As I board the train, I’m uncertain about what is in store for me. I’m about to embark upon a journey I have undertaken three times before. I’m on my way to the city of Hyderabad with friends—some who I have been acquainted with before and some who know the deepest secrets of my life. It’s an interesting mix of four people (including me) and I’m excited about the time we’ll be spending together while my stay in the ‘City of Pearls’.
I (re)discover my liking for pearls. I remember I need to buy some (it’s #78 on my to-do list)
I smile as the train breathes to life and takes its first step forward. I smile at a friend with whom I had promised to be a partner in her trip to her hometown. I smile at how Fate is smiling right back at us in making this happen. I smile at my company—one I would have never guessed for a trip like this. I smile at how things worked out so fast.
All four of us are up almost the entire night. There are stories to listen, there are stories to tell. At times, there is silence too. A silence that is too loud to say anything else. A silence that is final. A silence that seems to understand that you don’t always need words. A silence that is reassuring in its mere presence.
I discover my humility towards silence—one that I can make sense of, one that doesn’t discomfort me and one that makes me forget the chaotic order of life, even if temporarily so.
As our train screeches to a halt at Begumpet, I recall the last time I was here. It’s been over a year since then. I try not to go down the flashback road. So much has changed and yet remained static since then. I avoid the mundane philosophy and head towards V’s home. The house looks like a living example of an amalgamation of conflicting memories—memories I have never been a part of and yet can relate to. A hen and a rooster get anxious as the four of us enter their territory. I am told they are called Kookuda and Kookudi. I instantly fall in love with the way those words are pronounced. I have a weakness for unconventional words, I realize. I sigh in amusement.
V gives us a tour of her house. It reminds me of my own. The walls, the high ceiling, the old generation fans, the large, spacious rooms and the yesteryear’s architecture—all these are identities of my house where I grew up for 18 years. I realize V’s house is a tool to go down the road of nostalgia. And happily, unregretfully so. The four of us plan our next couple of days in Hyderabad. I have a few of people to meet, a couple of things to buy and an almost insatiable desire for trying out some classic local cuisine. Of course, food takes a backseat (for me) in all the “planning” that we do. We come up with a bunch of plans, most of which are doable, none of which we actually do or end up doing. I am later to realize that all are decisions our to be taken impromptu, in keeping with the spirit of a typical holiday.
I discover the joys of being a part of impulsive outings.
I discover the joy of discovering common likes (and dislikes) in another friend. Of recognizing mutual insanity and passion for something that may otherwise sound so ordinarily mediocre and mundane. There are talks, there are debates, there are songs and there are words. Words I listen to, words I absorb, words I understand, words I don’t. And if I don’t, I relentlessly pursue the meaning and the story behind them. Each is a discovery…of something new.
Of the many streets we walk in and the many rickshaw rides we take, one of them happens to be Osmania University. It’s amusing to think now that I’m about to enter the campus of which I could have been a part of, just a couple of years ago. A tour of just a section of the university does not convince me that this is an academic space. It feels more like a historical monument that was probably once inhabited by a great ruler and his many queens. It’s an experience in itself: to sit in those lecture halls, to look at a few students loitering on the corridors, to hear your voice echo and to finally spot a shack that sells tea and snacks.
I discover my long-lost liking for tea there, as I sip the hot, crisp beverage. Of course, coffee is and would still be my first love.
Of the many impromptu escapades, a visit to Yusuf Shareef Dargah eventually stands out as the loveliest. Owing to a friend’s persistent desire to hear the legendary Warsi Brothers perform at the Dargah at midnight on December 21, 2012, we somehow manage to make that happen. I have limited knowledge of qawwali as a musical genre, though I enjoy it every time I listen to it and focus on its profound lyrics. I instantly nod with enthusiasm at the idea of watching a qawaali session to be performed by veterans in this field (as I am told). It’s thrilling to be at the dargah on jumme raat (Thursday night) and at an hour when you would rarely expect so much of commotion, noise, chit chat and movement. As I concentrate hard in deciphering the lyrics of each song, I frown at the barrier between the male and female audience at the dargah. I can only listen and not watch. I sulk. But I can’t revel in that mood for long. The musical ambiance has distracted my mind enough to give anything else a thought. I’m almost in a trance. Observing everyone around, focusing on the beats, the claps and the lyrics of each composition.
I discover my liking for simplicity.
I’m just coming back after seeing off a good old friend. Having met her after a couple of months, we had a lot to catch up on: picking up things from where we left it last. There’s so much to tell, so much to listen and so little time! Time runs like grains of sand from the edge of our fingers.
I discover how some things never change. And never will.