A Hyderabadi native takes us through some of her favourite Hyderabad experiences. Spoiler- Biriyani and Haleem may be involved
Of all the cities in India, Hyderabad stands apart in its stubborness to conform. Time both stands still and moves really fast (on Yamahas, no less) on the streets of the city. We spoke with Hyderabad History blogger about some of her favourite images and impressions from her city, and here’s what she said. My Big Red Bag is a huge fan of her painstaking effort to chronicle Hyderabad’s history and we suggest (no, insist); that you add her blog to your roster and join her as she doles out the story of her city, one chapter at a time!
What is the absolutely first memory you have of Hyderabad?
Having been born and brought up in the city, I don’t have a “first memory” of Hyderabad. But when I think back to the most “Hyderabadi” thing I can think of from childhood, it is, appropriately enough, the Numaish/Exhibition that immediately comes to mind. Every year, we would pray to the retail gods that our parents would oblige our requests for shiny, useless junk from the Numaish. It was quite the event to look forward to every year.
What are some of the other cities you’ve lived in; and if not in Hyderabad where do you think you would live?
Not too many, I’m afraid. I spent four years in the middle of nowhere in Rajasthan, a couple of years in Chennai and a year in Lille, France. I like Chennai for its absolute stubbornness – quite the opposite of everything I like about Hyderabad. I think I’d like to live there again.
Your favourite place in Hyderabad to walk around on a rainy afternoon
The Qutb Shahi Tombs, without a doubt. Lovely Qutb Shahi architecture coupled with (slightly unkept) lushness everywhere – perfect for a rainy afternoon.
Your favourite building in Hyderabad
The Residency (now the Koti Women’s College) and the Moazzam Jahi Market. The fascination for the latter, however, may have something to do with the copious amounts of ice cream I ate there as a child.
Your favourite place in Hyderabad to buy books
The Abids Sunday book market. The joy of wading through piles of second-hand pulp fiction for that one priceless find is indescribable. I once found a wonderfully illustrated Russian edition of Alice in Wonderland in a 5-rupee book pile. I am still very proud of it.
The places you’d recommend to someone who’s stayed in Hyderabad all their lives and likely not seen
Monsieur Raymond’s Tomb in Moosarambagh is one of my favourite places in the city. Built for a Indophile French general in the Nizam’s army, it stands on a hill and commands a pretty view of the area. The Moula Ali Hill in Secunderabad is fairly well-known but I would still recommend it for its rock formations and killer view.
Some of your favourite food haunts
As clichéd as that sounds, we Hyderabadis genuinely love our Biryani. And as much as we like to fight about which one’s more “authentic”, we do usually agree on dissing any place that’s gotten too “mainstream”. The general consensus is that the more obscure your Biryani recommendation, the better. Sarvi and Shah Ghouse, not all that obscure unfortunately, have been my regulars for a while. Alhamdulillah is a new favourite.
Your favourite place to grab a cup of coffee/tea in Hyderabad
The many Irani Chai Cafes (pronounced ‘kayfs’, for a more authentic experience) for super-sweet Chai, Lukhmi/Samosa and biscuits. Garden Restaurant in Secunderabad is a personal favourite. Some of these cafes are also the best places to turn to for Haleem during the Ramzan season.
Your favourite book with Hyderabad as a back drop
William Dalrymple’s White Mughals. It’s a lovely, evocative account of Asaf Jahi Hyderabad, complete with stories of scheming royals and Indophile “firangis”.
Of all the various Hyderabad-based artists/film makers/ writers/ poets who is the one that you love most and in your opinion best captures your kind of Hyderabad
I haven’t really seen much Hyderabadi literature/film/art (in English/Telugu anyway; I’m sure the answer would have been different if I could read Urdu), but I’m quite excited about the Hyderabad Graphic Novel project.
Are you a Telugu movie fan? Is there any particular movie that you feel has captured Hyderabad well?
I am. But the Telugu film industry was based out of Chennai till the 1990s and it’s probably because of that that Telugu cinema isn’t all that Hyderabadi in its outlook. But I think films like Nagesh Kukunoor’s Hyderabad Blues and Shekhar Kammula’s Dollar Dreams captured quite well the US-software-job-green-card-NRI fever that gripped the city in the 1990s and early 2000s.