HYDERABAD: In his bermudas and oversized shades, a wisp of a goatee, Nikhil Gulati looks like a tourist, as we walk inside the Golconda fort. As the noisy tourists jostle and run about, Nikhil walks with the quiet assurance of someone who knows the place and his voice rarely rises above a whisper. “I must have come here about 20 times and every time I come here, I discover something new,” he says as he shows his graphic novel ‘Shepherd’s Hill’ and flips to the page that has lines from Mohammad Quli Qutb Shah’s poetry :
Piya baaj pyala piya jaaye naa
Piya baaj ek din jiya jaaye naa
and shows the monarch sitting with a lady and enjoying a goblet of wine.
The run-down walls without arches have been transformed by Nikhil into arches with intricate jali work in geometrical patterns. “I used my imagination and tried to see how it must have been in its heyday,” says Nikhil, as he jumps a wall to point out, “This perhaps is the corridor in which the courtiers would have walked bringing their trays of wine or food. There must have been heavy and expensive drapes here,” he says pointing to the high arches.
“I have always been fascinated by history (not the kind of things taught in schools). I love exploring. Once as a 11-year-old we were exploring one of the areas in Red Fort and two of my friends crossed the prohibited area to investigate. When I tried, the guard noticed and we were chased and then chastised,” says Nikhil Gulati, who quit his job to pursue his passion.
A self-taught artist, who set out to write the graphic novel about Golconda, Nikhil has the gung-ho attitude of being able to do anything he set out to do. “I wrote this in four months,” says Nikhil about ‘Shepherd’s Hill’, perhaps the first historical non-fiction graphic novel on Hyderabad.
Nikhil has dabbled in multiple things, from listening to qawwalis and learning to play various musical instruments, but like a good Indian student, he finished his education first. A Masters in Computer Science from University of Texas, a degree from IIM-A and a job in Microsoft later, Nikhil felt the pull of arts and took up pencil to recreate the magical kingdom of Golconda.
He doesn’t brood about the past, but instead, imagines how it used to be.
Flip through the pages of the book and the story comes alive with the canon shots, musket fire and the jingle of coins. The final battle of Golconda with an intransigent and determined Aurangzeb and ranged against him the classy and debonair Abul Hasan Tana Shah, is told by the narrator, who not surprisingly looks like Nikhil.
So, if you have just one hour to visit the Golconda, pick up this book costing Rs 150, read it in 20 minutes and then the story of Hyderabad’s fort city become sumptuously alive in a few minutes.