For most of my childhood, Golconda Fort was a portal of fantasy and adventure in my imagination. I desperately wanted to see it, but never saw it – even though from the age of 7 to 11 we lived in Secunderabad, the twin city of Hyderabad.
I can’t say for sure why Golconda was so attractive to me. Maybe it was just growing up on things like the Bournvita Book of Knowledge, where I saw Arabian Nights pastries round about sites with names like: Gol Gumbaz, Charminar, Buland Darwaza, Golconda. The fort has always been made special by rumors of secret tunnels, secret treasures (Golconda was kept at Kohinoor), difficult acoustic architecture and whispering galleries, where in one corner a sound can be heard over the citadel.
Maybe it was all these things, but perhaps it was also that Secunderabad was the first place I lived that was ‘foreign’ to me – a place where the language and culture and surroundings were quite different from the Delhi and Bombay I knew. Its colonial stone buildings, where butchers still made trifle pudding covered in small cream rosettes, and bathrooms with triple mirrors and chaise lounges, were filled with the mystery and ghost of Angrez logs. Telugu and Deccani were dominating each other in the markets, this caught my attention. Unknown places awaken all our senses and transform us sensually.
In the safety of a small space, I could roam the cantonment area on my own, regardless of my age, and release the extravagant, unfamiliar books once read by colonial children, from the ancient library. In this sensual world of discovery, I felt like a Five-Find Outer.
It was a natural extension to dream restlessly about Golconda, a distant fort where an adventure would surely take place. Unfortunately, my parents weren’t the ones who were very interested in working with kids. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t the source of the occasional hurt, whose ghost still lingers in the tunnels of my soul.
Then last weekend, I went to visit my friend in Hyderabad. He put us in his car and we drove to Golconda with bottles of water, two very monotonous knees between us and his eight-year-old, with disdain at our slowness. We climbed those uneven boulders, through arches inscribed with the names of lovers, until we finally reached the top and took a red-faced selfie.
Are childhood dreams so dreamy in adulthood? Maybe, a little bummed by travel, I can no longer feel the wonder that my 10-year-old can have. But Golconda is magical. The rings of time revolve around it, each present in one layer of the city: trees, lakes, tombs, settlements, buildings, gated communities, the monitoring headquarters of Hyderabad. You wonder what lonely ghost has seen these circles of history give way to each other under the vast sky.
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Contact him email@example.com