Old city, new route

HYDERABAD, TELANGANA, 22-06-2017: Kababs near Charminar in Hyderabad. Photo: K.V.S. Giri

HYDERABAD, TELANGANA, 22-06-2017: Kababs near Charminar in Hyderabad. Photo: K.V.S. Giri   | Photo Credit: K.V.S. GIRI

All roads lead to the Old City as the hustle-bustle of vendors and the sizzle of kebabs beckon you with warmth

HYDERABAD, TELANGANA, 18/06/2017: Shoppers throng the streets around Charminar for Ramzan shopping. Photo: K.V.S. Giri

HYDERABAD, TELANGANA, 18/06/2017: Shoppers throng the streets around Charminar for Ramzan shopping. Photo: K.V.S. Giri   | Photo Credit: K.V.S. GIRI

We took the road less travelled and it made a world of difference. There are however some pre-requisites to make the most of a trip to Old City during Ramzan; a pair of comfortable shoes, in the company of non fussy people, a plan and ample time. All this, along with the good fortune of finding an auto wallah who will agree to take the group according to the route the group specifies instead of a condition from his side to drop you off at Madina.

Madina being the usual route which is taken by many. The Old City walk every year is a tradition for many. It is about being one with the surroundings, embracing the fact to be in a crowd and pushing your way to get to the stall selling your favourite stuff.

Our way: Auto way

After packing ourselves into an auto, my colleague — a photographer and an avid historian, instructed the auto driver ‘peeche ka rastey lena. Rasta maloom hai?’. With ample good words on how it’s good to take an auto to go to Old City with an expert auto driver who knows the way and drives safely by avoiding traffic, the auto driver was all set to accommodate four of us in one.

To me this was a new route and I was nothing short of doing what one does when watching a live tennis match. The buildings are old and beautiful. They are smaller structures and less crowded roads without shops spilling on to the street. Some buildings are so old that they are up for demolition and the closed wooden doors with gigantic rusted locks made me curious about what is inside. Or how it would be inside. “This is Dar-ul-shifa,” said my colleague pointing to the right. A name we often read and heard about but didn’t know where it was. The bigger main road then led us to smaller lanes that had houses with pillars and inlay works that seemed similar to what we see in the Golconda fort. Another wooden house, in blue, attracted my attention; it had a figurine of a Hindu deity atop its entrance.

Kebabs galore

The streets are all dotted with kebab joints. Some claimed to sell the best roomali rotis, some boasted of the best naan, some invited to taste their hot munshi naan. The smell and sights here are in complete contrast to what one sees on the Madina route. No one is selling clothes and bangles, carts selling shoes aren’t in sight and no blaring loud speakers either.

Which road is this I wondered given my terrible sense of geography. That apparently was the road parallel to Madina. Soon we reached the cobbled street where scooters zipped-zapped like they do in daredevil acts. Here, you simply stretch your arms like traffic cops and walk your way safely to the other side. The low buildings are mostly old. The colours on them are bright. Purple, pink, blue and green dominate the colour palette. In comparison to the razzmatazz on the other side, this looked lifeless.

Impromptu history lessons

With history lessons gathered with visuals and anecdotes by our colleague, we approached a lane where three handis were set up. The men at work were adding the final touches to a dish. The dish turned out to be biryani. After putting it on dum for a while, they were sprinkling the melted ghee generously. It was aromatic and they let us peek into the handi and take photos. What are they preparing biryani for? “For iftar. People who come to the mosque to pray and break their fast will be served this food. The food in these three handis will be eaten by about 500 people,” said the skinny guy who was ploughing the rice mix with the melted ghee.

Seeing us with cameras and wielding our phones for photos, a young boy mocked, ‘selfie le lo,’ he giggled and vanished inside. As we walked towards the Charminar, I still wasn’t sure where we were. “Lane opposite the Laad bazar,” my colleague educated me.

Within minutes we were near the monument and heaved a sigh of relief at the familiar crowded street we had avoided till then. Part of the street from here was divided. Clearly only things that mattered here were fruits and imitation gold ornaments. They say the gold street in Dubai can turn you blind with the shine, we say the gold push carts can do that in Charminar. Futher ahead as we walked past Mecca Masjid, the road was almost empty. Only to be greeted with a sea of humanity near Shahlibanda at Pista House. The crowd was hassled because haleem hadn’t yet reached the outlet.

We move ahead to be greeted with the waft of meat sizzling on a pan. Kebabs again. The food here isn’t exotic, the flaky oil-soaked warqi parathas is a must with the kebabs, so is kahwa’s competition Ghawa. Ghawa is a milky Arabic drink. The seller called it Arabic coffee but with the over powering sonth (dried ginger) powder and generous amounts of sugar it tasted more like hot badam milk.

So just ‘try out this night walk around Charminar; its fun, flavourful, and above all, safe.

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Corrections & clarifications: The article had inadvertently mentioned lard as an ingredient in biriyani. It is actually melted ghee.

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 5:52:19 PM |

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