International Writers Magazine: India
Marianne de Nazareth
here I was poring over a beautiful thick art paper tome called Hyderabad
400 years (1591 1991) and there, in the first few pages
I learnt how Hyderabad got its name. It was a romantic story about
the fourth Qutub Shahi Kings Muhammad Quli Qutub Shah who
ruled Hyderabad from 1580 to 1612.
Popular legend states
that he fell in love with a dancing girl named Bhagyamati, on whom he
bestowed the name Hyder Mahal. This is how the city of Hyderabad got
its name. It was only in 1699 that the Mughal king Aurangzeb was able
to storm the city with the help of a traitor and broke the reign of
the Qutub Shahi Kings.
What strikes a visitor to this twin city of Hyderabad and Secunderabad
is its sense of history. Yes, the old city of Hyderabad around the Charminar
the icon of Hyderabad and its environs has become almost a run down
slum. But glimmers of a once opulent past can be seen in buildings with
Persian Islamic architecture standing proudly silhouetted against the
skyline. That is what I loved the most about the city. There may be
glitzy malls and fancy flyovers. Immense advertisers hoardings, along
with posh modern day hotels and gourmet restaurants. The teeming millions
rushing around the clogged roads, in their beeping taxis and manually
operated cycle rickshaws. But, the city still retains its sense of history
amidst all this 21st century chaos.
A visit to the icon
of Hyderabad the Charminar is a must. Police men keep watchful
vigil as there are threats from terrorists to blow up the structure.
And yet, the breath taking beauty of the Charminar is unmistakable.
The stucco ornamentation is like pieces of jewelery and it is indeed
a pity that we are not allowed to enjoy its beauty from close quarters
to Hyderabad especially from the west could wander around the old
city getting a feel of its markets especially around the Charminar.
Thousands of tiny little shops, running into gullies,
spiraling out from the monument are a shoppers paradise. The
Laad Bazaar is famous for its bangles and whats interesting
is, once you make your choice, the bangle seller, customarily slips
the set onto the slim wrists of his customer. Spices and condiments,
pickles and household needs.
One can get all
this and more in these myriads of shops.There is no Tesco or Target
to shop at here, instead the sights, sounds and smells of the bazaars
are the intangible memories you can take home of Hyderabad.
In Abids, did I really see a name board with St. Georges Grammar
School on it ? Yes! a high school of that name still exists, educating
both boys and girls in the city for generations. Drive into the old
church premises and one feels like stepping back into a time warp, nothing
seems to have changed except the church belongs to the CSI (Church of
South India) now and not the Anglican church. The vicarage still stands
with its pillared verandah and a mali (gardener) sweeping the fallen
leaves, with a coconut stick broom. We drive out after taking pictures
of the church, to another old institution the Taj Mahal Hotel.
There the masala Dosas (crisp rice pancakes) and filter coffee are legendary
and of course we must partake of them.
Keep a whole
day to visit the Salar Jung Museum. The museum houses the collection
of the three Salar Jungs who served under the Nizams and
were great connoisseurs of art and culture. The veiled Rebecca
which is an amazing marble sculpture of a woman seen through her
veil and Marguerite and Mephistopheles, a double wood carving
are two pieces that enthrall visitors. Rooms full of paintings
and jade, chandeliers and porcelain the collection can give the
Louvre in Paris, a run for its money any day.
You cannot say you
visited Hyderabad if you havent eaten Hyderabad Biriyani. So,
take an auto-rickshaw to Paradise which has the best Biriyani in town
and patiently wait your turn in the waiting room. Then, forget your
fork and spoon and dig into the fragrant confection of rice and mutton
with a sprinkling of fried onions and a dash of fresh lime with your
fingers. The recipe is a state secret and the chefs will never divulge
the intricacies of how they conjure up those flavours.
On the other side of the tank bund of the Hussain Sagar lake, is Secunderabad,
which was the British cantonment when we were a colony. Today most of
it belongs to the army and is thankfully the lung space of the city.
© Marianne Furtado de Nazareth March 2008
Erasmus Mundus Masters in Journalism
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