A Breezy Rendezvous with Deccani Tehzeeb

Picture3Irony – you do make your presence felt once a while. Like the day when I decided to start going for walks and it rained miraculously or how I found those shopping discount coupons exactly a day after they expired or that time when two of my friends from different circles decided to throw a party on the same day. However, you outdid yourself last week when on the very day that I decided to write about Hyderabad, bomb explosions shook that very city.

For the next few weeks I am sure many foreigners due to visit this IT hub will cancel their trips citing safety alerts. This one is for them to show what they are missing out on.

I was in the Hyderabad for a measly two and half days. The trip was my first here and a sudden one at that which meant I had not done research beyond Biryani and Char Minar hence the expectations were kept at a minimum. Sarah and Trupti, who stay in Hyderabad, were my hosts cum tour guides. Sarah – my roommate from Junior College and Trupti also a roommate but from Business School, are friends who I can call in the dead of the night, throw tantrums at and the chosen few whose tantrums I pay heed to :-p.

Sarah and I brought in Valentine’s midnight with an aerial view of the magnificent Hussain Sagar Lake. It is a huge water body with the statue of Lord Buddha standing right at the centre. It wore a deserted look at night thus making a tranquil site. Over the next two days, we crossed the Husain Sagar many a time but with traffic and crowd as accompaniment. I am glad that my first glimpse of this visual beauty was in the calm of the night.

Though Hyderabad has made a global mark with its prominence in the IT sector, I wanted to dust off this thick soot of technology and see the Deccan beauty in its original charm. Saw glimpses of this in the ruins of Golconda and the dusty Char Minar. Went to both these places on 14th February and I don’t think there could have been a more exotic way of spending Valentine’s Day in this city.

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Char Minar was visited in the afternoon and it made a beautiful site under the clear blue sky. It is no Taj Mahal but what makes it charming is the hustle bustle of the market around it. The street in which the Minar lies is not crowded and dirty as I had imagined. Shops under archways with their names carved uniformly in Urdu like delicate golden slivers, pearls by the dozens, burqa clad women shopping on the streets, attar and incense sticks giving out their perfume – all these amalgamate beautifully to bring out the richness of a culture passed on from the Mughal era.

Next stop was Golconda Fort where we wanted to reach in time for the evening Sound and Light show. The sun was setting by the time we reached and a beautiful crescent moon shone atop the fort like a befitting crown. When the Sound and Light show began we were transported to a kingdom that was. A time when all religions co-existed harmoniously. When music, poetry and literature flowed without inhibition like wine in a royal feast. When battles were fought and no mercy was shown even to the one whose blood ran in their veins. Crumbling of such a magnificent empire for the lust of power and money – such shame. While sitting there and absorbing the beautiful music playing in the background, I wished there was more done to revive this fort in the form of regular art and literature festivals that will complement the beauty of Golconda.

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Shilparamam in Hitech City is something I came to know of in a handbook I picked from a hotel lobby on my first day and visited on the second day. Since I was in the vicinity and had some time off, made a spontaneous visit to this Arts, Crafts and Culture society. The arts and crafts were nothing new to me but what I particularly liked was the Village Museum which showcases the lifestyle of various Andhra communities, tribes and skills.

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I run the risk of making this blog very long but I just have to mention food. Breakfast at Chutneys was Steamed Dosa and Qubani ka Meetha. Now Qubani ka Meetha is a dessert made with dried apricots and specialty of Hyderabadi cuisine. The sweetness was overwhelming for me but most people on the neighbouring tables seemed to be enjoying it thoroughly. Lunch was at Paradise – the mecca of Hyderabadi Biryani. Sarah had warned me that it is over-hyped but nevertheless we went there humming ‘para-para-paradise’ (courtesy Coldplay!). The aroma of the steaming Basmati in copper handis almost promised to transport me to paradise but after tasting the first morsel, the spell broke. What I actually liked there was the Chicken Tikka – well marinated and beautifully tender.

Cut to next day dinner at Rayalaseema Rucchulu with Trupti. This was an accidental find on Lakdi ka Pul and I insisted on eating there as I wanted to eat Andhra pappu – lentil gravy or dal. I can almost vouch for the fact that Dal is a part of every Indian sub-culture and comes with its variation from state-to-state. Rayalseema Rucchulu serves coastal Andhra food which is notorious for heavy use of spices. I did not realise this when we ordered something as basic as Tomato pappu and Andhra chicken. By the time I finished my second spoonful of pappu and rice, I was puffing and paffing with a bottle of Sprite finally coming to my respite. Nevertheless, I have all the intention of visiting this place the next time as the menu has some fabulous offerings from the Andhra belt.

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Some goodies that must be picked up while in Hyderabad – Mango Tokku (pickle), all the poddis (dry powder chutneys) and Karachi biscuit! Since I am very fond of Karachi biscuit, I paid homage to the legendary Karachi Bakery (the Banjara Hills outlet). I am also a fan of their Almond Biscotti now. I also picked some Lasa and Lamsa tea as curiosity got the better of me after seeing what seemed like the 100th advertisement for these two brands and learning that it is a part of the tea routine in many Hyderabad households.

The trip was a breeze but I tried and made the most of it. If I had to sum up my trip to Hyderabad, I would do so by equating it to the quintessential Indian boy-girl meeting for a prospective rishta – 1) initially know each other only through photographs and a bio-data, 2) have a very brief meet over chai and ladoos and 3) end up liking each other. Intend to meet this Deccan land over a few more chais and ladoos 😉

Hindi Terms
Rishta = matrimonial alliance
Handi = Vessel
Ladoos = Indian sweet

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Wild yet ‘S’usegad

Susegad is a Portuguese term used for ‘a contented state of being’. A state of being that most of us city dwellers do not indulge in quite often. We take pride in our crammy, no-time-ya-what to-do lifestyles and flaunt this pitiful state in conversations at luncheons and weekend dos. The good old goofier days (goofier ‘coz goofy still happens ;)) are fondly recalled by me and the girlfriends on our Whatsapp chit chats. Finally, after insistent demands for a reunion and entering boss cages to get leaves, we took off from our concrete dwellings to the land of susegad – Goa!

Goa – the name has such a zingy ring to it. I cannot fathom any person not liking the place. The beaches, booze and nuste (fish) come together into a celestial combination and attract people who share chemistry with this heady mix. I was excited about visiting Goa after three whole years and being there with the girls. So here we were – 4 girls: 2N/3D: infinite fun. (We are 5 but one couldn’t travel as she is having a baby. Had to mention this ‘coz she is going to strangle me otherwise!)

Goa is a very appropriate place to have these little reunions on shoestring budgets. We had splurged on our last reunion and wanted to make this one more conservative on the wallet. One of the girlies knew of this amazing place to stay – Martin’s Guest Rooms. It helped that she had put up there on many occasions so we were assured it wasn’t some riff raff place. It was close to the beach and extremely tidy.

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Our stay was on the Baga-Calungute stretch – a shore in North Goa that witnesses a good party scene and crowd. From the time of landing, food seemed to be our primary obsession which was only superseded by our obsession for each other. All I can say is – we pelted. The diets were also sent on a holiday and we binged till the last moment. I am more of a chicken eater but you can’t be in Goa and not have nuste. I particularly enjoyed the crisp rava (semolina) fried calamari served at one of the beach shacks. Fish fried in rava gives it a crisp texture and makes a crunch-yummy snack. Those of us hailing from the coastal Karnataka belt love our fish prepared in this style especially when fried in clear coconut oil.

We found ourselves getting upset about the Fries served with most platters. It isn’t an over-reaction – Fries are quintessential! They were either like wedges or weren’t crisp enough. The only place that got it right was Lucky Star – a shack on the beach again.

While at the Arpora Night Market, we also chanced upon some good Greek rolls and wood fired Pizza. No doubt they were tasty, but tastier as we were famished after wandering up and down the market!

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Brunch on second day was at Infantaria – a place with which I was a tad bit disappointed. The meat of the crumb fried chicken and batter fried prawns didn’t seem clean enough and had that distinct stench. But the salad that came along with both was particularly good. It had smack-on tanginess with perfect proportions of the Vinaigrette dressing and pickles. The chicken burger was baaaad. I was expecting something to the lines of Hearsche & Co. in Bandra which serves some brilliant burgers. Not only did this one not match up, it didn’t even have mayo in it! The only solace came from the steal deal on beer.

One of the best parts of the trip was getting our hands on King’s beer. Beer = King’s in Goa but news is they shut shop a few months ago. However, they were magically available at a wine shop next to where our rider girls went to get the bikes and they managed to grab a few pints. It is a smooth brew and of course, best when served super chilled.

Coming to the desserts – most were orgasmic. At Britto’s – the Alpine Chocolate cake, the Molten (spelt Moltan on the menu) Chocolate cake and Chocolate Walnut pie made it to the top ranks, at Mambo’s it had to be the Éclairs and Chocolate tart. Éclairs almost tasted like the ones at the Birdy’s outlets in Mumbai.

The real dessert of the trip was our moments together. Since we stay in different cities, us girlies look forward to these precious occasions to get together, behave like morons and giggle silly. Every reunion is – crazy, spicy, wild. More details? Sorry patrão, mouth is zipped. The secrets will stay with us and the susegad winds of Goa.

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