Friday, December 21, 2007

Manuscripts and stories

At the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad, visitors crowd around Benzoni's veiled Rebecca and gather on the hour to glimpse the bird in the century-old clock when it pops out to tweet between the blacksmith's strikes on his anvil. But the museum also holds a reputed 9,000 manuscripts in Arabic, Urdu, and Persian, including a 13th century Arabic Qur'an, and Urdu poetry by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah himself, of the Golconda dynasty, the founder of Hyderabad and builder of its famous Charminar.

On the way to the smoke-and-mirrors sound and light show at Golconda fort a guide attached himself firmly to us, refused to be shaken off, and proved to possess a depth of knowledge of the place that put us so-called educated folk to shame. When I went to school in Delhi we paid the south scant attention, so it was a treat to learn about the intrigues and successions, loves and losses of Golconda. As soon as I can get my hands on them, I plan to read Narendra Luther's books on Hyderabad.

At the Charminar, past rows and rows of bangle-sellers, an eight year old hawked cheap trinkets. He spoke to us, rapid-fire, in four languages we recognized (French, English, Spanish, Hindi) and was disappointed that we didn't know the others he could speak (Italian, Telugu, Arabic). Openmouthed, we asked how he came by his fluency. He shrugged and said in that lovely Hyderabadi Urdu with a cadence all its own, "Tourist-lok se boltha, ma." Silly question.

And finally I got to meet Katia Novet Saint-Lot who's taken classes with me off and on for three years. A real delight.


  1. Uma, I met Narendra Luther. He has a blog where he writes about the magnificent Paigah Tombs I mentioned to you the other day. You really must come back to Hyderabad and spend more time touring the city. There is so much to see. Not to mention that I would then get to see you again :)

  2. Thanks for the link, Katia. So much to see, so little time. I'll certainly be back.

  3. I was googling for images of Charminar when I chanced upon your blog. Lucky for me.

    I found your blog fascinating, and there were so many threads in your blog that ran parallel to my own interests. I currently live in Canada but am originally from Hyderabad and loved your account of it. I am also a writer of speculative fiction. In another post you mention Vandana Singh. I have read Vandana Singh's works and corresponded with her. She was planning to edit an anthology of Indian SF. I had submitted a story to that project but that project seemed to have been shelved.

    I am bookmarking your blog.

  4. Thanks Ahmed. If you're at all interested in writing for young readers, there's a wonderful children's mag called Kahani, published out of Boston and always looking for new contributors.

  5. Hello Katia,

    In your comment you have mentioned that Narendra Luther runs the blog:

    This blog is actually run by Ms.Qurratulain Khan and not Narendra Luther.