Posts tagged ‘hyderabad’

In which we flash back to when I met Hyderabad, ‘cos thats what all the cool postmodern kids are doing these days

Once upon a time, I found myself in a muggy place with terrible food and very little else. Entirely my own fault, of course – I’d even been glad when the news arrived.
But I was sad, and, as sad people are apt to do, I went quietly off to sleep, to eat, to check my mail, and so to sleep again.

One day an unlikely-looking fellow prisoner came up to me and said: Lets go to Abids this Sunday.

I looked at her brown courduroy pants, and thought to myself, interesting.

“How is it spelt?” I asked, always the pedant.
“No, ‘Ab-ids. ‘Ab’ as in ‘cab’, and stressed; and ‘ids’ as in ‘kids,’ unstressed. “
“Bah,” I said, but I went, anyway.

It was an uninspiring Sunday morning. The shops were shut. You, who live in a city of lights and noise and wonder will never realise the desolation of seeing rows upon rows of shops, all shut, their promises cut-off at the door by cruel shutters of jangly grey iron, doomed forever to proclaim their wares in cheery colours, their Keatsian mannequins forever pursuing a customer beyond the glass.


I was depressed, and walked along, dragging my feet in the dust, feeling none of my customary jubilation when I crossed the road in the teeth of the traffic, skipping neatly across a fleet of scooters, bounding onto the safety of the pavement in the nick of time, eluding the crushing wheels and horn of an evil lorry. But it brought only a wan smile to my lips.

“We are nearly there” said my courduroy Virgil.
“My velveteen Santa!” I exclaimed, as I caught sight of the next pavement but one.

There was no mistaking the sight – it was books.

A sea of books. Red and ochre and green and blue and yellow and black, merging into a delicate, musty brown in the horizon. The air acquired the sweet smell of mingled dust, camphor and paper, and the very drains seemed to transport it across the empty spaces, to me.

We bounded across, my saviour and I, not heeding the protests of the cyclists wobbling as we passed them.

When we got there, words deserted me. I stood at the beginning of a pavement of books. Where it broke to let in little alleys, I could see that they too were lined with more books. In the distance, the very sky seemed to have become the soft, crumbly caramel of old parchment.

I passed the afternoon in a daze of words. The phrases “Any book – Rs 10” and “Any book – Rs 20” became blurs. Instead, I searched the ground with the zeal of the entire Spanish Inquisition, stooping low, stopping to exclaim and pick one up.

I developed a whole vocabulary of exclamations – yells of greeting to a book I knew well and owned, shouts of disdain to books I’d met before but not liked very much, yelps of sorrowing rapture to books I recognised as better-looking than my own versions of them, cries of respect to venerable books I keep meaning to read but put off for more frivolous company, sobbing for a long-lost book newly found, and hiccups for a new and exciting-looking book with a handsome hard cover and minimal sign of previous ownership.

In the background, other people were making similar noises. It was like an orgy. Everyone bumped into everyone else a lot in the quest for the perfect book. For some reason, no one seemed to want the same books. I pounced with fierce joy on every book I wanted to buy, but found no rivals.

On the pavement, we were all too fond of our own books to pay any attention to anyone else’s.

I got home staggering under a large pile of books, and went to bed. And as I lay there, and wrote my name on them, I realised that it was the seventh day, and I looked around and saw that it was, contrary to what I’d expected, good.

As you might’ve guessed, I don’t entirely hate Hyderabad, these days.

In fact, hanging around at home, and wilting under the burden of explaining my activities and motives (and the lack of them) to my parents, I suddenly find myself very very fond of it.


May 9, 2006 at 11:02 pm 10 comments

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This work by Shalini Srinivasan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
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