Blasphemously yours

After living in Hyderabad for over 12 years, I finally had Haleem yesterday. Yep, it took me 12 years to eat one of the things that Hyderabad is #worldfamous for (I’ve done the pearls and Charminar bit, so it’s not ALL bad, ok?).

And my verdict? Please wait. I cannot tell you just like that, no? You have to suffer the long story first.

So we drove down all the way to Tolichowki, to the actual Pista House outlet because the husband didn’t trust the freshness of the haleem at the little Pista House pushcarts/stands that were closer to home. Here’s where I mention that driving to Tolichowki in your sedan on a rainy Sunday evening 2 days before Eid is downright stupid. We realized that about 10 seconds into the Tolichowki area but it was too late to turn around (also because the nearest U turn was..well..not very near). So we kept inching along in bumper to bumper traffic, husband muttering curses under his breath (kid in the car!) every time a two-wheeler came too close to the car, searching for the outlet and suddenly on the roadside there were about 15-20 men, clad in green t-shirts that read ‘Pista House Haleem’, with an ID card around their necks. Yes people – meet the new way of service/delivery – they take your order right there on the road, go to the shop and bring back the haleem for you. You don’t have to get out of your car or search around for a parking spot in front of the shop.

We got one regular haleem, ie the one made with the mutton and one vegetarian haleem (you know, just in case) so we could do a taste test. 10 mins into our ride back and the car was already smelling of ghee and roasted spices. Drool slurp.

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Back home, fed the kid, bathed the kid, filled up the umpteen buckets and vessels with water (oh I haven’t told you about that, have I? Severe water problem where I live. Only 3 hours of running water. Except the spoons and plates, everything is filled with water. I hate this place.) and then finally opened up the cartons. Aaaaaand…

Veg and regular Haleem

Veg and regular Haleem

…well, nothing. I opened the carton, took a spoonful and actually hesitated for a bit. Why? Because 1. It’s mutton and I don’t eat red meat and 2. The way it looked, all gooey and gluggy and I don’t know, very unappetizing! I was hoping it tasted better than it looks, so I shut my eyes and took a wee bit.

Haleem

Haleem

And I hated it.

I didn’t go for the next spoonful. I tasted the veg version, hoping that’s better but no. It was lumpy, glutinous and totally, completely bland. The kind of bland that’s associated with baby food. Actually, I think my son had spicier food than that when he was an infant.

So now I’m thinking, what is the big deal? Did I eat from the wrong place? I doubt that ‘coz Pista House Haleem is supposed to be #worldfamous and all jazz. I could have tried Shah Ghouse Haleem, but dude, do you know what that hotel looks like? I thought I’d rather sacrifice on taste than compromise on hygiene, so didn’t go there.

My husband was ok with it, though. Didn’t LOVE it, but didn’t become nauseous and green in the face like me.

Well, that’s that then. No more haleem for me, thank you. I’ll just go sit with my Paradise Biriyani and be content.

So that’s what happened. A total anti-climax to a big build-up (in my mind, at least). Yes, I realize it’s blasphemous to live in Hyderabad and say I don’t like haleem, but what can you do?! Sue me? Yeah right.

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Cursed cities

Tears welled up in my eyes as the images flitted by on the screen. A brother venting at the camera for the loss of a sister – a sister who had gone out to buy a rakhi for him. An inconsolable mother asking for the culprits to be hanged in front of her eyes for killing her daughter – a daughter for whom she had all the dreams in the world. A father snatching away a mobile phone from a relative, asking him not to tell his daughter that her brother is no more. A father bemoaning the loss of a son-in-law, a husband whose wife does not know he is dead. Students who went to buy books, children who fancied a hot snack amid the light Hyderabad drizzle. August 25th marked a black day in all their lives, a day they would never forget, a day of lost lives and dreams.

Bomb blasts are everyday news if you’re an Indian. But this is so close to home that it hurts more than the others. It’s time my city fell to the curse of the metros in this country. A curse, perpetrated by cowards who kill innocents in the name of religion and region. Cowards who cannot put forth their needs to the establishment through the right channels, who resort to such weapons of terror and pain. All I can do is hope with all my heart that all this blood that has been shed will not go unanswered for, that those who did it will be caught and justice will prevail.  It’s only a hope, but it’s still hope.

And very close on the heels of these terrorists, on being a veritable pain in the you-know-where, are a new breed of insensitive warts called news reporters. I don’t want my news to come from a father who’s just lost his child. Or a man searching for his loved one among mangled remains of the dead bodies in the hospitals. I can wait a few weeks for them to mourn in peace and then recount their tale if they have the heart for it. I wonder what differentiates these media hounds from that bird of prey sitting near a malnourished child, waiting for it to die, so it can live off its remains.

I’ll be honest, I might take the day off tomorrow or I might work from home. I’m sorry, but I’m not some resilient Mumbaikar who can jump back into the daily routine like a jack-in-the-box and show up at work on time, as if nothing happened. I’m just a scared Hyderabadi whose sense of security has been blown to bits. Whose only claim to fame till now was the Charminar and the IT industry. Whose claim to fame now will include bomb blasts and bloodshed. I cannot return to my life nonchalantly when fellow Hyderabadis have lost lives. It could be me next.

And as the Buddha looks upon this city from his seat in the middle of the Hussain Sagar, a sense of irony drifts in the air that one of the blasts occurred right at his feet, in a park named after his birthplace. The Gods have a weird sense of humor, indeed.

And yes, to you, cowardly abomination of hell who perpetrated this act: I’m not a saint or a great leader to say I forgive you. I don’t. I won’t. The day will come when you will be at death’s door and I swear to you, it will not be easy. For you, the only ordeal worse than death will be your judgement in front of the Almighty, when you will be condemned to burn in hell for all of eternity. I cannot forgive you. I cannot give up my right to hate you. So, damn you. Damn you to the ends of damnation.

  

P.S: Very emotional outburst? Yes. Because it’s my city and it hurts.

P.P.S: We celebrate Onam tomorrow. But a festival is the last thing on my mind right now. Not when 44 families are cremating their dead.

A Rajasthani affair

We stood before the entrance with an uncertainty that arises when you’re not quite sure you did the right thing by coming there, when it’s vastly different from what you had baselessly imagined. It took 2 whole minutes for that to change, with the re-assurance of a choice well made. We were greeted by trumpets and drums, and by an elderly gentleman who would have made a good village headman in a Hindi movie, holding a plate with the traditional welcome items like rose-water, kumkum, flowers and rice. If you’re also a tourist and are really in the mood for some Indian Maharajah treatment, you will also be honored with a pagdi (a type of headgear) and a chain of pearls!

Welcome to Dhola ri Dhani, the Rajasthani theme resort (for want of a better word) located on the outskirts of Hyderabad. Although the term ‘outskirts’ is hugely debatable, the drive from our workplace to Dhola ri Dhani (hereinafter referred to as DRD owing to the author possessing a high level of laziness in her blood) through non-existent roads and villages sure made it seem like the middle of nowhere. Thanks to an over-zealous taxi driver who was pretty sure he knew what he was doing even when the car had to go over mounds of mud and sand – we could have been in the middle of a river being dug up and we wouldn’t have known!

The ambience in DRD is typical Rajasthani – or so they say. I wouldn’t know ‘coz I haven’t been to the Northwestern Indian state. All I can think of about Rajasthan is desert, a lot of camels, Udaipur-Liz Hurley-Arun Nayar-wedding and Rudali[1]. And BITS, Pilani. And hey, more recently, Eklavya! For a person like that, this is quite an experience. You’re welcomed by Rajasthani folk music blaring from unseen speakers which, although quite endearing in the beginning, starts to get to you after a while and you just wish you could strangle the voice singing it and end the misery once and for all.

We (‘we’ here refers to a team of 15 people who’s only intention in coming to DRD was to have absolute, unadulterated fun. And ofcourse, food. Oh wait, maybe that’s just me!) took a walk around the place, waiting for the rest of the team to turn up. And what we saw left us saying, ‘Hmm..that’s nice’. There was a temple (which we conveniently did not visit), a bit of open lawns with those cots that one would find at a dhaba, lots of mosquitoes and the omnipresent folk song on the speakers. If you’re a kid in body and soul or a kid in soul inside that rough-looking exterior, you could sit on the swing (which was pretty sturdy, I must say) or play see-saw with an equal weighing companion. You could also play a local version of bowling involving 3 golf-ball sized balls and a stack of steel tumblers. You get to pick artsy trinkets if you can unstack all the tumblers. Or you could totally miss all the tumblers, even if you’re standing 5 feet from it. What’s important is you had fun. Fun, ladies and gentlemen, is the essence of living. (I’m shortly coming out with my own Book of Profound Lines, stay tuned!).

I swear the camel smiled!

One of the things we realized about the place is that it can keep you occupied for an entire evening. There is a camel ride, if you like sitting on a moving stinky mountain and feel like royalty, even if its only for 10-15 minutes. And even if the rest of my team does not agree, I really think the camel smiled. Or maybe that’s just the way a camel looks (more probable, isn’t it? Ho hum.).

Mehendi! My hand!

We girls got some mehendi on our hands from the resident mehendi artist. If you’re a guy, there’s nothing you can do but feel left out (or you can go right ahead and get some yourself – whatever makes you happy, chum!). There were puppet shows and folk dance recitals (which we successfully stage-crashed at their invitation) that were really nice, these guys have some talent and it’s a pity they don’t have a larger audience. And if you’re a hindi movie buff, worry not! there is an in-house production of Sholay in nothing less than Hyderabadi Hindi! Get ready to hear Gabbar say ‘Jab tak tumhare pairaan nachte, iski saasen chalta’. I walked out of the amphitheatre (?!!) thanking my stars that they staged only the climax scene. Thank God for small mercies.

Puppet show

The highlight of our trip to DRD were two things that I haven’t mentioned till now. Best for last, you see.

One, the food. Oh. My. God. Three different types of roti (bajra, missi, regular chapati), 4 curries to go with, dal baatis, dahi vadas, the yummiest jalebis, misri, papad and the I-totally-loved-it kichdi made of bajra and rice with ghee and sugar! This is my kind of paradise! ‘Drool drool slurp slurp’ would be a gross understatement. You’d feel full if you just taste the umpteen number of things on your plate. So much so, I didn’t even notice my right leg going numb due to lack of blood circulation for we were sitting down and eating, a la Rajasthani isstyle. Finish the whole thing off with buttermilk, which I should say had a tad too much of coriander leaves and don’t know why, tasted a bit like Hajmola! I guess I need some getting-used-to for the North Indian platter.

The second highlight was the magic show. It was mind boggling! This guy was right in front of us doing the most amazing of tricks, and we were mute spectators to the whole show! Well, almost mute – we did have to shout meaningless jargon, abracadabra and poo-poo (not to be confused with baby language please) and assorted actions that included coughing, sneezing and a certain action involving a ball and a bag between one’s legs. I refrain from elaborating further on that and you’re forbidden to ask me. What mattered, as always, was we had fun! And the last trick of the day? How about rubbing fists with your neighbor and choosing your favorite flower, only to come back with the smell of the exact same flower on your fist! I’m almost on the verge of believing that there is such a thing called magic and, wait for this, Harry Potter could be real! Now that, dear people, is what I call the essence of living!

On that note, also by popular demand from colleagues, presenting…the smoking camel! Apparently, the aforementioned camel can smoke beedis very expertly!

As Jim ‘The Mask’ Carrey would say – It’s ssssmokin’

Photos by Vivek (Thanks!)

[1] Rudali – That beautiful movie which tells the poignant tale of a woman who could never shed a tear but who finally ends up a Rudali – women who are paid to cry at funerals. That movie where we saw a never-before never-after Dimple Kapadia playing Sannicheri. The same movie where Bhupen Hazarika’s songs cast a spell on us, bringing the despair of the sandy desert into our hearts.