By Prasad N P
A city is not just a place on a map; it is a collection of souls rubbing shoulders with each other in a small space. Yes, bodies have souls and souls have shoulders to rub, as the cities keep on getting cramped. Hyderabad is one such city or -- let me correct myself -- it is a collection of cities, namely Secunderabad, Hyderabad and Cyberabad. Now, in Hyderabad alone we have new Hyderabad and Old Hyderabad. Slowly, the three ‘-bads' have surrounded the old city of Hyderabad and are trying to strangulate it to death. Yet this old maiden has her own charm and enough admirers to keep the smile on her paan-smeared lips.
In the new cities migrants from around the country jostle to get a job in one of the IT or BPO company and spend their days in front of a monitor, trying to steal a glance at their social media accounts. It is the old city that nurtures a variety of professions that have been in families for generations.
I regularly take walks in the bylanes behind Charminar in Old Hyderabad and every time I discover a new profession that these hardworking people follow, just as their forefathers did. On one of these walks I observed people doing their work and clicked some pictures. Here are some of the people that I saw doing things exactly the way their forefathers did during the era of Nizams and the Qutub Shahi kings.
There were attar or perfume-makers who sell concoctions to not only attract your beloved but claim to cure every ailment known to man. There was this guy whose claim to fame is to put soorma (kohl) in your eyes to make you immune to all evil eyes.
Some of the guys were making bread in the traditional clay oven. Local people buy it while it is still hot. Not far from the bakery it is hard to resist the smell of kebabs, the char-grilled meat releasing the aroma of melting fat. In a shop two artisans beat a small piece of silver to convert it into waqr or silver foil to be pasted on your favorite sweets like laddu and barfi.
But one of the most interesting shops I found was in General Bazaar, where they make all kind of Indian musical instruments such as harmoniums, mridangams and manjeera. A shop right next to it makes caps and ceremonial sehras (headgear) to be worn by bridegrooms. Now you know where to head when you plan to get married. Oh, you are already married? No problem, buy some flowers from one of the traditional flower shops that sells not bouquets but flowers and garlands only. An old potter offered a line of earthen pots for sale that her family makes in the backyard. I admired her courage as she was right next to a shop selling hammers!
Any post about Old Hyderabad cannot be complete without the mention of Laad Bazaar where you can buy bangles of every colour, design and material. All of these shops do brisk business by not only selling to the locals and tourists but also exporting around the world.
Not all professions are very old. Some enterprising types have adapted newer professions and are engaged in restoring Bullet motorcycles, and recycling of old motors, they cannibalize parts from defunct motors and combine them to make one functional motor. This is the earliest form of recycling, invented right here in the Old City of Hyderabad.
Best time to visit? Hyderabadis love their afternoon siestas, so go after lunch around 3 pm and stay till late evening when the lights of the old city bring back her beauty, illuminating Charminar and other historical buildings such as the Chowmalla Palace.
Old Hyderabad is a shopper’s paradise and you can buy a lot of things that connect the present to the past. Whatever is not readily available the shopkeeper will be happy to make to order for you. This includes genuine antiques. Beat that.
Prasad N P is a corporate executive most of the week. He pretends to be a photographer and writer at his blog desitraveler to fuel his twin passions of photography and travel.