Archive for February, 2011

Golconda Fort, which began its life as a mud fort, has withstood the assault of natural elements and humans for centuries and stands tall and aloof to this day. There are features inside the fort that are technologically so advanced that they could teach a thing or two to the military and engineers today.

Intimate details like: the low-roofed cubbyholes in the bodyguards’ barracks, where obviously the guards lived away from their own families with bare minimum necessities so they could protect their lord and master; or the alcoves in the walls of the queen’s palace where make-up articles could be stored; or the walkways within the several gardens that are smooth and worn from generations of ancient feet strolling over them tugged at my heart.

As I walked through the ruins of the Rani Mahal (the queen’s palace) and the zenana (the women’s quarters where the king’s harem lived), I could almost hear the rustle of silks as the women walked by in their colorful ghagharas and cholis (long skirts and intricately embroidered blouses), the numerous bangles on their hands tinkling in unison with their giggles and laughter.

They brought to my mind the fact that women and men — who had desires, aspirations, and likes and dislikes probably similar to mine — lived and died here. Some of them probably enjoyed the rich lifestyle given them inside these walls, but there were countless others who strained at the invisible ropes binding them to these palaces.

All that remains now to show for the lives of the various residents of the fort over the centuries are its somber ruins.

Here are more pictures I took inside the fort…

This tall wall curtains off the main entrance to the fort and fools everyone into thinking it’s just a rampart wall. It has parapets above it, behind which soldiers used to crouch and take inventory of the enemy camps during battles. The entry inside the wall that leads to the gigantic doorway is quite narrow, thus protecting the entrance to the fort from the direct assault of an army.


The doors guarding the entrances are made of metal and have pointed studs on them to prevent the use of elephants and large logs to crash the doors down during battles


Barracks where bodyguards lived. These barracks are situated right by the entrance. Obviously, if anyone wanted to enter the fort surreptitiously, they'd have to deal with the bodyguards first


One of the many reservoirs found throughout the fort -- they were used to store water for the residents' use and also to water the many gardens


Pipes made of baked clay were fitted inside the walls of the fort all the way to the top which were used to pump water (using Persian wheels) from a lake at ground level, filling several tanks at various levels strewn inside the fort


The king's mosque at the top of the fort


A temple inside the fort, built by the Hindu ministers during the reign of the last ruler of the Qutub Shahis. This was one of the highlights of the fort for me. Up until then, I was immersed in the Islamic architecture and lifestyle. I turn a bend in the road and there I was staring at a huge “Om” (the symbol written in saffron over a white background in the picture, one of the most recognized symbols of the Hindu religion), on top of a temple right at the heart of the fort. And it does not seem out of place. In fact, it seems just right. You see such sights throughout India


Queens' Palace -- these buildings used to be three storeys high before Aurangazeb's canons reduced them to ruins and rubble


Private gardens for the enjoyment of the queens


Inside the queens' palace


Inside the harem -- cordoned off now to prevent graffiti on the walls


Durbar or the king's assembly hall. It can get suffocatingly hot in Hyderabad during summer. Inside, where the king’s throne sits, the hallway has been so designed so that cool air flows through it during all seasons of the year. Basically, it was air-conditioning.


Ruins of a once rooftop garden

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First glimpse of the Fort from the entrance

The Golconda Fort – rather its majestic and awe-inspiring ruins – sits on top of a granite hill, at the heart of the old city of Hyderabad. Its origin dates back to the late 1300s. The area where the fort and the city of Hyderabad now exist (it comes under a larger area known as the Deccan) used to be under the rule of Hindu kings originally.

A view of the highest point (King's Assembly Hall) of the fort from below

During the reign of Raja Pratap I of the Kakatiya dynasty, it is said, a shepherd had suggested that the king build a fort on top of the hill where the structure squats now. The king acknowledged the wisdom behind the advice and built a mud fort on top of the hill. He then magnanimously named it after the initiator of the idea, the shepherd. (Golconda, a Telugu word, is the combination of two words: Golla = shepherd, konda = hill.)

Nagina Bagh: The garden of the serpent. This was where the king and his queens relaxed in the evenings. It is only one of the many gardens that exist within the fort. They all still maintain the basic structure, but the beautiful flowering plants and fruit tress, lovely sculptures, and fountains spraying sceneted water are all, of course, gone.

By the 1500s, times had changed and parts of India had come under the rule of Turks and Persians, and Islamic rulers from elsewhere. In 1512 A.D, the Deccan fell into the hands of Quli Qutub Shah, the first king of the Qutub Shahi dynasty, who made Golconda his capital (there was no city of Hyderabad by then). Thus began the exposure of the area to foreign architecture, traditions, and culture, all of which would eventually make it one of the stronger hubs of Muslim culture in India.

The Golconda fort is also known as the house of Kohinoor. Kohinoor, once the largest diamond in the world, was originally mined from this area. It was also one among the many national treasures of India that were looted and borne away to foreign lands by invaders. The diamond has changed hands over the centuries and now is one of the British Crown Jewels.

The main entrance (one of eight original entrances, but the only one functioning now) to the fort

The fort stayed impregnable for a long time, until the advent of guns and canons. Even then it withstood one of the strongest militaries of the time, the Mughal army (led by Aurangazeb, during the long-enduring Mughal campaign to establish control over South India), for months on end. It was during this siege that Golconda finally succumbed and fell into the hands of Aurangazeb.

Entrance to the queens' quarters

View of the Old City from the highest point in the fort

View of the ruins from a high vantage point within the fort

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Old Friends

Posted originally on: February 4, 2010

Today seems to be more of a day to muse than ramble. I’ll leave you all with some passages from some of my all-time favorite books – in both children’s and adult categories. Pick up any one of them from a bookshelf and spend some time with it, if you haven’t already done so, and you would’ve made a friend for life. I promise.


  • They set off to the east this time, across the thick, springy heather, and almost at once found signs of the passing of caravans: twigs broken off the bushes, a wheel rut on a soft piece of ground.
                              – “Five Go to Mystery Moor” by Enid Blyton


  • But her cooking made up for everything: three kinds of meat, summer vegetables from her pantry shelves; peach pickles, two kinds of cake and ambrosia constituted a modest Christmas dinner. Afterwards, the adults made for the livingroom and sat around in a dazed condition. Jem lay on the floor, and I went to the back yard. “Put on your coat,” said Atticus dreamily, so I didn’t hear him.
                              – “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee


  • As soon as they entered, Bingley looked at her so expressively, and shook hands with such warmth, as left no doubt of his good information; and he soon afterwards said aloud, “Mr. Bennet, have you no more lanes hereabouts in which Lizzy may lose her way again to-day?”
                              – “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen


  • A robin hopped about the growing pile of soil looking for worms. The morning sounds of Thrush Green were muffled by the height of the earth walls about them, but in the distance they could hear the children playing on the two swings on the green.
                              – “News from Thursh Green” by Miss Read


  • “Wait a minute then,” said Swaminathan and ran out. He had one last hope that his granny might be asleep. It was infinitely safer to show one’s friends a sleeping granny.
                              – “Swami and His Friends” by R.K.Narayan


  • A train went through a burial gate,
    A bird broke forth and sang,
    And trilled, and quivered, and shook his throat
    Till all the churchyard rang;
                              – “Time and Eternity” by Emily Dickinson


  • “C’mon we’d better go outside for a while. Mom’s getting that look.”
                 – “The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes” by Bill Watterson


  • “It is bush tea,” said Mma Ramotswe as she reached for the tea-pot. “Mma Makutsi – my assistant – and I drink bush tea because it helps us to think.”
                              – “The Full Cupboard of Life” by Alexander McCall Smith


  • He had missed the old rectory, too, with its clamor and quiet, its sunshine and shadow. Never before in his life as a rector had he found a home so welcoming or comfortable – a home that seemed, somehow, like a friend.
    – “A Light in the Window” by Jan Karon

Happy Valentines Day, everyone! Hope you are surrounded by both old and new friends with whom to share this day!

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Below is some good advice I gleaned over the past few months, talking to/communicating with fellow-writers, reading blogs, perusing books on writing, and attending talks and conferences.

Almost all of the points sound simple enough to be obvious, and some of them border on being trite. However, sometimes, saying out loud something I already know makes it more immediate, and I begin to pay better attention to it.

  • Write Anyway: One of my readers had left this advice in the comments of this blog a while ago. (Thanks, Sharmon!) I think it makes a lot of sense to keep writing even when you feel like you’re not doing it right. That way, you’re not leaving a chink open for writer’s block to edge in. Also, once you write a scene or a chapter, even if you think it’s not up to par, you can always chip it away or embellish it later and transform it into a full-bodied scene. In case you can’t do that, think of it this way: you’ve learned how “not” to write via this exercise.


  • Always Carry a Notebook and a Pen: You never know when you may come upon an incident or a quote that you’d like to record to use later in your writing. Or, it may even happen that when you’re waiting for your train at the subway or at a café for your chai latte, inspiration strikes. You don’t want to cast about for a paper and pen at that point; you wouldn’t want your finicky muse to move on because of unpreparedness on your part, would you?


  • Develop Your Own Routine: Most successful and prolific writers have a set routine they follow for writing. This is easier to do if writing is your day job, but even otherwise, it’s best if you could develop the discipline of a strict routine and write every day.


  • Read Voraciously: Read as many books as you can, especially in the age group and genre you’re writing. Notice what works and what doesn’t in each of those books. This is by far the best, and cheapest, way to learn how to write.


  • Get Involved in the Writing Community: Immerse yourself in the large community of writers out there, be it via blogging or attending conferences or becoming a member of writing societies or being part of a critique group or all of the above. All these motivate you to keep forging ahead. Not only that, but they also help you make connections which in turn provide you with opportunities to learn.


  • Enjoy Your Work: Deadlines, self-imposed or otherwise, are good. However, don’t let them corner you; enjoy the whole process.


  • KISS: And when it comes to the actual writing itself, KISS: Keep It Simple and more Simple. (Okay, actually the second “S” stands for “Stupid,” but I like this version better. Otherwise it sounds as if writers should dumb their writing down for readers, which would be wrong counsel.) Use words sparingly. Choose the most effective path of writing to convey your point.


This list pretty much applies to any kind of writing, not just writing non-fiction or fiction. If you’ve ever written a story, a memo, an essay for college admission, or a letter to someone, chances are you’ve used one or more of these principles.

What would you like to add to this list? Words of caution, encouragement, opinions, admonitions, you name it, anything is welcome!

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