Hyd and Seek (Part 1)
Christmas 2016 marked my annual trip to a city I used to call home. I haven’t lived in Hyderabad for over 20 years, but my regular trips there as well as the fact that it was home through my childhood and on through college gives it the right to still pull at my heartstrings, to still deliver a healthy whiff of nostalgia, to still make me yearn for the sights, sounds and smells of this most unique of Indian cities.
As always, I took my camera along with me, but as is often the case, Christmas and family obligations did not leave me with enough time to catch up with childhood friends over a smoke, an Irani chai and Osmania biscuits, or to get out into the streets and indulge in a bit of urban photography. I must plan another trip to Hyderabad for a bit of me time, to really do some justice to this fantastic city (ergo, Part 1).
The fact that it was home through my childhood and on through college gives it the right to still pull at my heartstrings, to still deliver a healthy whiff of nostalgia, to still make me yearn for the sights, sounds and smells of this most unique of Indian cities.
I did make it to Golconda Fort one afternoon in time to climb up to the Baradari with Arjun to see the sunset from the top of the hill. A featureless, hazy sky unfortunately didn’t make for a memorable vista, but I did manage some shots of Arjun looking out over the city, the ubiquitous selfie-taking tourists and some of the old ruins themselves. We made it back after dark, just in time for the Son et Lumière. And the haleem we bought for dinner on the way home was delectable. It was Arjun’s first haleem experience, and the doubtful look on his face as he regarded the bowl in front of him vanished with his first mouthful.
As in Calcutta earlier last year, I was only able to get out for a couple of hours early one morning to take in the streets of the historic quarter of Hyderabad through my lens. Not much has changed in the Old City. I love this part of Hyderabad. The onion domes of the Osmania Hospital and the High Court greet you as you approach the river and, as you cross the Nayapul, you’re transported centuries back in time from the modern IT metropolis to the City of Nizams. I got to the Charminar well before daybreak and was not alone. Street food stalls were already buzzing with activity, the morning commuters grabbing a quick breakfast before heading off to work. I was a little disappointed to see that a part of the Charminar was under renovation with two of its minarets covered with scaffolding, and that it didn’t open until much later in the morning.
I walked over to the historic Makkah Masjid just as dawn was breaking and they had switched off the overhead floodlights. The faithful came and went but the pigeons, in their thousands, remained in the forecourt. They are, after the arches and minarets of the mosque itself, perhaps the most enduring feature of this beautiful place of worship.
By this time, the fruit market around the Charminar was coming alive. We bought some apples and figs from the talkative pushcart vendors, much like the citizens of the city must have done in the 16th and 17th centuries. I didn’t have the time to wait until the Chowmohalla Palace, the Laad Bazaar, the Paigah tombs and some of the other historic sites opened later in the day. They will have to wait until my next trip. Two hours in the Old City is nowhere near enough. Still, I’m glad I went, and gladder still to find that Old Hyderabad is alive and well in its mohallas and bylanes, in its bustling bazaars and their gracious and helpful vendors.
Stay tuned for Part 2, which will hopefully come sooner than later.