Life & Style

Capturing the magic of Hyderabad's age-old bakeries

Sandhya Balakrishna

Sandhya Balakrishna   | Photo Credit: K.V.S. GIRI

Sandhya Balakrishna’s debut book ‘The Bakeries of Hyderabad’ captures the magic of age-old bakeries of Hyderabad

Everyone has their own favourite bakery in the city they grew up in. For a kid in Hyderabad, sitting on a red plastic chair with the alluring waft of bakes from the tiny bakery kitchen, no Instagram pictures were needed to making an outing memorable. It was an extension of your neighbourhood, where one could eat today and pay tomorrow; these places became landmarks of localities, full of friendly banter and freshly baked goodies.

Sandhya Balakrishna’s debut book, The Bakeries of Hyderabad, tries to capture the magic of these age-old haunts which have held their own in the age of apps.

A creative consultant at an advertising firm, she documents these bastions of old world charm which have managed to chug along in the face of competition from cooler coffee houses and patisseries. Sandhya uses the coffee table book format — a picture story with nuggets of information. She has also devoted pages profiling some specific older bakeries.

The inspiration

It was while driving past one of the bakeries near her home that Sandhya got thinking of how much these ubiquitous outlets are a part of the city’s landscape. She recounts, “These bakeries seemed to have been there forever. When my daughter was little (she’s 26 now), we would gorge on the puffs, pastries and the desi version of burgers and pizzas! And yet nobody documented these humble digs. They have survived change and are very much a part of a city that is dynamically transforming itself while struggling to retain its old world charm. For me, the bakeries have seen it all.”

She says that inspiration also came in the form of the “Bakery Uncle” who was an integral part of every teenager’s life just a decade ago. Sandhya explains the idea, “These people would strike conversations with us, our kids and were always there to serve that delectable snack. I wanted to give a face and voice to the bakeries of Hyderabad. Much has been said about Hyderabad as the City of Pearls. But I think Hyderabad is essentially the City of Bakeries. Old City showcases this thought the best.”

Giving it a shape

The first time author confesses that once the idea took root, she started by browsing through Just Dial for numbers! She shares, “My first list had over 700 bakeries — big, small, known and unknown. I started filtering the list, dividing into categories – for example how old they were, traditional ones, the recently upgraded ones, area-wise and the contemporary bakeries.”

She whetted the list down to 50 bakeries and then each weekend was devoted to hiring a cab, and walking into these bakeries with a photographer, discovering their unique stories.

She recounts those trips and says, “The best part was that I was a first-time writer with no credentials. Not even a business card. But the trust, hospitality and the buy-in of my intent every bakery owner showed is the story of the very fabric of Hyderabad. They believed, listened, took me to their kitchens, had long conversations and some even blessed me wishing success for my book which I had not even begun.”

Stories of passion

Sandhya says she recounted many stories which showed that for most people these places were much more than just a means of livelihood. From youngsters who gave up their corporate jobs to join family businesses to eateries that took up customised orders even before the word became popular, the people are passionate about what they do. She recalls, “The owner of Karachi Bakery (nearly 70 years old) still gets up at 4.30 am to mix the ingredients of secret recipes at some of the outlets. Subhaan Bakery’s owner makes periodic trips to UK to find out latest baking techniques. It’s much more than business; it’s a way of life!”

Showcasing the journey of unsung people, this book captures the spirit of both the city and its people at a fundamental level.

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Printable version | May 29, 2020 8:31:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/sandhya-balakrishnas-debut-book-captures-the-magic-of-age-old-bakeries-of-hyderabad/article22404212.ece

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