Friday, August 20, 2004

To Hyderabad

"God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other"
-Reinhold Niebuhr

One day, I was pondering over the meaning of the word - Indigenous. In plain sense, it means "local" but I thought there should be something more to it than just being 'local'. And when I came back to the real world, from my own world of words and ideas, I found myself in an Irani café. Well, what was I doing there? Nothing but sipping my routine cup of Irani chai. Just then, I paused and asked myself, "Is this Indigenous?" The answer was a reluctant "yes". Though Irani chai seems to come from Iran but it has become an inseparable part of this city, the city that owns me for about five years now.

This was beginning of a thought string for me. Since that day, I started looking at Hyderabad from a different angle. I started searching for things characteristic of Hyderabad. No doubt, a city with such a rich history is sure to have an attitude. Just as when we know about our talents, we take pride, we try to boast and sometimes we may go to the extent of hyperbole in saying that we are this way or that way. So why wouldn't Hyderabad have attitude like that? If it was there, I was to find it out for me.

Take the case of Irani chai. It might have come to Hyderabad, all the way from Iran while taking a break at Bombay. But Hyderabad calls it a hyderabadi speciality. Hyderabadis are proud of Irani chai. They not only drink it but they adore it, admire it and sing praises about it. Surely, the taste is different but it takes some time before an outsider could really appreciate it. The pre-requisite is that you shouldn't be a tea-totaler. If you aren't a tea-totaler then you are sure to find yourself all-out for Irani chai. Either you would want to have the normal tea or a pauna(light tea). If you are the one who likes your tea as sweet then you would go for Khada chammach - a cup of tea which has so much sugar that a spoon could be erected straight inside the cup. If you were a real tea-buff, you would go for Suleimani - the thick black tea. If you like a lot of milk cream in your tea, you would definitely enjoy Pardaposh in which all you get to see in the cup would be cream. In other words, the cream would literally hide the tea in the cup. So there's tea for one and all.

The Hyderabadi Auto-rickshaw
One of the first things you get to see, as soon as you drop in Hyderabad is the Hyderabadi rickshaw. Cycle rickshaw would look strange and funny but an auto-rickshaw? You would know about it only after you take a ride. Some of the things to look for, in a Hyderabadi auto-rickshaw are - the Nawabi Sofa-style seat, the music system (hi-fi), hooters and horns, exceptional driver's skills (Skills that can send either the passenger or other road users, to a dispensary) and last & the best - the meter. All this is pure Hyderabadi.

Hyderabadi Food & Culture
Hyderabadi Tehzeeb (culture) has won praises and accolodaes, all over the world and Hyderabad is famous for its Mehman-nawazi (hospitality). Hyderabadi food has a rich variety to choose from. Even if you were a stranger in Hyderabad, you would be completely bowled over with the Hyderabadi dishes in any of the umpteen restaurants on the streets of Hyderabad.

Hyderabadi biryani
has no parallels among the connoisseurs of biryani. Haleem is another delicacy, which associates with Hyderabad. The best and worst thing about Haleem is that it is largely available only in month of Ramzan. It is the best thing because people keep waiting for this month to savour this mouth-watering dish and it is the worst thing about Haleem as people who miss it in Ramzan may need to wait for a year. In this case, the only people who suffer are the visitors to Hyderabad. They get to hear a lot about Haleem but if they are unable to visit during Ramzan, they miss the opportunity. One of the must haves in Hyderabadi food is "Khubani ka meetha". You may have anything for the main course but for dessert, you ought to have Khubani ka meetha with ice cream or custard.

Hyderabadi Lingo
When I was new in Hyderabad, I was puzzled at the Hyderabadi dialect of Urdu. Apart from the usual Hau and Nakko for Yes and No, there were so many strange words and usages. For example - Hyderbadis say - "Paani naha lo" when asking you to take a bath while in any other Urdu/Hindi speaking region, "Naha lo" would suffice as it is taken for granted that we take bath using water and not milk etc. Another difficult situation arises when Hyderabadis want to say "Yes" and they move their head sidewards, with a difficult to comprehend, vertical dimension. Any North Indian would definitely take it for "No" and move on…

Hyderabadis can't sit at Home in the Evenings
Most of the people here prefer going out in the evenings. If not evenings, then they would love to go for a ride to an ice-cream parlour, post dinner. The rides would usually be around Tank Bund, Necklace Road or KBR Park. For Ice creams, a lot of people would wish to go to Moazzamjahi market for having famous fresh fruit ice cream at Famous or Shah Ice cream.

The City does sleep but wakes up late
In most of the authentic Hyderabadi families, there is still the culture of having dinner, very late. They wake up late, too. Typically, the business starts here after 10 AM only. It may, in all fairness, start at 11 AM. The truly nawabi style people don't want to compromise on this.

Epilogue: Winds of change may sweep the streets and bylanes of Hyderabad. It may become popular for IT revolution or for anything else in future, but the basic temperament of the city would continue. The spirit of Hyderabad would live longer than any fever or revolution. To Hyderabad, I wish… It may…

I would like to end this post with the famous couplet from the emperor poet - Quli Qutub Shah.

Mera shehar logan soon mamoor kar
Rakhya joon tun darya mein min Ya Sami
(O God, fill my city with people, as you have the river with fish)

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