I don’t like walking. No, really. It’s to do with being lazy, more than anything else. And maybe the napping in Calcutta during monsoons had something to do with it. Grandparents house, rainy afternoon, ordinary day at school, delicious lunch = sleep!
Have you been to the Golconda Fort? No, have you? Well, if you have then you’ll know that it’s not meant for the lazy or the faint-hearted.
I first read/was forced to read (depending on who you’re in conversation with) about the Golconda Fort at school. My history teacher Mrs. Basu (incidentally, my Facebook friend too) was one of the most likable people around. She made sure we studied and along the way realized the importance of the subject. Right behind me in class sat a legendary character, who need not be named, but his take on history was: “Man, the Mughal’s and all these rulers were so lucky. They got to stay in all these cool palaces and had soldiers and horses and so many girlfriends. Amazing bro, amazing.” Hmm.
Revisiting a chapter from the history books turned out to be an adventure of sorts! Like I mentioned at the start, it’s not for the faint-hearted…
After moving past the 201222064 ‘official’ tour guides, I finally made my way onto the premise. From the very beginning, you feel that the entire property has been well maintained and that tourists respect the rules and regulations. I said ‘the tourists’. The locals are in their own league! Several of them etch their names on the old walls and on being told to stop, hurl back well thought out Telegu words. Not pleasant ones, I assure you.
Past the crazy locals and their friends from ‘etch my name’ high-school, came the bit that I didn’t expect to witness.
The sacrificial grounds. Yep. Goats being slaughtered , fresh blood collected. The works.
The Kali temple on ground is where the preliminary rituals are completed. Women sit around a tree, while the executioners carry on with business. The priests chant. The children dance and I looked over my shoulder to see if Indiana Jones was on his way.
The remains of the goat are sent to be cooked. The makeshift kitchen under the old tunnel, where cooks prepare a feast for the devotees. Meanwhile the group of women and their family members begin the climb. It’s a bloody long climb, pun intended.
Barefoot. Enthusiastic. Drum-rolls. Dhinka-chika.
That’s not it. The women who are on their way to the temple have a rather long way to go, the climb isn’t easy (as I found out), but they had another task at hand.
Stopping at EVERY step and applying sindoor (vermilion) on the foot of the step.
I won’t lie, seeing them labor made me feel tired. Very tired.
The afternoon sun chose to appear and brighten up proceedings. Sweat poured down my cheek. The overpriced shirt, drenched. Hopping, skipping, jumping and taking regular breaks (as every marathon runner knows, staying within limits is the name of the game), I made my way to the very top.
I even took a photograph to prove it to those that might not have believed me otherwise. I was impressed with the cellular networks in Andhra Pradesh, that made sure that I could access the internet on top of Golconda Fort, a touch of instagram, indeed!
And, as I sat on the edge of the Fort, looking down at the Lego-like houses, I managed to get a word with the security guard. He likes to be called Raymond and doesn’t like talking much. Yup, great company. Throw in an ice-cream and it’s a party.
He sat there and spoke of his life as a clerk, before this. Of cricket, ghosts and railway travel. His love for tea and mutton (I was thinking to myself, he’s definitely in the right place then!)
The temple behind us, right next to the mosque. On top of a hill. Sun beating down. Thousands of devotees, who come here and believe in whatever it is they believe in.
Faith, so much more than a word on a Tuesday afternoon.
The walk downhill was pleasant. The clouds were out. The numbers had reduced and the drum-beats too. I was surprised that I made the climb, I knew I had no intention to. I kept telling myself, one step more…
Didn’t Martin Luther King Jr say: Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
Well, looks like there are many who agree with him.