The fruits from the trees include a variety like butter fruit, mulberries and even cherries! The fruits were indeed very juicy and delicious!

Along with trees, they also had two dogs named Tom and Jerry. Tom was the alpha male of the litter while Jerry was the youngest pup. Tom had shiny black fur and eyes the color of molten gold. Jerry, on the other hand, had a rich shade of gold for his fur and cute, warm brown eyes. Both the dogs were buff and formidable looking but in reality, they were such sweethearts, that you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.

I made a lot of friends there. The family had quite a few neighbours who I immediately took a liking to. Rahi, Nikhil, Monica (Nikhil's sister and my best friend), Sufi, Teja (Monica's and my best friend) and I spent a lot of time roaming around town with  no particular destination in our minds. We did loads of shopping in the city. Nitin even took us to a fair!

We had a lot of fun there, we sat in public places and played truth or dare, we ran around. In short, we bonded so closely that a few people mistook us to be cousins! All of us looked similar except Rahi and Sufi who were smaller and fairer than the rest. We had a lot of fun. We did whatever we wanted to but we tried our best to not cross the limits.

I truly loved everyone and every part of Madikeri. Later that week, Neha took Rahi, Sufi, Nikhil, and me to get cool haircuts at Kushalnagar. I got side bangs, Sufi got a chinese style cut, Rahi and Nikhil got military cuts.

Later that day we played 21 questions and found out we had a lot in common. Music, movies, cars, sports, almost everything! I came to know more about the Kodavas that day. Neha told me a lot about them. Their eating habits, clothing
style, occupations...

The traditional dresses of men and women of the Kodava tribe are very interesting. The men wear dhotis with a turban and kurtas with short and decorative daggers hanging from their belts while women wear sarees with the pleats tucked in the back.


The Kodava language has no separate script of its own. So, it is written in Kannada but it is spoken differently. The Kodavas have always been hunters and planters. They eat all types of meats. Their food and traditions are a little similar to Gauls as they drink wine and eat pork at almost all festive occasions.

If you ever go to Madikeri, I suggest you just take a day off and roam around with no destination in mind. But the toy train, the raja's seat, and the raja's fort are a must see.

If the problem is packing, carry at least one sweater and be sure to carry a lot of socks, jeans and t-shirts. One or two dresses are okay...Also, be sure to carry sneakers, trekking shoes or any types of sports shoes and rain boots because rains in Madikeri lead to mudslides, slushy roads and huge puddles (which are fun to jump in!)

I went to one of my friends estate and it was simply awesome. He had a huge estate with 3 keres( Kere written “ಕೆರೆ” meaning 'pond' or 'lake' in Kannada) connected with a stream. It had puddles, trenches, huge trees, and was very green. Needless to say, I fell in love with the estate at first site.

Naachi (the family’s friend and estate owner) had 4 dogs named Drupak, Lola, Sheba and Lucy. I had loads of fun there. Rahi, Nikhil and I swam in the keres and caught tadpoles. The tadpoles went into a paper cup that another guest Martin carried to Naachi’s house. In front of Naachi’s house, there was a bathtub filled with rainwater, lotus plants and frogs. Martin dumped the tadpoles in that bathtub. Then, after drying up, we had a water fight and got wet again. End of story? Nachi’s couches bared the brunt of it all.

After that, we watched the movie-Mad Max: Fury Road for some time. It didn’t matter to us that our clothes were wet from swimming in  the keres because we
were having a LOT of fun tormenting poor Naachi (he had an amazing collection of instruments!)

Anyway, I REALLY, really hope you guys experience the true beauty of Madikeri and if you do, be sure to contact me on my email ID: tholakari.refis@gmail.com (you can also contact me on my other ID: chinuku.medida@gmail.com or on my Instagram ID: tholakari_medida) and share your experiences and suggestions to fellow travellers with me.

Thank you for staying put and au revoir!