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PHOTOESSAY

Stuff of memories

ZEESHAN NOFIL

With one memorable incident following another, Hyderabad makes you come back to it again and again. A visual tour through the sights and smells of the city.

Photos: Zeeshan Nofil

Visual edge: Vignettes of the city.

In a Hyderabad often associated with traditional tastes and fine cuisines, you do not frequently see a chef showcase a unique talent not related to the art of cooking. But this summer, the chef of a small restaurant took up the drums in his neighbour hood, going around the beautifully lit Charminar during a religious procession. He drummed on the dholak with the same frail hands that he uses to mix delicate portions of spices for the delicious kalyani biryani. While he danced, he often paused and raised both his hands in a trance, and when he put them down, the band members drummed with more fervour and followed him. Together they drummed a rhythmic ensemble of naals, small kettledrums and steel pots.

As the beats fade and the procession thins away, things return to normality around the Charminar. Bangle-sellers at Laad Bazaar resume wooing women into their colourful shops, restaurant waiters throw inviting gestures at pedestrians for a bowl of hot paya and old men continue with their discussions.

In Hyderabad, you collect over time memorable incidents that condition several emotions and bring you back to the city again and again. From aromas of fresh Osmania biscuits wafting from bakeries to miniature bottles of jasmine itr to vowels stretched musically at the end of each word to the best hand-churned ice cream you have ever tasted.

One of these memorable incidents may be sitting behind the young commuter. While speaking on the mobile phone, he keeps scribbling F+A inside the heart he had just outlined on the painted back of the bus seat. When he gets down at the Mozamjahi bus stop, he is still on the phone, love-struck and flawlessly ignorant.

Or clubbing your ears when the three children scream at the top of their voices at not being allowed to sit on the camel in a welcoming procession for the new local priest. They keep on screaming at the same pitch even after being allowed to get on top of the camel, only this time, it was in joyous hysteria.

Such incidents are abundant. The cordial smiles of people while posing for a stranger’s camera, an additional helping of the biryani that has tasted consistent for generations at the roadside restaurant, the cheap pearl jewellery that sellers on the street authenticate by rubbing them against their teeth, small street corners and their histories and families eating corn cobs or ice cream in the evenings by the Hussain Sagar lake where children run off on the pavement only to be brought back by their shrieking mothers.

The emotions and memories generated by these incidents give Hyderabad that slight edge over other cities. An edge that allows the city to overwhelm everyone not only with strolls in the by-lanes that are festively adorned all year but also with a gentle blend of generous culture, food, colloquialisms and hospitality.

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