Saturday, February 07, 2009

Hyderabad Days

Eight years ago, for a lost 21 year old, a hesitant, lukewarm romance began in the cold distance of an unknown city. I was far removed from the roaring of a life in Bombay that was waiting to be dealt with maturely. I came of age on the Hyderabad University Campus. From the first hidden drag of a cigarette on campus, university and in a larger sense, Hyderabad, became about knowing that it was okay — or that at least in time, it would be. It is where dogs were chased by calves while I picked my way carefully through the cow dung of my life. It is where I was invited to shove off from classrooms and a pokey office in the back of the English department was refuge from the maelstrom. It is where I was steadied by bangles, biryani, and best friends.

Most people laugh when I still speak of Hyderabad as home. This is mainly because every time I'm asked if I know the new places in Hyderabad, I shake my head. You see, I never have the time for new places. There are too many old haunts to pay my respects to. For one, there's Amfah Hotel in Mehdipatnam for its fragrant kalyani biryani. Of all the holes-in-the-wall in Hyderabad, this be the favourite. When Chachaji sees me come down the steps, there's no stopping the smile on either of our faces. The instructions are always simple - whatever I order, double the quantities of meat and salan! Then there's Famous Ice-cream at Mozamjahi Market. S and I have sat here afternoons, ordering one cup after another of the most delicious, non-creamy kharbhooza and chickoo ice-cream. The cup is always a double scoop and its price — the princely sum of 7 bucks!

But a rambling, pointless nostalgia is not why I am writing this. This is a function of an ability to let go. All things must change and in the eight years since I've called Hyderabad home, much has changed in the city's geography. And the altered face of this city seems to reflect the shift in my relationship with it. For years together, Hyderabad was primarily about people and the campus. Abruptly the city shifted. Or people shifted. Or time shifted. Or something shifted and I was suddenly a stranger. Where I would make up to six visits a year, I have made only two in the last three and I wouldn't have had the courage unless I could go to Road No 10. Or if there wasn't always a window ledge to perch on in a pokey little office at the back of the English Department — or a place at a table in Mehdipatnam.

This visit I have wondered if I delude myself by calling it home. The rickshaw wallahs aren't as friendly (or honest!) as they used to be and the malls are everywhere, replacing dilapidated petrol pumps and small little buildings, clogging up Road No 1. Coffee house chains have sprouted through old rambling bungalows on winding roads in Jubilee Hills. My favourite drive through the city — from the University, through Hi-Tech City, and then finally down to KBR Park — is now lost in a never ending maze of huge and ugly apartment blocks and office buildings.

But somehow, somewhere I've discovered that I love Hyderabad differently now because I have known what it is to be a stranger here. I've known the old city with cheeky young men driving me around in their rickshaws, showing me its ashurkhanas and khilwats. I've known what it is to stand on the other side of the desk at my alma mater, awestruck at the affection of my betters. I've known what it is to finally let go, picking a rather late way back to Bombay. Today, I have an independent paramour in the romance that wafts through every hot breeze and in the crisp winter night air.

Today, thankfully, Hyderabad is still home.


Anonymous said...

"Then there's Famous Ice-cream at Mozamjahi Market. S and I have sat here afternoons, ordering one cup after another of the most delicious, non-creamy kharbhooza and chickoo ice-cream. The cup is always a double scoop and its price — the princely sum of 7 bucks!"

I've never been there, but I've heard about "Mashoor Icecream" in a film called The Angrez...


Plain Jane said...

I've never been to Hbad - have known more than one person who loves the city, but none who make me want to visit the city like you do. I think that speaks of your love for the city, much more than the beauty of your words in this post! Shall we make a trip to Hbad some day, just you and me?

Plain Jane said...

...and oh I couldn't help but chuckle at Hyde's comment :)

Extempore said...

@Hyde: Must admit, I haven't heard of the film but it sounds about right! :D

@Plain Jane: Quite agreed about the chuckle - sure, we'll go. I was so scared for one horrible moment this time that I'd lost that connection but came to the conclusion that change isn't so bad after all. :-)

Anonymous said...

Well, the guy mentions he took Mallika Sherawat there when she told him "mereko ice cream hona" because the parlour sells in "itne itne toh cuppa they na yaaron!"

The clip is on youtube (see 6:35)


Anonymous said...

landed here via DP..

I have been calling Hyderabad my home for the past eight years, and it has changed tremendously in the looks, but I feel the people are same. They are still as helpful as they were eight years back. This is a place that I love unabashedly, now I proudly call myself a Hyderabadi :)

and yeah the ice-cream at Mozamjahi is a tad expensive now at 15 bucks :)

aniket said...

Landed here via DP.
Am a student of IIIT Hyderabad, that's next door to the University. We borrow our English faculty members from the University and just possible we've both been taught by a common professor or two.

Totally identified with this post. Yes, the landscape is changing. But the friendliness, helpfulness and laid-back attitude of the people is still very much there.

I too, am in love with this place and wherever I go from here, Hyderabad will always be there with me.

Parth said...

Altered relationships indeed. Now you know what NRIs feel every time they head back to their motherland :)

Extempore said...

@Hyde: Will check out for sure!

@Kunal: I agree - except the rickshawallahs and they I think are a menace in any part of India - every one was just as warm and charming as I remember them.

Are you sure about 15 bucks? I could have sworn it was 12 - maybe it was just me! :D

@Aniket - Well, depending on when you started studying there, you might also have been taught by some of my classmates. The most surprising changes were in an around the University and your campus. 8 years ago it was *nothing* like this. The IIIT stretch usually didn't have street lights! :-)

@Parth: You know, I think I fully appreciate it now. :-)

Stormy Zephyr said...

You write with such honesty and grace.


Anonymous said...

It's been a while, in all ways. Haven't visited here in a bit, but your posts still make for excellent reading.

I visited Hyd last month and stopped by Amfah wth a coworker. Excellent biriyani.