Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hyderabad - V

Wow... I am writing my fifth post on Hyderabad with just about 10-12 destinations to talk about. Who's complaining?? It's after all Hyderabad... It deserves every bit of adulation. Before reading this post, if you have not  yet seen the movie - "The Angrez", please do that first. For, that movie captures the very local flavors of Hyderabad to their true essence. This movie came out much later than when I visited Hyderabad but when I watched it, I was instantly reminded of my own memories of the old city.

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We started out to the old city post lunch since we wanted to be there till evening and see the lights and reflections from the bangles. Today was my last destination stop and we had also some shopping planned. Some exquisite pearls from the pearl city for the ladies and some road side clay and glass bangles for me and my sister which we were going to wear for all the upcoming occasions (especially the Navratris - in Oct, after 6 months). 
The old city is a crowded place, which show casts the original Hyderabad. We have Charminar at the center and the entire sections of bazaars on each side. Despite the crowd, one cannot help fall in love with this place. In my eyes, this place is so feminine, so chick, all decorated in colorful shops, full of exotic scents and the noises never stop (in other words, just imagine Kareena in Jab We Met - a well dressed chatter box..)
We stepped in the old city area close to the Lad bazaar, which specializes in selling pearls and bangles.
Shopping Area at NightAlthough the bazaar is right in the heart of the old city area with a direct view of Charminar, we chose to ignore it for some time and would check it out, when we do not have any distractions. The Hyderabadi pearls are the legacy of the Nizams who had them ordered from the best merchants of the world. It was awesome to see that some stores in the Charminar area were more than a century old and in the same business of selling pearls. We were told that Lad Bazaar was the busiest road in the entire city, I am not sure whats the truth, but it did look very busy (no wonder that one tiny shop of negligible area has 5 shop keepers, they need more sometimes!!). This bazaar is a win win place for everyone alike, whether international shoppers or locals. You have a huge variety of the jewelery and accessories made of pearls and bangles at your beck and call. The lad bazaar or bangle bazaar is simply one of the most colorful places I have ever seen. The colors on the bangles can put rainbows and the Switzerland's tulip gardens to shame.
File:Banglesinindia.jpgBargain hunters can call this place one of their pilgrimages. You not only have bangles there but also a lot of clothing, accessories and other related items.  Another thing that really amazed me was the perfection of the shopkeepers in packing things for your travel. We told the shop keepers that we have a long way to go and after reaching Baroda, not even a single bangle was moved, awesome..After a lot of shopping, we were tired, and may be subconsciously because we were now in the place where we could have the best irani chai, namkeen and pakode. To add to the hunger, it was evening now and temperature was just setting down. I was not an avid tea drinker till I had visited Hyderabad. I still believe that "tea" in itself is not what is so special, but the whole picturesque had made the evening very memorable. We went to one small snack center, whose name I distinctly remember - "Ram Rahim chai center" (dedicated to Michel Raymond, a British army guy, who was very famous with public for his goodness, and was called as Musa Ram and Musa Rahim by fellow Hindu and Muslim people respectively.) I wonder if that old man and his servers - chotey and gaffu are still there. But his irani chai was awesome served with vegetable pakoras. I never (till date) had Irani chai again, there are some people who say that irani chai is pretty much like masala chai, but I never got to see any recipe though I would love to recreate that magic in my kitchen someday!!!!
We set out to shop again, this time not for any jewellery but for clothing, which means only sarees. My only impression about the saree shops near charminar is that the sarees they sell are as bold as the tastes, the pinks, oranges, yellows, greens, blues or reds, you name it, you'll find it there, albeit in their saturated forms. Subtlety is far from sights, but really, thats okay. One would love it like that only because that is the true facet of old city. I am a color lover and thus, would not mind bold colors. The clothing shops were a lot bigger in size than the bangle shops, but that did not mean spaciousness, it only meant more crowd. Once we were out of the shops, having done with the budget for shopping, our final destination was the charminar.
Charminar looks good at any time of the day, but the night times are always a better time for skyline view. Charminar literally means four towers. So, it actually, is a construction supported by four towers standing tall at the corners. There are some similarities between the Charminar and Taj Mahal, in their basic look and aesthetic designs, mostly because they are designed by the middle eastern influenced architects, but they are very different in all the other senses, the most primary ones being their purpose of construction, their material of construction and the fact that the four towers are embedded in the main structure in case of Charminar. Until some time before we visited Charminar, there was a provision to go to the top of the building, at the roof. But it was stopped because of some rather tragic stories of suicides. Nevertheless, we went through the hall way twice and thrice and started shouting, to hear the echoes. One of the floors on the roof were supposed to be a mosque long long ago, till the British Raj, but then it was converted to storage houses. Today, I am not aware of what Charminar hosts other than being a heritage site, but it does look over the Makkah masjid, one of the very old and biggest mosques in India. One cannot avoid being lost in the grandeur of the old city. References to the rich Nawabi style can be found imprinted in the streets, people and constructions. It is indeed great that the city has preserved the culture to the best they can while merging with the modernity. Pretty soon, the sounds of evening namaz prayer started filling in the air and we knew it was right about sunset, when we had to leave. The crowds were now slowly returning and the bazaar was almost getting vacated. I looked at the Charminar one last time, filling in whatever my eyes could, and returning with memories that permanently etched in my heart.
In about 7-10 days, we got so used to the city that it was difficult to end the vacation. The brighter side of it was that I would get to show my friends my new bangles, pictures of my native (although Hyderabad is not my native, but people in India do not even know beyond Hyderabad, so any part of Andhra is unheard of other than Hyderabad, thus, inevitably, it becomes my native.) and tell then loads and loads of stories.  I never got a chance to visit Hyderabad again, but hope to do so soon.