Friday, February 23, 2007

My Aurangabad vacation - Part 2

On the following morning, I woke up feeling a bit woozy. Probably caused by all that overwhelming history and culture presented in a very short time to someone who, beneath his boorish exterior, conceals a boorish interior. Sheela begged to differ and opined that perhaps I should have had more of the soda and less of the whisky but she's so prone to jumping to conclusions! And any way, I was drinking vodka. But I'm drifting. As I said, I was feeling a bit woozy and looking forward to some calm and repose when the mother and children jumped me and hauled me off to the next destination. One Daulatabad fort. Squinting in the bright sunshine and wishing I had a couple of aspirin, I landed up at an impressive heap of stones and a BIG gate. One of those Buland Darwaza kinds, wooden gates studded with iron knobs and hundreds of tourists BRIGHTLY dressed, causing my eyes to throb.

A distuinguished looking man sidled up to me and inquired whether we required a guide. Some quick thinking told me that in exchange for a trifling sum, this fine gentleman would keep the progeny entertained while I reflected on the inner meaning of life. I quickly nodded acquiescence - a move I regretted doubly, first because it made my brain crash painfully against the back of my eyeballs and secondly, because the distinguished gent insisted on speaking to no one but the head of the family. Me. To make things worse, his history of the place started way, way back before the fort was built. In fact, I have a hazy recollection that he actually started off with the big bang, moving on to condensation and coalescence of matter, life emerging from the primordial slime and, eventually, thirty word filled minutes later, to the said fort.

I could look up all the history for you. Then again, you could look it up yourself, saving us both the trouble. But the fort struck me as the doing of one immensely paranoid king. There is everything here - moats, twisted pathways leading to death drops, dark chambers where people could be burned to death, niches where people could hide and pour boiling oil on other people, the list of traps goes on. And impregnable it was. The fort was never taken in battle. But there were rat finks back then too, and you could easily bribe the gate keeper to pass you the key or otherwise provide access, as one Malik Kafur found out to the lasting regret of Raja Harpal, whom he flayed alive.

Luncheon brought some respite from the bright sun and the almost incessant torrent of historical trivia. I started feeling a lot better after a good Dal Makhni and tandoori rotis washed down with a little kingfisher beer. Burping manfully, I flung the chest out and readied myself to face the world only to find the wife and kids snoring away in the hotel room. I roamed around the hotel looking for people to chat up and sample local colour but in the p.m., all of Aurangabad sleeps. We took in a bit of shopping in the evening - Aurangabad is the center for Paithani sarees, which have the same effect on women that a bikini clad Monica Belluci might have on the hirsute sex - and tied up the odds and ends required to enable departure for the homestead on the morrow.

As we drove into Bombay, traffic snarling and the smog greying everything, I could not help but reflect on the wondrous days that our fine country has seen in the past and wish we could see glory again. The chances, methinks, are remote.