Walking up the 380 uneven stone steps of the Golconda fort in Hyderabad, I heard frequent complaints from my eleven year old, who insisted on pausing every ten minutes. I pointed out all the old folk, who’d made the journey up, and were now returning.
One toothless old lady passed us by, and I said, “Look- just look at her. She must be at least seventy!”
“And she has no teeth”, added my husband.
“Well, she doesn’t exactly walk on her teeth”, daughter reparteed grumpily.
The sweltering heat of the afternoon sun was receding somewhat, and a cooler breeze started to reach us as we climbed higher. It had been an afternoon filled with sightseeing. We had seen the rather magnificent Qutub Shahi tombs, and then made our way back through the narrow streets of the old city towards the fort.
The history of the fort is interesting. Shepherd’s Hill or “Golla Konda” as it’s known in Telegu, was christened thus because of a shepherd boy who came across an idol. A mud fort was constructed around the holy spot by the then ruler. Over the years, and under the generous administration of the Qutub Shahi kings, this was expanded into a massive granite fort. However, when the fort was conquered by the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb, he saw fit to destroy the impressive structure, leaving little but rubble behind. It was the remnants of this structure that we were picking our way through, amongst several hundred other tourists.
As we climbed and paused, and took photos I couldn’t help but notice the litter that was casually thrown about. There were plastic bags caught in bushes, empty water bottles carelessly strewn, ice cream wrappers discarded cavalierly. Amongst History there was muck.
Litter can be picked.
But what of the graffiti I saw every corner that I turned? A loved B, and declared it on the wall for the world to see. Names scrawled, pictures drawn, defacing monuments that should be respected, preserved, restored even.
This got me wondering about the nature of graffiti.
Was I looking at this all wrong?
I have seen graffiti on bridges in Budapest. Wild, wonderful art, full of colour and mayhem. An expression of youth and of irreverence. And Banksy, the elusive street artist and activist, who even as I write this, is making waves with his art on the walls of Gaza. Why admire this and denigrate the other?
Rather than ascribing all these random scribblings on the walls of Golconda as markings of ignorance, I tried looking at it differently. Was this not just another attempt by man to make a mark, however trivial, however insignificant it may seem? If Ravi loved Savitha, he wanted not just to shout it from roof tops, but he wanted the multitudes who visited the fort, to see his love, and register, even if it was for a brief moment, his existence.
Some make forts. Some reduce them to rubble. Others make political statements on that rubble. While others still, just draw a heart and write that they love someone.
Thousands of years later, if this planet still exists, perhaps someone somewhere will try and make sense of it all, just as historians try and make sense of the early man cave paintings. I wonder which message will resonate the loudest then.