Tuesday, October 11, 2005


The months of the calendar are very much a part of our lives and whatever we do in them add up to our net worth and existence .But this is old hat; what is interesting is the story behind their nomenclature.

The months are derived from the Roman calendar of antiquity and the words are Latin. Originally the year had only ten months starting from March and ending with December. It was only to be expected that the early Romans should honour the God of War at the very beginning of the year. But more of it later.

It was the genius of Numa Pompilius, who was entrusted with the charge of Rome after the founder Romulus passed away, that added two more months to the calendar. Numa was not a Roman in the truer sense of the term; he was a Sabine. But he was the most cultivated of the people in Rome, indeed a savant if not a sage .He added the first two months, January and February.

January is derived from the Roman God Janus. Janus had two faces, each facing the other, signifying strife and bellicosity. The temple of Janus in Rome had massive iron doors which were always open except when absolute peace reigned, which happened only twice in Roman history; once in Numa’s time and once again during the golden period of Augustus Caesar. Incidentally January is juxtaposed between two years, the old and the new and hence may be visualized having ‘two faces’ looking forward and backward.

February, the second month of the year, is derived from ‘februa’ meaning purification. On the Ides of February i.e. the 15th, the festival of Lupercalia was held. It was a fertility festival consecrated to the preservation of domestic animals from wolves (lupus means wolf) .Lupercal is mentioned in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar .It is worth remembering that the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she wolf during their childhood. In this festival a young boy used to run around clad in a short garment, striking the onlookers with a branch of a tree as a mark of purification.

March comes next. As mentioned earlier it is named after the Roman god of war, Mars, corresponding to the Greek Aries. Originally it was the first month of the year in the ten-month calendar, later becoming the third after the introduction of January and February. Julius Caesar was poniarded on the Ides of March.

The fourth month is April. There are two concepts as to its derivation. Some claim it honours Venus, Aphrodite in Greek, which appears farfetched as the first two letters are A&P and not A&PH[Φ]. However others believe it is derived from “apert’ or to open (aperture) as in this month the buds open and flowers bloom. Spring exerts herself in right earnest.

May is the next month and is an abbreviation for Maia, the mother of Mercury, Hermes to the Greeks. It is rather strange that Maia should merit a full month as she is not a member of the Olympian twelve. Her son Mercury is however a proper Olympian and is the patron God of thieves, traders, doctors, musicians and many more. His wand, the Caduceus, is the modern emblem of doctors all over. Incidentally the term Hermaphrodite [we all know what it means] is the illegitimate son of Hermes and Aphrodite. The pre-Hellenic function of Hermes was that of chief psychopomp, carrying the soul of the dead to Hades.
His mother Maia then was a substitute for the mother Goddess whose cult was suppressed by patriarchal Hellenes. Naming the month after Maia was a sort of atonement for this injustice

June is named after Juno, Hera to the Greeks. She was the matriarch of the Olympians, being the consort of Jupiter. As Jupiter has a planet to his name, and the largest one at that, it is only proper that his wife should have a month to herself.

That July is named after Julius Caesar is very wall known and he had himself named it so; a matter deemed offensive to his assassins. After the conquest of Egypt, Julius had lengthy discourses with the Egyptian astronomers and he made a sincere attempt at the calendar’s correction. Previously it was called Quintilis, the fifth month. That Julius would choose the fifth month to lend his name to was natural; he claimed Venus as his ancestress. The number five in Latin is V, the first letter of Venus. Furthermore to the ancient mystagogues V represented an isosceles triangle with the base up and apex down, resembling the female reproductive area [Does anyone remember the ubiquitous red triangle of the seventies?] hence symbolizing birth=regeneration=life itself. The reverse triangle with the base down and apex up signified a pyramid =delta=death.

Augustus Caesar named the sixth month Sextilis after him .This happened to be the most inauspicious month to the Romans .The rape of the Sabine women had taken place in this month and this outrage was one of the curses of the Roman republic and the empire. Augustus took upon himself to wipe away the stain of this month. Rome was founded by the two brothers Romulus and Remus with all the riffraff of the country, fugitives, runaway slaves, thieves and the like. But they needed women to breed who were difficult to find. Romulus hit upon a plan: to abduct the Sabine women from a religious gathering. It was executed with precision and Rome had the required women for raising families.

Nothing much need be said about the remaining four months of the year as their names indicate their chronology: - September, October, November& December signifying the seventh eighth ninth and tenth months respectively. However as Lupercalia is spoken of earlier, so a brief mention may be made of the chief Roman festival, the Saturnalia. It was held in December during the winter solstice and the whole of Rome were literally ablaze with fun and gaiety. The Festival lasted four days initially when the later of the Caesars of the Julian house put in a fifth honouring the youth of Rome and called it Juvenalia.

On Emperor Constantine embracing Christianity every attempt was made to suppress the polytheistic religion of Rome which was called Paganism; and what better way to bring it about than celebrating the birthday of Jesus Christ during the Saturnalia? The Bible nowhere mentions the birthday of Jesus; the Church of Rome persisted and ultimately Paganism withered away.

Calendar is derived from the Latin word Kalend meaning the first day of the month. The word month itself means moon, moon= mon=month; the lunar
cycle takes a month.


An ode to Hypatia:

Thou Art Not Born For Death, Immortal Bird
No Hungry Generations Tread Thee Down
John Keats

Let us now praise famous women and our mothers that bore us [no pun intended]The woman I am about to praise this delightful autumn morning was indeed famous but she was never a mother; for she died as she lived; a spotless virgin dedicated to the cause of mathematics and philosophy.

Hypatia was the daughter of the mathematician and philosopher Theon. Theon had written an excellent commentary on Euclid’s geometry, and his name would have been well remembered by posterity had not his daughter outshone him.

Hypatia was born in Alexandria in 370?A.D. Alexandria in those days was the capital of Egypt. Egypt was a part of the Roman Empire and had a Roman governor. Its populace was various and mixed: native Egyptians, Greeks, Jews and Romans. Indeed Egypt was the melting pot of the whole world where East met the West.

There all the religions had existed in harmony: ancient Egyptian, Paganism of the Greeks, Judaism of the Jews and Christianity of the later Romans. Theon was Greek in origin, and a Pagan by birth.

Alexandria was then one of the greatest cities of the Empire if not of the whole world. It rivalled Athens and Rome as a centre of excellence. There were no unemployed or unemployable in the whole city; even the lame and the blind found something worthy of their labour. The Alexandrians manufactured papyrus, blew glass and wove linen. Furthermore the trade of Asia and Africa passed through Alexandria on the way to Rome, its harbour was blessed by a splendid lighthouse on the island of Pharos. Though founded by Alexander the great, it was the genius of the Ptolemies, the ruling dynasty, that raised this city to celestial heights. The Ptolemies patronized art and culture and Alexandria boasted one of the greatest libraries of antiquity, nay, some scholars believe it had the greatest library that ever was. Librarians, teachers and students were funded by the public exchequer to devote their time and energy studying and teaching. Theon was the chief librarian during his longevity.

In addition to the library, Alexandria had a magnificent temple of Serapis which paralleled the Parthenon of Athens and the temple of Capitoline Jove at Rome. It was a unique blend of the best of the Egyptian architecture with the creators of the Athenian Acropolis. The Egyptians and the Greeks worshipped there. Serapis was credited to being the source of the Nile and was responsible for the annual flooding which made Egypt the coveted granary of the Roman Empire.

Hypatia was the student of her father from whom she learnt her mathematics .She is credited with writing commentaries on the Arithmetica of Diophantus, on the Conics of Apollonius and the Arithmetical canons of Ptolemy. All these books are now lost. Later on she travelled to Athens where she learnt Philosophy and became a teacher in the Neo-Platonic school. It may be recalled that the study of science and philosophy was no easy matter for a woman in those days and to excel at it and become a teacher was simply unheard of. Hypatia not only excelled but her renown spread far and wide.

This Neoplatonic school was founded by Plotinus, Porphyry and Iamblichus. She was the greatest votary of this philosophy in Alexandria and her classes were always full of students eager to learn the mysteries of human existence. There exists an interesting story of Hypatia being constantly pestered by one of her over-eager pupils for her amorous favours which many modern-day feminists cite as an example of sexual harassment in those days. Far from it; sexual harassment has little to do with sex and even less with harassment, it is all about power and supremacy. As Hypatia was more powerful than her pupil the allegation of sexual harassment holds no water. Hypatia however dissuaded her ardent pupil by displaying a bloodied sanitary napkin and exclaiming “This is of my flesh. If you love me you have to accept this also.” The horrified pupil beat a hasty retreat. For, truly, if a man loved a woman he loved her in her entirety, including her red roses and white roses [menstruation and leucorrhea].

Hypatia taught at the museum of the academy which stood near the temple of Serapis. She had refused many suitors, for philosophy was her first and only love. Many were the students who traveled by land and sea from Athens and Rome, Constantinople and Antioch to hear her expound the intricacies of Plato and Aristotle.

But those were strange times, harsh times. Less than a century earlier the Emperor Constantine had embraced Christianity and it had now become the state religion. Rome was no longer Pagan, it was Christian. But Christianity was split into multiple sects and creeds. The capital was shifted from Rome to Byzantium, now renamed Constantinople. Christianity, the religion of love and compassion, was turned inside out by their followers and preachers. Christians persecuted Christians on specious interpretations of the Holy Book. The history of this period makes gory reading. The streets of all the major cities of the Empire were littered with the corpses of the devout; even elderly matrons and young ladies were not immune to unmentionable and unspeakable violations.

A semblance of normalcy, and only a semblance, was restored during the reign of the most Christian Emperor Theodosus. The orthodox faith now became the official religion of the Empire and all other forms of worship were prohibited by law. Christianity was young and virile. With utter viciousness she sought to destroy all the temples, shrines, religious texts and emblems of the unbelievers. She had the might of the state and the sword of the Roman Army behind her.

At Alexandria, power was shared by a prefect who was a civil magistrate and by a bishop who was the spiritual leader. The bishop at this period was Theophilus who is described by Gibbon as “the perpetual enemy of peace and virtue; a bold, bad man, whose hands were alternately polluted with gold and blood.” To the everlasting shame of the orthodox faith the ignominy of the destruction of the Alexandrine library lies in the sullied hands of Theophilus. Unquenchable being his zeal and fury, he now proceeded to raise the temple of Serapis to rubble. He succeeded majestically in this disgraceful enterprise and one of the marvels of antiquity was forever lost to us.

After the death of Theophilus, his nephew Cyril succeeded to the bishopric. Cyril was raised as a monk, and now he enjoyed absolute power in Alexandria, basking in the confidence of the Roman Emperor
Theodosius. There was indeed a civil magistrate, Orestes by name and a Christian by faith, who tried to prevent the excesses of religious fanaticism of the bigots.

But Cyril was made of a different stuff. Little did he care for religious tolerance and the niceties of human behaviour. Gibbon mentions "Without any legal sentence, without any royal mandate, the patriarch, at the dawn of day, led a seditious multitude to the attack of the synagogues. Unarmed and unprepared, the Jews were incapable of resistance; their houses of prayer were levelled with the ground, and the episcopal warrior, after rewarding his troops with the plunder of their goods, expelled from the city the remnant of the unbelieving nation."

The Jews who had lived in Alexandria from the time of Alexander were now finished as a nation. Alexandria lost a cultured and creative minority.

Orestes however made an attempt to check this lawlessness of Cyril and his supporters but to no avail. The Emperor of Rome was a puppet in Cyril’s hands. Orestes used to confide in Hypatia, the most famous personage of Alexandria, who advised him not to lose heart. Orestes although a devout Catholic did not subscribe to the religious fanaticism sweeping through Alexandria.

Having tasted victory in his action against the Jews, Cyril cast his vision on the most spectacular icon of Paganism, Hypatia. Gibbon writes ‘In the bloom of beauty, and in the maturity of wisdom, the modest maid refused her lovers and instructed her disciples; the persons most illustrious for their rank or merit were impatient to visit the female philosopher; and Cyril beheld, with a jealous eye, the gorgeous train of horses and slaves who crowded the door of her academy’

It was the year 415 A.D. Cyril decided to strike. On a clear day as Hypatia was boarding her chariot to go to the Academy hundreds of half starved monks set upon her, dragged her to a nearby church, stripped her naked and flayed her alive with oyster shells, spattering the walls with her innocent blood. The horror is unimaginable and the disgust is revolting. A woman of repute whose very shoestrings Cyril was unworthy to untie, lay brutally massacred by the goons unleashed by this excellent representative of the Christian faith in a church where the saviour of mankind was worshipped.

These monks were the real barbarians in those days" The monks, who rushed with tumultuous fury from the desert, distinguished themselves by their zeal and diligence ... In almost every province of the Roman world, an army of fanatics, without authority and without discipline, invaded the peaceful inhabitants; and the ruin of the fairest structures of antiquity still displays the ravages of those barbarians who alone had time and inclination to execute such laborious destruction."

Thus perished Hypatia who had the mind of Socrates and the spirit of Plato in the body of Aphrodite. Her crime? She was a woman, an intellectual and a Pagan. Three heinous offences in those days, sufficient to label her a witch and harlot, when men like Cyril were championing the cause of the Catholic church. For his labours Cyril was canonized and made a saint! Well done Cyril.

Hypatia was the glory of her age and the wonder of ours. The world had to wait the revolutions of sixteen centuries when another woman could equal her in intellectual pursuits. The murder of Hypatia heralded the Dark Ages when scholarship of any sort was frowned upon and condemned by the church. The best books of ancient Greece and Rome were consigned to the flames. Little, very little, of the majesty of the writings of the ancient sages remain.

It will be only befitting to give a few quotations attributed to Hypatia before ending.

"Life is an unfoldment, and the further we travel, the more truth we comprehend. To understand the things that are at our door is the best preparation for understanding those that lie beyond."

All formal dogmatic religions are fallacious and must never be accepted by self-respecting persons as final.

Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all.

To teach superstitions as truth is a most terrible thing.

Wonderful isn’t it?



Mangasar M Mangasarian : THE MARTYRDOM OF HYPATIA

Kenneth Humphreys : MURDER OF HYPATIA


Wonderful to Tell


This is an excerpt from the 45th and 46th chapters of the immortal Latin book THE GOLDEN ASS by Lucias Apuleius. For sheer imagination and hidden wit this book ranks with the very best of the genre; and for unrivalled entertainment one does not know where else to search. Incidentally this is the only Latin novel of the pre-Christian era to have survived the ravages of time. I have relied on William Adlington’s translation [1566] for a grasp of the story. Lucius has used the first person throughout and I have done the same otherwise I believe the charm would be lost. Lucius, the Latin, on his peregrination lands up in Thessaly, Greece, where through magic and witchcraft he is transformed [metamorphosed] into an ass. He retains his human power to think and understand but alas, the power of speech is denied him. His physique though is that of an ass. Many wonderful adventures befall him and this is one of them.

‘Lend me your ear, reader: you shall enjoy yourself’

My master, the soldier, sold me to two of his underlings, the Baker and the Cook for a paltry sum of eleven pence. The Baker baked sweet bread and other delicacies and the Cook prepared superb meat for his master. They shared their hearth and victuals in common and would often take me from one place to another to carry their goods and I was like a brother to them. I was very happy to stay there; for at night after the day’s work was done and supper was over, they would keep many a dainty dish in the chamber where I was kept, before they retired to their rooms after shutting the chamber door. The Cook kept dishes of pigs, chicken and fish and the Baker laid out a table of fine bread, cakes, pastries and biscuits dipped in honey. Now I had my heart’s fill of these savouries and I was neither a fool nor an ass to spare the meats and eat hay. For a long time matters proceeded like this, for I was an honest ass and I took a little of one dish and a little of another to remain undetected as long as possible.

As time passed I became sturdy and commenced devouring the whole dishes which made the Baker and the Cook to suspect something fishy. But they never mistrusted me and were on the lookout for a thief. As no thief was apprehended they soon came to charge each other of infidelity, as follows ‘you have broken faith and promise by stealing the choicest meat and selling it for profit; yet you take your share of the residue that is left. If you do not like our partnership let us go asunder; for the heavy loss I sustain because of your greed will soon cause fraying of the tempers and much else besides’. To which the other replied ‘I praise your cunning and sophistry. After secretly taking away the meat you start complaining whereas I have suffered your thievery for a long time without complaining as you were a brother to me’. After discussing the matter over a length of time they settled the issue amicably swearing
by the very Gods of Olympus. They endeavoured to catch the thief by whatever methods necessary. It neither was in their imagination that a humble ass standing alone in a corner would eat such meat nor were they inclined to believe it was the handiwork of mice or harpies to polish off whole dishes of meat. Meanwhile being fed on such delectable dishes I became muscular, my skin became glossy, my hair developed a luster and I became robust and gallant in every part. This led to my undoing for it dawned upon the duo that I was appearing ever so sleek and shiny in spite of hardly eating any hay. When the time came for their rest they went to bed locking their chamber door and peeped through a hole. They saw me doing full justice to the meat and the cake, and without bothering for their loss, fell into peals of laughter. Wondering exceedingly at this marvel, they called in the servants of the house to show the voracious appetite of the ass. Such was the din created by the laughter that the master of the house rose up and wished to be told the reason of such hilarity. After being a party to it, he too peeped through the hole and on being satisfied, he ordered the door to be opened so that he could watch the scene without any encumbrance.

When I saw that everyone was viewing me with pleasure I became more bold and continued eating without the least shame. The master however ended the episode by bringing me to his parlour and spread all kinds of meat on his table for me to savour. I greedily ate up all the meat that was placed there. Being pleased with the novelty he ordered a servant to place wine before me which was immediately complied with. Everyone watched eagerly to see what would happen; but I did not require much of a prodding. I put my lips together and finished off the whole wine in one suck. Overjoyed at this unheard of phenomenon, the master called forth the Baker and the Cook and paid them four times the amount they had paid for me and took possession of me. He handed me over to his hostler with the admonition not to spare any expense for my comfort. This he did and did well and to further curry favour with his master he taught me a thousand etiquettes; not that I needed much teaching. Among other things he taught me how to sit on my tail at the table, how I should leap and dance holding my forefeet high in the air, on being asked a question how I should nod my head and if I wished a drink or two, to gaze constantly at the pot. Everything that he taught me I did obediently and I could have done the same without his teaching but I feared that had I done so I would be considered to be bewitched and thrown to wild animals. In a short time my fame was spread far and near and my master was renowned all over the country because of me. The onlooker would say ‘there goes the man whose ass will eat and drink with him, that will dance and if questioned will show signs easily understandable’.

Before proceeding further I must tell you who my master was and of what country. He was Thiasus, born at Corinth which is an important town of Greece and had held many important offices and was now elevated to Lordship. To show his benevolence to the masses he wished to offer a public show of gladiator fighting for a period of three days and had now come to Thessaly to purchase wild beasts and fighters.

After he had bought the necessary items for his show he became homeward bound. However he would neither travel in a chariot or a wagon nor would he ride a Thessalian horse, a French stallion or a Spanish mule. He had me nicely caparisoned with a brave harness, with purple coverings, with a silver bridle with pictured cloth. I was trimmed with barbs of gold with shriveling bells hanging from my neck. Such was I decked up to bear my master who with soothing words rode on my back and rejoiced to have me as a Servant to carry him, and a Companion to share his victuals at the dining table.

A long while later, after traveling by land and sea, we arrived at Corinth where the multitude came to see us, not out of any reverence for my master but to see me as I my fame had preceded me. My master made a lot of money, as people rushed in to see my pranks and the master had the gates closed so only the paying public could enter. I became a highly profitable companion to my team.

In the gallery there was a noble and rich lady who was delighted to behold me, and finding no recourse to her passion and perverted appetite paid continuous attention to me like Pasiphae in the story of ‘Pasiphae and the Bull’. Being exasperated she promised a substantial reward to my keeper, the hostler, for the pleasure of my company for one night. The hostler readily agreed and after I had supped with my master at his parlour, my keeper took me to the lady’s residence. She was waiting eagerly for me: I am not able to tell you in exact detail how things were prepared for our enjoyment but four eunuchs were reclining on a bed of soft downs, the cover was a cloth of gold and the pillows on which this lady was accustomed to place her head were tender and delicate. On our arrival, the eunuchs did not delay the commencement of our sport and locked the door and departed. The chamber was well lit with lamps that gave a clear glow. The lady undressed and was nude to her naked skin and taking hold of a lamp she anointed herself with balm and did the same to me. She specially anointed my nose and afterward kissed me lovingly; not as they do in brothels and seraglios but with deep purity and sincerity, all the while moaning these words ‘you are the one I love, you are the only person I desire, without you I cannot live’ and other such words that women use when they are burning with passion.

Then she took me by my halter and laid me down on the bed which was nothing unwelcome to me as she was a beautiful woman and I had already had wine at my master’s and she had rubbed balm on me. But a thought perturbed me quite a lot: how could I with my large and hairy legs embrace so fair a woman or how should I touch her smooth and silky skin with my hard hooves or how could I possibly kiss her delectable lips with my monstrous mouth and stony teeth or how this lady who was young and tender will receive me.

If I hurt this woman in any way, I knew, I was sure to be thrown to the wild animals. Meanwhile this lady kissed me and with burning eyes said ‘you are my rabbit, you are my sparrow’ and shortly afterward embraced my body all around and had her pleasure of me. I realized then that the mother of Minotaur had no cause to complain when she was covered by the Bull. When the night was over with a lot of joy and very little sleep the lady went to my keeper to bargain for me for another night. My keeper readily obliged partly for gain and partly for discovering a new pastime to please my master. My master on being informed of my new luxury was mighty glad and thought about exhibiting my prowess in the open for which a search had to be made for a suitable woman as the lady I was accustomed to ‘do’ could not be displayed on account of her wealth and status.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Hyderabad : A Charming City

We checked into a hotel in Paradise Circle in Secunderabad which was much to our liking. It was not a fancy place but relatively neat and cozy. It was an out and out a veggie joint and the notice board glaringly declared that consuming alcohol and eating non-vegetarian food in the hotel premises are strictly forbidden. So far so good. However the room manual, as well as the printed receipt, had this in small print “It is forbidden to bring in sex workers in the rooms”. Wonder of wonders! I am a family man and I had been to Hyderabad with my better half. Not for me to indulge in this luxury however enticing it may seem. But for men traveling alone, I reckon a few moments with an understanding female in total privacy is a sure tonic for weariness. So what if she is a strumpet! Later on I realized that the hotel lacked two wholesome amenities; there was no residential doctor and, I understand, there was no residential ghost either. A residential ghost or two would have definitely added to the charm of the place.

The star attraction of Hyderabad is no longer the fabled Charminar but
the much publicized Ramoji Film City. Ramoji Film City is about 25 kilometres from Paradise Circle and a taxi ride brought us to our destination. Surely Ramoji Rao has invested a lot of money in his dream project. It is indeed a place worth visiting and revisiting. The entry fee of rupees two hundred is worth every penny.

We spent five hours there, and, believe me; we could not do proper justice to a quarter of the sights. It is an ersatz world of tinsel and make-believe. Immaculate lawns of verdant green rolled majestically to our view as we passed by in our guided tour with glimpses of plaster of Paris statues strewn in between. We had to climb a hillock to soak in the full grandeur of the environment. Post lunch we were entertained to a live action replay of a Hollywood Western, reminiscent of say ‘Gunfight at O.K Coral’. We visited the caves and saw the Hindu God Nataraj, in its adamantine incarnation, execute the ‘Tandav’ dance with frightful élan.

Paradise Circle is named after the restaurant Paradise renowned for its biriyani. We savoured the delicacy and truly it lives up to its reputation.
The kebabs were undoubtedly tasty but it lacked the crisp flavour of kebabs cooked over simmering charcoal fire.

Where Secunderabad and Hyderabad meet is the Hussain Sagar – a ponderous lake having a monolithic statue of Lord Buddha at its middle. A cool breeze wafts through the waters and the traveler can get some relief from the sun, idling his time under the canopies. As the sun sets and night encompasses the land, the lake is a pleasure to view. Smart fluorescent lightings add an eerie luster to the romance of the place. Not for nothing is it a favourite haunt of lovers, assembling in pairs to imbibe the vesper flavours.

The Birla temple is not far off where those with a religious bend of mind can visit and offer their prayers after climbing some stairs. Not that it leaves the devotee rather short of breath but those with compromised lungs beware.

Salar Jung Museum has a reputation to keep. It is the finest art museum in India and the prime exhibit, the century old clock, which chimes the hour every hour, draws crowds by the hundreds. The statue of veiled Rebecca is sheer poetry in marble. How was it sculpted remains a mystery to me. The salon of European paintings and sculptures on the first floor, with exquisite nudes in alluring postures, simply takes the breath away. Time flies surreptitiously to the avid museologist engrossed in unraveling the artifacts on display.

Charminar rules supreme at the heart of the old city and one has to climb a flight of stairs to reach the first floor. Though the walls are pretty disfigured by graffiti, there is a musty aroma to the place giving the visitor a benediction worth the travail. Nearby are the shops doing brisk business in trinkets like colourful bangles and ear rings. The famous pearls of Hyderabad are available here and women spend hours shopping to their satisfaction.

A foray to the Golconda fort is a must. Climbing to the top is quite a labour . A panaromic view of Hyderabad can be had for the asking. The whole place is seeped in history. From the very bowels of this fort [which was a diamond mine previously] came the fabulous Kohinoor diamond. The son-et-lumiere at 7pm when the best known voice in India [big B’s] expounds the history of this place in English ought not to be missed at any cost. However the tourist should be well advised to take a supply of mosquito repellants with him.

Jubilee Hills is another place worth a visit. This is where the people who have made it big live. Hyderabad Circle, a shopping mall, caters to the cognoscenti. The Vengal Rao Park is but a short distance away, where well manicured lawns with an enclosed lake are a delight to the tourist.

Regarding more mundane matters let me say that the roads are cleaned
regularly and there is hardly any sign of garbage piling up. Driving is indeed a pleasure as no potholes jar the motorist. At busy intersections there are flyovers to ease the traffic. However I was surprised to find an alarming propensity to jump the red light, especially by the two-wheelers. The traffic police indeed do a commendable job and are very helpful. It was rather disturbing to see beggars, mostly lepers, seeking alms by the roadside; surely an anachronism. During my sojourn there, the Traffic Chief had gone nuts, wishing to introduce some newer concepts in Traffic management and restricting some busy thoroughfares in Jubilee Hills to one way vehicles only, leading to inevitable chaos and confusion.

The Deccan Chronicle, the local newspaper, can hold its own against the very best of the country. There was a shocking news of Arab men marrying local Muslim women by paying a large dowry and then leaving them to fend for themselves. I had come across some peculiar advertisements of many Muslim lawyers boldly publicizing their expertise in arranging international marriages [whatever that may mean]. Meanwhile I read an interesting article on local aphrodisiacs highly in demand by the Arabs. It seems there are two varieties; one, a drug, a legitimate produce of the Unani School of Medicine and the other was a liquid extract of the humble earthworm which is used for rubbing in. May the Almighty succour the naïve!

The public transport is well organized. Buses are frequent, relatively comfortable and the fares are competitive to boot. The ubiquitous autos are always there to ferry you places and I believe they don’t take the passengers for a jolly ride. But for the pedestrian, crossing the street is often hazardous and one should keep his eyes wide open.

All said and done the visit will remain memorable and I must be thankful to Hyderabad for allowing us to have another honeymoon after so many years.