There, somewhere to the north, is your house!” Capt. Anwar Rehman’s voice crackled over the headphones. I narrowed my eyes and scanned hopefully, but it was impossible to distinguish one white-painted home in the dense cluster of urban settlement, now looking rather toy-sized. I was belted into a Cessna 152, a small two-seater airplane; my purpose, an aerial tour of Hyderabad.
We had just taken off from Begumpet airport and at once I saw long columns of blue corrugated roofing — Secunderabad Station, where I had been only the previous day. We veered over a green body of water. From the air, Hussain Sagar revealed large masses of shadowy algae and a rather lonesome-seeming Buddha. We covered ground rapidly; in a few minutes, we had come upon the Old City — the traverse by road usually takes an hour. There was the lofty High Court, and the Musi trickling under the Naya and Purana Puls. I sat up and pressed my nose to the glass window — the iconic Charminar was only a very short distance away. We swooped around in a circle and there it was, serene for all the bustle around it. I had seen it scores of times, shopped in its environs, seen it used splendidly in movies; I remember a particularly romantic glimpse of the four minarets by the light of a swelling moon… But this was a very special look at the Charminar, and I felt a whoosh of affection for the monument.
Still, this was no time to be looking at just one thing: the Old City is chock-a-block with heritage. The venerated Mecca Masjid wore an air of spiritual calm, then I spied the beautiful lines of the Chowmohalla Palace and, a considerable distance away, the glorious Falaknuma Palace. This palace sits on a hill of its own and its perch explains its name — a view of the skies. To see it from the ‘falak’ brought on a shiver. We were looping back. A large swathe of rectangular ground caught my eye; buildings stood all around it. This was Purani Haveli, the magnificent residence of the Nizams.
More recent landmarks were to be seen now. Here the marble-white Birla Mandir, on its own hill; there an interesting-looking building, which I discovered to be the Ritz, once a haveli, then a celebrated hotel and now fallen into disuse. An unfamiliar perspective of very familiar places brought several discoveries. The knobby contours of my city, the veins of a nearly dry river, large stretches of rock that have been left alone as inhospitable tracts, cricket grounds teeming with game-mad kids, the new flyovers that sweep all along in anonymous efficiency, the surprising green patches, and the laid-out stateliness of the Public Gardens.
For the aerial tour of Hyderabad, flights are conducted from Begumpet Airport.
Contact: Hyderabad on Wings, 9348533939. Shop around for online deals that may offer a discount on sites such as Groupon and Indiamart.