Heritage Monument or Hotel California ?

We had just landed in Secunderabad in the summer of 2006 and knew nothing about the city,almost.One evening we decided to have dinner at a famous Chinese restaurant on Park Lane but to our dismay we could not get a table even after waiting for half and hour. With two little children and a parking slot which is as difficult to manage we thought we would settle for something a little less fancy.

Bang opposite to the chinese place we saw a number of boards declaring that there was a restaurant and a bar somewhere.We could not figure out where ?

There was this old colonial structure that looked more french than british but it hardly looked like a restaurant or a bar.

Image173But since the board said that this was the place we wanted to have a dekho at it.As our party of 3 and a Quarter headed in the direction of what looked like the entrance we were accosted by a fierce looking man with a guards uniform and club in hand.He ordered ” You cannot go inside” and put his club in front as in to hold us back.

Surprised beyond belief I confronted him”But why not? We will go.You cannot stop us like this”.His expression had by now turned from mild retribution to anger and he thundered” I am saying you cannot go means you cannot go and certainly not with these people”.It was now my wife’s turn to question him while my two kiddos looked at each other Image172and the three of us with a not so amused look.” Have you put a board here that who all can go and who all cannot.India is after all a free country”.The poor guy had given up by now and he said in a very deep tone almost like a whisper”Sir madam does not understand.It is better you first go and check out your self” I had begun to grow suspicious by now as some of the characters coming out of the building did not exactly look like gentlemen.Even they had a weird expression on their faces and they were looking at us as if they had seen some strange ghosts.I asked my wife to wait in a corner besides our car while I went ahead like an adventurer.

Once I entered the hall I could not believe my eyes.The place was straight out Image175of the 18th century.I had never seen anything like this before in my life.Rows and rows of tables with two benches on each side,a dim lit bulb over them and all of the occupied by men in various stages of intoxication.Some were chatting or blabbering but most of them were drinking silently and by the look on their faces it was clear that they did not know the person sitting in front of them and neither did they care.There were 3 such halls and together there must have been some 100 tables !!!

Pulling myself up from the shock I got out and told my wife the whole story.Both of us were at our wits end that how could such a place exist almost frozen in time.I could not get over it and wanted to know the whole story so I went back the other day this time alone and all by myself.

What I found out was this :

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It is amazing that even after more than 100 years the place is preserved in all its original glory.I imagined how groups of soldiers from the British cantonment would come and spend their evenings at the Monty’s hotel.Many of them would even stay there before their quarters were allotted or something like that.

I called up and  checked with some friends who have been living in Hyderabad for years together but no one knew about the place.

I promised to SHOW them Hotel California one day.And if anyone of you are in town I would be happy to take you there too but remember …No women and children please !

Unfortunately The Authorities have decided to delist the Monty’s Hotel from its Heritage building status and soon the place will loose out to a swanky mall or some other fancy and ‘modern’ building.

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If today be sweet..

Ah, fill the cup; – what boots it to repeat                               khayamportraitsm3

How time is slipping underneath our feet:

Unborn tomorrow and dead yesterday

Why fret about them if today be sweet !

March end brings some relief as one can take the unused leaves accumulated during the year.To my delight after the 15 leaves that could be spilled over as encashments I had still got 3 more left.I promptly applied yesterday and the powers that be obliged.

With the managerial instinct that has now become a second nature I ‘planned’ to do nothing and indulge myself.

The first thing I decided was that this tired old body of mine needs some pampering.So I landed at Secunderabad club allowing Solomon Joseph the master  masseur to work his magic.A feeling of calm enveloped me as the Worldspace radio played

दिल ढूंढता है फिर वही फुर्सत के रात दिन

बैठे रहें तस्सवुर ए जाना किए हुए …..

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I am not sure when the tassavur e Jaana ended , the REM sleep started and I dosed off.The only thing that bothered me was showing my bums to a stranger but then I let it be …..

अछ्छा है दिल के पास रहे पासबान ए अक्ल

लेकिन कभी कभी इसे तन्हा भी छोड दे

Before your imagination yields to fantasy I want to tell you that my massage session lasted as it should have.In true Impireal style the orderly brought a towel along with a soap and shampoo so I can get rid of the oil factory that was me.

A luxurious hot shower bath of 30 minutes infested in me the spirit of a Gora Saheb (quite literally now) and I walked out of the parlor after tipping the staff handsomely.

A good thing about Secunderabad club is that it has a very good library but more than that you can get a cup of English Tea in the Lounge next to it.After borrowing a copy of  Dante’s the Divine Comedy I ordered for a cup of finest blend they have.Come on now….stop being Jealous.image059

Dante is a bit pretentious.Isn’t it ? I did look at other titles but whether vanity gave in to reason or reason gave in to vanity I am not sure.I had always picked up this one at the bookstore and kept it back thinking what if I do not understand a word of it – I will be short of cash for the wisdom I could not acquire.So this was my chance.

I guess 40 minutes were enough for me in the fabled land of Gods and angels so I decided to make my move into the real world.But as they say in Hindi “मुल्ला की दौड मस्जिद तक” so I found myself parking the car in front of Odyssey – the Books and Music store.They had a flat 50 % off sale so I ended image067up buying twice the stuff at half the price.Nice Tag line – will try to remember it when I open my own retail store.Twice the stuff at half the price,twice the stuff at half the price…..shut up !Apart from others I picked up one very interesting book about why genius and hash,heroine and alcohal are inseperable.The book maps the life histories of a number of Poets,thinkers,scholars,Musicians to drive home the point.

I think it will serve as an apt explanation for my psychedelic leanings.The genius in me has the right to be nourished albeit with foods (aka drink) considered unfit by lesser mortals.Have parked it for the late night reading.

Body is done,mind is taken care of and now we must have something for the senses.Again your ugly serpent is raising its head.I am a married father of two with limited means and imagination so nothing sensual for me.I decided to watch a movie all by myself – LCD screen,Full sound,Pop corn,Leather sofa,air conditioner……and me.I chose The Bucket List – a story of two old guys who meet up in a cancer ward.Edward ( Jack nicholson) owns the hospital and Carter(Morgan Freeman) is a car mechanic but they come close thanks to Ed’s policy of bucket-listhaving two patients in every room.He is not running a spa..he says.As they get to know each other they decide to explore the world and do what they have always yearned but never had the chance.On their bucket list are things such as kissing the most beautiful girl in the world and Diving from the sky.I would say a good watch smiles,tears,compassion but what was uncanny for me was that in one scene Ed asks his board members in a meeting” Have you read Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy?’ No big deal but considering the fact that I wrote half the post before watching the movie, it was weird.

The problem is that it keeps happening with me all the time.Just a few days back I was reading India in slow motion.There was a chapter on Sufism which I really liked.When I came out of my room I was  puzzled to see my wife was watching a program on National Geographic that was about Sufis and showing the same places I was just reading about. Strange.

ना जाने नक्शत्रों से कौन

निमंत्रण देता मुझको मौन

Curiously, the most searched and viewed post on my blog is the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra.I never thought it would get any views but I posted it as I wanted to remember the meaning and listen to it  whenever,where ever I wanted.Now every time I check the blog stats it appears in the most searched and clicked classification.

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I am hearing his call.Is he hearing mine too ?