Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The C-Chronicles

Hyderabad Diaries: Charminar, Chowmahalla Palace and others (Date: 17-Jan-2015)

Charminar: This weekend I visited Charminar, yet again, with my friend Sud.. and the place continued to thrall me with its ethereal beauty despite the fact that betel juice traced its path from the streets and along the winding stairs (that path could do with some lighting) bang into the balcony. The glimpse of the (not-yet-crowded) bazaar through the balcony was made memorable when the clocks chimed at 11:00am (Charminar is one of the many clock towers adorning the twin cities ::4 clocks, to be more precise::) while the lazy pigeons sat perched in their moolah oblivious to the furor and the shutterbugs clicking away to glory.

(PS: Single female visitors will not be allowed to enter Charminar owing to security reasons, there were few eve-teasing instances in the past, it is better to tag along with a friend.)

In and around Charminar

Famous Govind Bandi: The next stop was the famous Govind bandi for some hot cheese dosa. I missed out on my cheese dosa by a whisker but the buttery dosa kind of made up since the descent from Charminar was tiring thanks to the dark winding stairs.

(PS: If you are visiting Charminar during the day do not miss this bandi fare. The sooner you reach the bandi the better. Sud was on a mission and started her trip at Charminar with a hot sumptuous cheese dosa, if you reach the bandi late - which closes by 1pm, you may have to settle for a buttery dosa like I did.)

The Laad Bazaar: Our next stop was supposed to be Chowmahalla palace for which we had to walk through Laad bazaar and since we left our blinkers and ear plugs home, we went for a quick bangle shopping (just kidding! we fell for the sales pitches). After a happy detour where we picked few stone studded bangles for Sud (after some not-so-hardcore bargaining) we headed to our original destination.

(PS: It is advisable to bargain while shopping for bangles at Laad bazaar. Better tag along with local Hyderabadi friend(s) however hopeless they are at bargaining. Always start with half-price or use your instincts.)

Chowmahalla Palace

Chowmahalla Palace: Chowmahalla palace is located behind Mecca Masjid, so after a guilty trip through Laad bazaar we turned left at the end of the lane to reach the palace. Chow (Four) mahalla(t) (Palace) was a visual delight and houses many courtyards, the grand Durbar (Khilwat) and wonderful fountains. The grand durbar hall housed many splendid chandeliers. Chowmahalla palace was on my wishlist after few of my friends got their pre-wedding photographs clicked in Nizam attires at a photo studio outside the palace.

It was fun to recall the history of the Nizams parading through the palace which was origially spread in about 45 acres but is now confined to 12 acres. Princess Esra, former wife of  Prince Mukarram Jah Bahadur, is instrumental in restoring the palace to its past glory and telling the city their story. The Palace now holds souvenirs of the Nizam dynasty through several exhibits - featuring photographs, paintings, crockery, arms, clothes and carriages/cars. Certain parts of the palace are not open to the public yet, but one gets a peek into the royalty and grandeur that once was, Chowmahalla(t) palace.

(P.S: Thanks Sud for planning this trip and enlightening me about Chowmahalla meaning four palaces :D)

Irani chai Nimrah cafe

Irani Chai and Osmania biscuit: My first date with Irani chai was in December when I visited Nimrah cafe for a cuppa, but the chai fell flat in terms of taste (too much milk and way too much sugar) and texture. Sud convinced me to take the leap of faith (she considered herself to be the lucky food companion) and to order the famous Irani chai of Nimrah and their partners-in-crime osmania biscuits. Oh boy! Sud was right (it is now certified, she is a lucky food companion). The tea tasted better than what I had when I last visited this place. After quickly sipping tea and getting refreshed, we headed to Mecca masjid for some peace and calm. (It is a bad idea to ask for special Irani chai for your friends visiting Hyderabad, just order your cuppa and enjoy.)

Mecca Masjid
Mecca Masjid: I discovered the peace and calm of this masjid during my visit to Charminar in December and fell in love with the place instantly. Amidst the crowd, evening prayers and hundreds of pigeons one can definitely find their peace and calm at this masjid. Sud and I sat down by the pool for nearly an hour (before we returned to reality and chaos). The otherwise lazy pigeons which were perched on the minarets gave an amazing aerial performance by swooping down and over our heads to circle the mosque twice and leaving us waiting for more (there was a no-show, lazy pigeons you see). Reluctantly we left the masjid and the solace it offered to enter the wilderness in the bazaar outside.

(PS: Women are advised to carry a shawl/dupatta while visiting this mosque.)

This trip also ended with a cup of refreshing Irani chai, now I know why this is the go-to beverage for most Hyderabadis. While walking back to catch our respective cabs I recalled Sarojini Naidu's famous poem, 'In the bazaars of Hyderabad', which I discussed with Sud when I first visited this place with her in 2012.

Disclaimer: This is my account of the city and the places I am trying to discover. This post does not provide a 360° view of those places.

Photo Credits: Clicked by Sud (most of them) and me

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Golconda Chronicles

The best part about weddings (apart from crashing them) is getting to meet your long lost friends (connected by Wi-Fi) who can no longer quote excuses for not visiting the erstwhile land of the Nizams. These trips, besides pulling me out of my slumber, turn me into the local guide and the fun gets real when your explorer friend helps you discover the charming city in a new light.
My adieu to the year 2014 has been in the pipeline for the longest time possible and since one of my resolutions for the new year has been to 'DO THINGS, NOW!!', here goes my account of Golconda fort and things I discovered on that eventful Sunday of January 11, 2015 (OK! I am a week late, but I call these humble beginnings) and before it's too late, a happy new year to whoever is reading this space!

Hyderabad Diaries: Golconda fort and others (11-Jan-2015)
A. Playing the good host: Playing a good host (though my guest claimed I figure amongst the best guides ever..!! :wink::wink:) meant not only showing around the place but also going ahead and packing breakfast (of nutella sandwiches and pesarattus (moong dal dosas), on a Sunday morning). Despite the fact that my GPS failed (yet again!), about which I cannot complain much, we reach Golconda fort by a road less traveled (by me, and a better one).

Golconda fort, a little bit of this corner and a little bit of that corner

B. The Golconda Fort: We enter the fort through Fateh-darwaza to an applause from the inquisitive visitors clapping relentlessly (guided by their paid guides showing them the sweet spots from which the echo would reverberate all the way at the Bala Hisar pavilion located at the highest point of the fort) to validate the acoustic effects of this engineering marvel (felt like a royal welcome into the fort). My previous visits to the fort were with my relatives and involved directly reaching Bala Hisar pavilion first; no questions asked. This time I explored the ruins, ventured into the wilderness and critically studied its architecture with my friend. We climbed atop the fort after 3 hours of soaking in the sun and sucking up the beauty of the place. Thanks to the explorer we cut around the corner (read I puffed my way through the broken path) and reached atop the fort where we heard those faint murmurs and claps from Fateh-darwaza. We strolled few empty corridors before bidding adieu to that magnificent fort.
(PS 1: Beware of the guides who are available inside the fort with false claims about the fort and its history. For instance, Golconda derives its name from the words golla (shepherd) and konda (hill), any claims of Gol - being an urdu word for 'round' and the fort deriving its name from it are not true. I wish the tourism department addresses this issue and comes up with guided tours.)
(PS 2: Ladies, being adventurous is fine, but do not venture into deserted corners. Please remember: Safety First! It is advisable to come in groups.)

C. Qutb Shahi tombs: We reached Qutb Shahi tomb pretty late in the afternoon so we could not visit all the tombs. We visited the masjid and the mortuary bath (which was constructed for the ritual bath of the dead and had an amazing water pipeline for hot and cold water) apart from the tombs. Most of the tombs gave in owing to neglect, wear-and-tear and are being restored to their previous glory. The well that supplied water to the mortuary bath is out of bounds for visitors and is in complete ruins. The tombs calm you down and serve as a perfect spot for reading or picnics with families. We were running late for lunch and had to cut our trip short before heading to our next destination (in pursuit of some Nizami cuisine).

One of the seven tombs

D. Taramati Baradari: We glanced at Taramati Baradari while heading for lunch. Baradari is a pavilion with arched doors and served as a caravan station. Taramati, a courtesan, performed here and there were many fables romantically linking her to the then sultan, Abdullah Qutb Shah. Taramati and her sister Premamati, also a courtesan, were laid to rest at Qutb Shahi tombs near the Sultan's tomb and feature amongst the few tombs which were not royalty.

E. The Luncheon: Hyderabad is known for its cuisine and therefore received the wishlist for delectable Hyderabadi dishes. I consulted some hardcore foodies I knew and decided to take my friend to 'Jewels of Nizams' restaurant at the Golconda hotel. We ordered Marq shorba which was followed up with Pathar-ka-gosht and an out-of-season Haleem which was served with bread (Haleem tasted similar to the one we get during the holy Ramadan season). We ended our meal with khubani-ka-meeta and after that heavy meal we headed for one thing that most Hyderabadis crave irrespective of the part of the day.

Haleem served with ghee, fried onions, chopped mint leaves and lemon wedges, accompanied with bread.

F. Irani Chai and Osmania Biscuit: Hyderabad's obsession with Irani chai and osmania biscuits is not a secret and like all obsessions even this one is not bound by any routine (and often ends up as a meal by itself). I have heard a lot about Niloufer cafe and its famous Irani chai, so the next stop was obviously here. We reached around tea-time and the cafe including the road was jam packed with chai lovers. There were no women in or around the cafe (my first tryst with Irani chai was forgettable) but I am glad I braved into the cafe and had my share of hot Irani chai and Osmania biscuit (restoring my faith in this hot beverage the city swears by). It was heartening to watch the staff at the cafe serving non-stop breaking occasionally to enjoy their cuppa.

With that tea ended my city darshan for that day, albeit reluctantly. I thank my guest, Asif 'Maamu' Shaikh for not complaining much and being the good guest. This trip was my rendezvous with Hyderabadi history, culture and cuisine. This trip was a series of firsts - being a Hyderabadi, I never tasted the rich ghee roasted Pather-ka-gosht; another first was visiting the fort in broad day light (I missed watching the skyline during sunset but am not complaining) and the last one on the list being starting 'Hyderabad-diaries' series.
Disclaimer: The title of this post can be misleading. This post does not provide 360° view of the monument and should not be relied upon as an ultimate guide to the most beautiful fort of the city, that is, Golconda.

Photo credits: Clicked on Asif's smartphone (most of the photos were clicked by him).

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


What would you do if you had all the time on this planet..??

Would you be what you aspired to be, while you are secretly hoping and waiting for time??

Would you strike the last item off your bucket list and enjoy your accomplishments with a bright smile??

More often than not, we complain and crib about the paucity of time, how that extra one hour could actually make wonders.. now, at this juncture, I would not like to generalize but based on several discussions with my friends - near, dear, far and my personal track record an extra hour would give us an extra hour to procrastinate, snoop around social media and doze off (read snooze the alarm clock).

I got back to reading, and am not very happy with the progress or pace with which I am going through the books I purchased hoping to read.

While reading Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil, a book with an interesting cover page, one line left me wondering if ...'rewards of obscurity outweighed the rewards of clarity'...??

And with this, I realized we celebrate obscurity..

Thank god! I am lazy and restless - a deadly combination... lazy enough to plan and make a trip but restless enough to keep fidgeting wherever I am supposed to sit and meditate. !Inner peace!

I barely made any progress with my books.. considering the fact that I started this blog post a few months back (read July), gives me jitters.. so whenever time permits, I try to reflect on things I did, and it's a big blurr.. I don't quite recall what I did in the last few months barring those trips I made and those afternoons when I tried to read few pages from few odd books I picked (No two genres are inter-related and this made my reading quite a task)

I started looking at my break as a getaway I waited for so long. And to all those getaways - random articles I keep picking to read, lots of HP series and my love for Professor Snape-Alan Rickman - respect, watching our very own Harry Potter girl - Hermoine Granger aka Emma Watson give a powerful speech about feminism #heforshe campaign as a UN Brand ambassador for Gender Equality, high calorie cooking sessions and all the weight I began to notice on me,  those a few idle moments to reflect on life and realizing how much time I have let to pass..

I guess this break was good enough,  especially for the joy of staying close with family - my retired parents and my sister awaiting her date of joining in her maiden job - and being there for them without all the fuss and drama an employed me had to portray. But during this break I realized it's smart planning that helps you achieve things that you were planning to do. This break, if anything, I had a lot of time to reflect.. a lot of time to actually hit the gym, adopt a healthy lifestyle, to complete reading those books I accumulated in the last few years.. but the key to achieving all this is how well you plan your days.. either while you were working or sitting idle at your home sweet home..!