House of Noise and Dust
After much house-hunting and agonising, found a new flat about four kilometres from work – in the small and backward village of Hafeezpet. No broadband, newspapers that are delivered well after 8:00 a.m., people who speak nothing other than Telugu, no roads, though we have a highway and a railway track nearby, stone-breaking yards within shouting distance, buffaloes grazing around, a village pond, open defecation all around, hot dusty winds all afternoon – these are but a few characteristics of the charming rural life we lead. On the plus side, it’s a mere four kilometre ride for me to work, while for Vidya it’s closer to seven. The flat we have moved into is new – in the sense that a few of the others are still being built, and hammering and drilling workmen have to be sent away on a daily basis as it is well after dark.
We also tasted the locals’ appalling lack of social or civic sense last night – we were woken up by the loud and raucous noise of two drummers and two pipers at 1:45 a.m. I stumbled blearily out of bed and walked out of my front door, only to find the corridor adjoining ours taken up by a bright and awake band of men, robustly drumming and piping away. Upon enquiring with a young man dressed in a tight shiny shirt who happened to step out of the neighbouring flat, I was told that it was the only muhurtham (auspicious time) they had, and that a house-warming ceremony was going on, and that this was their custom. When I appraised him of the time and asked him how long it would go on, he told me it would be over in half an hour. Okay, I said, and went back and tried to sleep. Sure enough, the noise subsided after a while. Just as we were nodding off, it started again, and this time I was mad, and joined by a madder Vidya. We went up to the flat, and told them that it was our custom to sleep at night, and would they please pack up and let everyone else sleep. I was getting a little aggressive and it seemed to work, as the noise totally stopped after that.
And so goes on our sojourn at the House of Noise and Dust…
Shadab – Real Hyderabadi Biriyani
Finally, more than two months after arriving in Hyderabad, I got to taste real Hyderabadi biriyani last Sunday. Sameer, who has been for a few weeks now raving about the biriyani at Shadab, took us for lunch. Located within sight of the Charminar, you cannot ask for a more Hyderabadi atmosphere. If ambience is what you are looking for, then Shadab is definitely not for you. Crowded, with an overflowing waiting area, filled with the aroma of biriyani, the constant chatter of patrons, peeling plaster, questionable upholstery – all this make for atmosphere. If you are lucky enough to get a seat near a window, you can actually catch a glimpse of the Charminar (we did not).
The biriyani itself was totally different from anything I have eaten before, no matter what I was told about its provenance. Even the much-vaunted Paradise pales before the biriyani turned out by the ustads of Shadab. Sameer described to us the way the biriyani was made – the rice being cooked in a marinade of meat, wet spices, and a combination of dry spices, the actual contents and proportions of which are known only to the ustad.
The portions too were generous – between us, Sameer and I managed to finish off one portion of mutton biriyani, while Vidya’s vegetable biriyani went mostly uneaten. We rounded off the meal with a walk around the lanes surrounding the Charminar.
Kite Festival 2007
After a sumptuous lunch at Shadab, we went off to the Kite Festival on Necklace Road. We were joined by Ravipprasad, and a most enjoyable time was had by all. The best part was when the kitists (yes, it’s a word!) from Mumbai and Mysore flew their fantastic kites and kite trains. A more detailed posts and pictures will follow. I promise!
The Police Station
After enjoying the local public transport (read shared autos!) for more than two months, we got ourselves a bike last weekend. Nothing spectacular in that, except that on the very next day it was carted away by the traffic police after I had left it parked in an unmarked ‘No Parking’ zone. I had to go all the way to the police station at eight in the night, pay a fine of two hundred rupees and get it back. Now, the process was simple enough, but I was given two receipts by the policeman who collected the fine from me, one for fifty rupees and another for a hundred and fifty rupees. It was only the next morning that I noticed that the fifty rupee one was for parking in a ‘No Parking’ zone, but I still haven’t been able to figure out what the second one was for.
For a long time, the only restaurants we had patronised was Cook’s Touch in Jubilee Hills (for its decent afternoon meals), La Calypso in Hafeezpet (yes, we have a restaurant in our village!) for its decent (though pricey) food and location, Angeethi, and Zafraan, where we went with Ritesh and Amrita long ago. Over tha last two weeks, thanks to Dhruv’s initiative mostly, we have added to our list – Zafraan Exotica, a small beef biriyani stall called Miraij in Hafeezpet, and Aromas of China. It’s good to go with him and Ravipprasad, both hotel-industry refugees, as you can ask stuff like “What the heck is creme broule (or some such)?” and get a real answer for once.