In my solo travels around India, I have experienced many strange reactions. But this one beats them all hands down.
At the entrance of the over 400 years old, stalwart Charminar (Four Towers) in Hyderabad, the security guard looked at me strangely and asked me if I was travelling solo. After due consideration and a chat with someone on his transmitter, he finally gave me the clean chit to go up.
After climbing up what seemed like a never ending spiral matrix of high steps in the narrow tower choc a bloc with huffing and perspiring tourists, I finally reached the mid level access area. Barely had I caught my breath when a female security guard marched up to me and asked me if I was ‘the’ solo traveller and asked me to follow her. I figured her colleague downstairs had passed on a description of me.
What followed was a VIP tour of the Char Minar where I was zipped past all crowds, given access to the best view points with a running commentary by her on the history and anecdotes on the grand old monument. I was seriously impressed with the treatment I received and made a mental note to send a thank you letter to the Telengana tourism for looking after solo women travellers so well. I even tipped the lady for her help.
Just then, a young man walked up to the guard while she was taking photos of me against the panoramic view of old Hyderabad. He wanted to know why tourists were not being allowed to go right up to the very top of the Charminar. She then told him that in the last few years several heartbroken urban single ladies who had troubled and failed relationships had committed suicide by jumping off from the top of the Charminar or had been pushed down by their lovers, forcing the Charminar administration to beef up security.
While it was disturbing to know this and I wondered what juggernaut of emotions pushed one to end their lives or kill someone, I could not also help but reflect on the need for drama even in death. Ancient monuments with a morbid angle has always allured man. Some like the Taj Mahal are famous because they are dedicated to the departed and some like the Charminar are famous, hence used as departure gates for take off.
Suddenly all the VIP treatment I was getting made sense. I asked the guard if she was escorting me to ensure I don’t commit suicide and she said yes. Then she looked at the young man suspiciously and asked us if we were together and we emphatically said no. I then scurried down the tower at record speed to end this saga of being viewed as a potential suicide/murder suspect. It was only after I had gifted myself a string of pearls at the surrounding Pearl Market that I was able to laugh at this ridiculous, morbid experience.
This article has been published by We Are The City under the title ‘Leaving Charminar, Hyderabad’. Here is the link.