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Archive for April, 2011

 

Posted originally on April 14, 2010.

Finally! Spring is here – there are signs of new life everywhere around me. 

Having said that, for the sake of honesty, I also have to mention that where I live spring usually lasts for a whole day. 

Yes, you read it right! It happens when you least expect it, and then it’s gone. Hot, scorching dog days of summer take over. But die-hard spring fans like me hang on to the euphoria left behind by that one glorious day. 

This is what Spring means to me: 

  • Oxygen, oxygen everywhere. The minute I step out of the house, I have this constant urge to expand my lungs and fill them with as much of the fresh air as possible.

  

  • Longer drives via circuitous routes (the usually impatient, task-oriented me goes into a brief hibernation) to wherever I’m headed, just so I can enjoy more of the unfurling buds and leaves.

  

  • A compulsion to clean out the whole house – thankfully, it never lasts for too long.

  

  • Ideas exploding in my head, pulling me in a dozen different directions at once making me truly addle-headed.

  

  • Watching the bulbs in my garden begin to sprout soft, green shoots that prod out of the earth at an amazing speed.

  

  • An attack by the melancholy thought of “So much to do, so little time!”. I know that it is very much against the concept of a new beginning, but somehow spring always has this effect on me.

  

  • Sitting outside at night and counting stars. At least, I try to count them; guess I will have to move to the countryside first to be able to do it effectively. The only stars I see now (being in the middle of a big city) are those that blink constantly and keep moving to the west of my house. See, one of the busiest airports in the world is about twenty miles, as the crow flies, west of my house.

  

  • The romantic in me getting even more vicious – can’t hear a beautiful song without sniffling and tearing up. Most embarrassing when in public, I tell you!

  

  • Baby bunnies scampering in my yard, making me groan. They are cute, I’m not saying they aren’t. But my neighborhood is infested (yes, seriously) with them. One evening you lovingly water the plants in your garden, hoping to see them bloom the next day. You wake up the next morning and go out to the garden in a rush of anticipation — what do you see? A patch of pathetic-looking denuded stalks and a pair of long ears disappearing around the bend. Argh!

  

  • Pollen everywhere, unfortunately. Makes my eyes itch and my nose twitch just at the thought of all those microspores floating in the air.

  

What does spring mean to you?

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An underground tunnel leads from inside the ramparts of the Golconda Fort to the walled compound (at a distance of about 3 kilometers from the fort), where all the seven kings of the Qutub Shahi dynasty (and other important family members) are interred. The tombs within this complex have been built in the time period of mid 1500s to late 1600s.

The structures stand today, weathered, but tall and sturdy. They bear testimony to the lives of the men or women who have lived within the walls of the Golconda Fort and have left a lasting legacy in some form or the other in the area where the current Hyderabad city in India flourishes.

At first glance, each tomb looks similar in shape to the one next to it. However, when you pay closer attention to the details, you see the big and small differences that point to the fact that the architect of each edifice was an individual with distinct visions, beliefs, and interests.

This collection of majestic structures is somber, yet ethereally beautiful.

When I stood in the middle of the circle of tombs, I felt oddly connected with all those people who had stood some hundreds of years ago in exactly the same spot, breathing the air that I did — maybe even aspiring for some of the same things that I do today – and possibly looking about them and willing themselves to remember the moment in time when they came face to face with the fragility of human life.

A map of the complex of tombs outside its entrance

 

This is a fake grave for the visitors. The actual body is, I was told, buried underground in an actual grave

 
 

 

The Assembly Hall at Golconda as seen from the top of one of the tombs

 

The unfinished tomb of Abul Hassan Tani Shah, the last Qutub Shahi ruler of Hyderabad. He died in captivity elsewhere, and hence his body is not interred inside this structure. I learned that the dome on top of the tomb is built only after the interment of the body. Also, interestingly, this edifice stands alone outside the compound wall that protects the rest of the tombs.

 

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During my trip to India, I took a delightful detour to a medium-sized bookstore in one of the cities I visited.

Owing to its unassuming name — Jyoti Book Depot — I entered the store willing myself not to get my hopes up too much. (I know, shame on me for judging a bookstore by its name!)

The store had probably just received a considerably large shipment; the entire space was in delightful disarray, adding to the store’s charm and quaintness.

The shop assistants were busy tearing open crates and boxes of books, layering the air with the delicious scent of ink and new paper. It heightened my sense of adventure to be navigating through and carefully stepping over the teetering mini-towers of tomes both in English and Telugu. (Telugu is one among the 17 official languages of India.)

Since the shop was not too intuitively organized, I had to butter up a harried assistant or two to look up the books I had in mind, but then the results more than made up for it: I had to try really hard not to hyperventilate when they conjured up some of the more unusual/elusive titles that I hardly hoped to find in that store.

I have finished reading some of them; the others, I admit, I have been hoarding as a child would a stash of precious toffee for a rainy day.

Here are some of the English titles I bought:

  • Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh.
  •  Bookless in Baghdad by Shashi Tharoor.
  • Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • Collection of Short Stories by Shashi Deshpande.
  • The Binding Vine also by Shashi Deshpande.
  • Comics: Series of Panchatantra and Jataka Tales, Stories about Tenali Raman, Birbal Tales and a few others.

I also bought a few novels for children, including some by Enid Blyton :-).

Can you guess how much I paid for all these beauties together? A little over Rs. 3,000/- (Rupee is the Indian currency), which amounts to less than $70/-!!

Recently, here in the U.S, I went to one of the larger bookstore chains looking for a style guide that promised to improve my grammar and whip up my writing into better shape. Just one book. It was priced at a whopping sixty-five dollars.

Why, oh why, are books so expensive in America?

Do you make it a point to stop by bookstores while traveling abroad?

Like me, do you come back home mildly depressed about the cost of books in the U.S (if that is where you make your home)?

Note: This post is not meant as a rant for/against the publishing industry in the U.S. (Nothing wrong with such a discussion, it’s just that I’m not in the mood for an involved debate just now.) Rather, it is an honest lament from a self-confessed bookworm :-).

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