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 writers.com classes with me off and on for three years. A real delight.