Nature · Personal · Urban

A Parakeet in the ‘Flames of the Forest’

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On many a road trip in the season of Spring, I had spotted the beautiful and vibrant flowered “Flame of the Forest ” or the Palash tree. It was a wonderful surprise to spot this tree during a walk around KBR park recently. And even greater surprise to see the tree flowering even near mid-March.

Under the Palash tree was a beautiful carpet of orange flowers slowly withering away, only to bloom during Spring the following year. On top of the tree however, were many birds and insects relishing copious amounts of nectar. Perhaps, they must have been pleasantly surprised to find a Palash tree in an urban space. The birds that I saw and immediately recognized were the rose ringed parakeet, a plum headed parakeet and a host of sunbirds.

For the parakeets however, the tree seemed like an interesting setting, with its body coloured like the leaves, while the beak in similar colour and shape of the flower, making it easier for the bird to consume the nectar.

The watchman observes that the tree is rife with bird-activity during the cool early hours of morning and the later noon.

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Culture · Daily Life · Events · Food · Heritage · Monument · People · Street · vendors

Ramzan nights (around Charminar)

To describe the Ramzan experience around Charminar as a sensory overload would be an understatement. There is so much to see, feel, hear, smell , eat or even buy and take delight in. The experience might even leave you wiser in consumer behaviour too and render you incapable of bargaining because you are after all a “king” !

All you need to make Sheer-Korma (apart from milk and sugar)
The gentlemen around the shop assured everyone passing by that they would find the most fashionable designs here
The only time I might be seen amidst so much bling!
Daawat-e-Iftaar – when the fast is broken and the entire community eats together


Makkah masjid 1
Iftar at the Makkah Masjid
If you started out in the hope of a good bargain – he will certainly not entertain you!
Still trying to figure out what pendel would mean.
And the shopping and feasting continue into the night

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A tribute to my heroes

At Sea World, San Diego on a vacation, circa Aug 1991
(Photograph corrected and recovered by Srikanth Nippatla)

I will start with a disclaimer. I have almost never talked about my private space online, or on social media. I was never comfortable doing it as I believe it is not necessary to have cyberspace flooded with every minute detail of our lives. And it isn’t as if anyone has time for it either.

But today I make an exception. I would like to make a small tribute to my parents – my father, Prabhala Hanumantha Rao (P.H. Rao) who left us exactly 25 years ago, and my mother Prabhala Savithri Devi who left us over 7 years ago.

To say my father’s departure from our world was sudden would be an understatement. On June 4th, 1992, a few hours after he left for work, his colleague came home to inform us he was admitted in a hospital because of (what seemed like) a stroke. When the medical reports confirmed his condition to be a life threatening aneurysm, we had no choice but to wait for his condition to stabilize before we could fly him down to India and continue the treatment. But by early next morning, we were informed by the hospital staff that he had left for another world. His 47th summer on this planet had only started and sadly came to an end rather suddenly.

My father’s childhood was far from a cake walk. But he made sure he had his share of fun and frolic. We were told by our grandparents that he would relax the most while swimming in the Krishna river for hours together. Although he got an earful every single time, it did not deter him one bit. A big turn happened in his life when he ran away from home at the age of 16 when his request to join a tuition was turned down by our grandfather. In search of better opportunities, he landed in Vizag and joined the Indian Navy where he learnt electronics engineering.

Probably one of the most defining moment in his life, it is difficult to comprehend the courage and “will to overcome” in his mind when he left the comfort and security of a home at such a tender age to step into the big bad world and fend for himself. He would narrate this incident, as well as his formative days in the Navy, to instill in us a sense of discipline. Gradually, he grew in ranks in the Navy (where he fought 3 wars for the country) and very soon my grandmother decided it was time for him to find a life partner.

My mother’s and father’s family met with an intention of forging an alliance. After an expression of approval, my father made it very clear that he had no customary material expectation from my mother’s family.  Needless to say, everyone present were baffled by his declaration. But my father went at great length to ensure it, even if it irked some of his own family members.

A year later, I was born and my father landed an opportunity to work in Bahrain (an island in the Arabian Gulf)). In a matter of a few years years we joined him and my brother also came along.

At London, circa Aug 1977

My father unconditionally helped many friends and family members find their footing with life-altering job opportunities in Bahrain. Helping others gave him a sense of purpose and identity.

At heart, he was a true sportsperson and would grasp the skill and strategy of almost any game in a very short time. In this matter, he was so confident that he didn’t really care about a result as long as he knew he gave it his best. Be it carroms, basketball, badminton, pool, swimming, table tennis, chess and card-games. Even today, all the trophies that are in our home are mementos of his victories in various games. And over the years, like most families, we too had fond memories of watching World Cup (Soccer) and Grand Slam Tennis Championships together.

Always consciously ask yourself why the opponent made a particular move, before making your counter” – my father’s advice before a chess game, which also applies to any other game. Or even life!

The winning team – my father to the top left – photograph published in the local daily – Gulf Daily News, circa Nov 1985

A firm proponent of the “simple living and high thinking” ideal, he wouldn’t hesitate to ride a bicycle in India, although there were many other convenient modes of transport available. Much to the amazement of our friends and relatives.

In addition to academics, my father allowed us to explore various faculties like classical music, dance and art even though he didn’t understand them too well because he believed it would broaden our perspectives.  Watching a Bollywood movie with him was always fun but was dotted with “spoiler alerts”

If you listen to the lyrics of a song carefully, you can easily guess the story that unfolds

When he passed away, as much as we were in a state of shock and grief, we (my mother, myself and my brother) also needed to pick up all the bits and pieces of our life and move to India. And we had a very small window of time. During this period, we received a lot of help from our family-friends, my father’s colleagues, our school teachers and class mates and people who had known my father at some point or other. We were filled with much gratitude for one and all who came forward to help, knowing deep in our hearts that this was a result of the good-will that my father had earned over the years which had come back to help us in our darkest moments.



Coming to my mother, in 2004 after the tsunami in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu – a personal tsunami struck our family. A biopsy of a 6 cm lump in her breast tested positive for malignancy. What ensued was a continuous battle (both mental as well as physical) over a 5 year period with multiple recurrences. She made a remarkable recovery during the treatment of metastases in the lungs and brain. She bravely fought the recurrence in the spinal cord as well. A few months after her 60th birthday, things steadily deteriorated when she was given a terminal diagnosis and, eventually in her sleep, she succumbed to this deadly disease on April 30, 2010.

Much like my father, my mother too did not have an easy childhood/adolescence. Prior to her teens the family fell into bad times and lost their assets and hence a social footing. From a young age, she took an avid interest in music, art, literature and mimicry which many believe she inherited from her paternal grandmother. She also rarely missed an opportunity to play a prank.

She wanted to pursue academic studies in Sanskrit and agreed to meet my father’s family regarding an alliance, even though she was uncertain at the time. When my father’s family came to meet her, she won their hearts with a rendition of a South Indian classical song. Even though she leaned heavily towards pursuing academics at the time, her father was impressed with my father. He requested my mother to give it a thought and not lose a good match.

The wedding, circa April 1971

In her own words, listening to her father turned out to be one of the best decisions of her life. A few years into her marriage she traveled overseas (to Bahrain, an island in the Arabian Gulf) with my father and 3 year old me, something that was beyond her imagination prior to marriage.

At Bahrain, she took a very keen interest in Indian Fine Arts. So much that people remember her even today for her passionate participation. Whenever possible she would take us along to concerts of eminent Indian musicians. She encouraged us to take inspiration from these stalwarts and we occasionally got to meet some of them back stage and seek their blessings. She personally supervised our progress in music and dance, and backed us whenever we needed to perform on stage.

An active member of an Indian Ladies Association, she occasionally won a prize or two at cookery contests. She too joined my dad at playing badminton in a local club and won a few trophies herself. Also, she never missed an opportunity to volunteer for charitable activities.  Even though she wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her mouth, she never hesitated to donate time, money or effort for valid causes to help the underprivileged.

She had a genuine concern for health and children. When asked what was it that she cared about the most, she would promptly reply, ” The health of people I love is most important.”  Whenever she met friends after a long time she would make it a point to ask about their health and how their kids were faring.

Ironically, on the morning of June 4, 1992, it was the health of her husband that was affected in such a manner, neither she nor the doctors or anyone could have foreseen. All of a sudden, the biggest blow of her life was dealt to her. At the same time she had some very crucial and time-critical decisions to make regarding my father’s cremation, whether to continue to stay in Bahrain, and most importantly “all of our” future.

Our life in Bahrain was totally dependent and revolved around my father. Continuing to stay in Bahrain would be possible only through favours from good friends. The self-respecting woman that she was – taking favours was not a situation she could even consider. Hence she decided to move back to Hyderabad, India and rebuild our lives.

With that decision the cozy and comfortable life of Bahrain was gone and now she, along with her children were thrust into the chaotic, competitive and cruel world, left to fend for themselves. Step by step, inch by inch, and without a job and zero support from anyone, she rebuilt her life, put a roof over our head, food on the table, and put us through engineering college. One must give it to her for the resilience and courage that she faced these circumstances with. Surely, all that she learnt through her difficult childhood came back to help her during these tough times. Despite her own difficulties, she even found it in her to help friends and family with time, shelter, and money.

In tough times or happy days, whether it was smooth sailing or a hard long journey, she managed to find it in her to cheer the people around her with jokes, anecdotes, impressions/mimicry or even pranks.

To lead a good life you need only two things – good health and good spirit” – something she always kept telling me

Just when we thought she had conquered her hurdles and seen through it all, cancer raised its ugly head and began another kind of battle.

This is a small tribute to the true heroes we knew – our father Prabhala Hanumantha Rao and our mother Prabhala Savithri Devi.

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Architecture · Events · Heritage · Monument · Reflections · Still Life


A few years ago, when I visited the Residency at the Koti Womens College, I was told about the opulent Durbar Hall and the double stairways. I could hardly imagine the grandeur I would see,  when I finally got the opportunity to visit the Residency during the event Reviving Residency.

The mansion weaves its own mystique with the Durbar Hall, painted ceiling, chandeliers, galleried halls, inlaid wood and drawing rooms. It was built in European neo-classical style, similar to the White House in Washington DC. It was intended to cement the power of the British East India Company, and maintain its influence over the independent state of Hyderabad and the Nizam. The Resident was appointed to protect the British interests in the Deccan region.

It was commissioned by the British Resident in Hyderabad, James Kirkpatrick, around 1803. Up until Independence this colonial building served as the seat of the British Resident after which, in 1949 it became part of Osmania College for Women.

The Residency was the backdrop of the romance between British Resident James Kirkpatrick (the protagonist of William Dalrymple’s ‘White Mughals’) and Khairunnisa. Kirkpatrick fell in love with and eventually married Khairunnisa, a local girl from an aristocratic Muslim family, and adopted the local customs and rituals.

The British Residency is now a protected monument under the control of Telangana State Department of Archaeology and Museums. An anonymous British donor had pledged $1 million to the World Monument Fund for its restoration. The  ongoing conservation work is in collaboration with World Monuments Fund (WMF), National Culture Fund of Union Ministry of Culture and the State Department of Archaeology and Museums.

Reviving Residency was organised to commemorate the completion of phase I of the Restoration of the site and the commencement of phase II.

There are plans to convert the Residency to a museum once the restoration is complete.

I hope to revisit sometime soon, see it in natural light and experience it’s architectural beauty all over again.

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Culture · Daily Life · Events · People · Uncategorized · Urban

Bahubali 2 – a mega blockbuster

This has to go down as my first time in a theatre on a “first day – first show”.  Its another matter altogether that I did not intend to watch the movie itself.

The day: 28th April 2017, about 10 am

The movie: Bahubali-The Conclusion

Location: Sudarshan theatre, RTC Crossroads.

When I read that – BookMyShow (an online portal for selling movie tickets) had claimed to have sold a million tickets – two days before the release of ‘Bahubali-The Conclusion’ (!!) –  I was eager to see the craze for myself. Friends and family were keen to know if I was sure – I am habituated to watching a flick only on its way out even it has a rating of a 5* and comes highly recommended. But hey who said I wanted to watch this movie today itself?

A promotional poster featuring Prabhas and the leading lady Anushka Shetty

With its grand sets and epic performances, Baahubali-2 was the most-anticipated film of the year. The film had released in 6,500 screens, which is highest ever in Indian history.

The question “Why Kattappa Killed Bahubali” even got its own hashtag after the film’s poster and trailers and the first look were out.

Drumrolls were the order of the day – drumming up the celebrations as well as the hype.


A huge garland for ……
……for the larger-than-life Bahubali!!
One of those rare movies where the director as well as the antagonist get their hoardings!
Can we believe Bahubali gets an abhishekam (milk poured over his head) amidst all the fanfare?


The ardent fans ensure Bahubali enters their digital world as well!!

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Architecture · Art · Culture · Heritage · Landscape · Monument · Uncategorized

Back to life

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A month ago, I had an opportunity to visit the Qutb Shahi tombs site and had a (brief) look at the restoration activities and to say that it is a mega project would be an understatement.

The entire restoration project is divided into three phases and each phase is planned such that the visitors can move about freely in the rest of the site.

The three years of restoration work has infused life into the weather beaten mausoleums at the Quli Qutb Shahi tombs complex near Golconda fort. The sparkling white domes of the renovated structures are a contrast to the older monuments that patiently await their turn for a makeover.

Although the Quli Qutb Shah tombs’ complex is commonly referred to as ‘Saat Gumbaz’ or ‘Seven tombs’, it encompasses a total of 75 structures comprising 40 mausoleums, 23 mosques, six baolis (step-wells), a hamam (mortuary bath), an Idgah, pavilions, garden structures and enclosure walls spread across an expanse of 108 acres.

The tombs (close to the main entrance) that are scheduled for phase II and III seem to wait for their turn to get a facelift – Originally the Badi Baoli and Fatima Sultana’s tomb was planned as a part of phase II but due to collapse of a wall in the Baoli due to rain and the plinth of Fatima’s tomb – they were included in Phase I

The complex is an example of rare architectural splendor and was selected for conservation by the Government of Telangana. The objective was to restore the grandeur of the site and develop it as an urban archaeological park called Quli Qutb Shah Archaeological Park.  The aim was to showcase and ensure long term preservation as well as enhance understanding of the monuments that stand within its boundaries.

The main aim of the project is to ensure long term preservation of the monuments which is achieved by using traditional materials and craftsmen. Only traditional building materials like lime mortar and stone are used.

Badi Baoli – the 400-year-old step well that collapsed in 2013 now collects enough water to fulfil the needs of the restoration activities at the site


The revival of Badi Baoli, one of the six step wells within the complex, is probably as remarkable as the 400-year-old quadrangular structure used for water storage. In a span of three years, starting from a collapsed condition in 2013, it has become completely functional and collected about 33 lakh liters of water during the monsoon of 2016, which is now used within the site for the restoration activities.

The terrace of the Hamam or mortuary bath is now devoid of any vegetation.
The Idgah which stands to the south of Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah’s tomb, is one of the earliest structures constructed by Sultan Quli Qutb Shah
The tomb of Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah, the founder of Hyderabad is the most grand and stands on a pavilion
The ceiling of Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah after the restoration works are complete.
On the external walls of Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah’s tomb, portions of the original intricate glazed tile work are still visible.
The Southern Gate, connected to the Golconda fort through an underground passage, was used as a processional pathway to bring the body to the tomb site for burial ceremonies

It is common belief that a body was brought to the tomb complex for burial from Golconda through an underground passage. An archival photograph suggested the possibility of a processional path way connecting the Golconda Fort with the tomb complex.

Excavations were conducted at a depression found south of Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah’s tomb that revealed an arched gateway. This gate over which a mosque stands, would have been the processional path that was preferred for entry to the tombs during burial ceremonies.

The finer details of patterns in the stucco plaster on Sultan Qutb-ul-Mulk’s tomb (the first Qutb Shahi King) have been restored.
The tombs that are scheduled under the first phase of the restoration.
Among the tombs that are restored, the tomb of the second Qutb Shahi king, Jamshed Qutb Shah stands tall and is unique with its octagonal base.

The restoration project also envisages landscaping in about 15 acres as part of the Qutb Shah Heritage Park. Activities like tree and bird mapping have been conducted and various species of both have been identified. These studies will help improve the bio-diversity of the Qutb Shah Heritage Park as well as aid in creating an ecological zone with introduction of suitable tree species and development of a bird habitat typical of the region.

You could read the entire piece that was published in the Wow!Hyderabad Magazine Apr 2017 issue

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Culture · Daily Life · People · portrait · Street · Urban

Ho! Ho! Ho! ….


…even without the snow, the sleigh and the reindeers.

If you love Hyderabad, AND if you love Santa Claus, now you’d probably see everything in “red and white”.

On a seriously happy note, hope the last fortnight of the year brings you more reason to celebrate.

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