At 400 ft above city level she towered over the battlement of the Golconda Fort at an historic angle of 700 years.
She ventriloquized Rani Rudrama Devi, Prataparudra, Kaya Bhupathi and Quli Qutb-ul-Mulq, unfolded a story of the ephemerality of power.
When Aurangzeb cried blood, the granite wall behind her shed a boulder in fear. I research before I guide, she beamed, and play parts to add a little drama to it to keep you guys on your toes.
She sat beside me in the tour bus, her denim jeans merging boundaries with my corduroy, guiding my eyes as well as my desire over the shifting minars and streets of Hyderabad.
At Salar Jung Museum she stuck to me; the others were scattered among the exhibits culling wonder out of still objects.
Before the Veiled Rebecca, she asked me, her hair grazing my cheek, to look deep into the eyes of Benzoni’s marble poem, and the veil that hung between us fell out.
At Lumbini Gardens, under the Buddha’s statue, she made us bhikshus of the sangham; to me she gave a lover’s bowl to beg.
At the Birla Mandir, where we wound up, she bid adieus to the others. To me she said that there were more secrets of her city she wanted to unveil to me. Her palm was soft and sweaty on my arm.
Walking in Her Footsteps
The book I was reading the other day, a novel about a Jewish girl who went missing in Paris during the Occupation in 1941 – Dora Bruder*. I read the whole day, taking breaks only to wash and eat. At sunset, Dora was still untraceable. I left home when she entered the plateau between life and death, memory and present. As I walked alongside the lake in the twilight, I saw Dora ahead of me, still in her school uniform, the navy blue skirt, white blouse, and brown shoes she wore the day her mother saw her last. The curfew was to start in an hour. A siren blew somewhere. I reassured myself that the badge with the yellow star was on my chest. Dora was a rebel, I knew. She wouldn’t wear it, and the police were to be there any time. She had to, lest she should be arrested. I had no other way but to keep track of her. The sirens came nearer and nearer. The lake on my side waited in peace for the final arrest of Dora.