Morning chai under the Charminar
It was still dark when I reached the Charminar one Saturday morning – the roads decked with small green flags and canopies of bright lights (it was Milad-un-Nabi the next day) and the streetlights bouncing off the shuttered-down shops presenting a very different picture than those seen in the tourist booklets.
I walked down the empty streets past the jewellery shops selling the famed Hyderabadi pearls, their shutters still down. The newspaperman cycled about, the vendors rustled up some breakfast for those, who cared to stop by their makeshift counters. I noticed a lonely man just opening up his shop, selling plastic dancing dolls as an empty school bus rumbled down the street. The old city was getting ready for the challenges of a new day. The Charminar was not yet open, so I admired this world famous architectural marvel from the street below. Soon the call of <g data-gr-id="40">azaan</g> from the Mecca Masjid and the tinkling bells of the aarti at the nearby Shiv Temple indicated that morning was approaching. As the first rays of the sun fell on the Charminar, the old city slowly woke up to
life, just like it had done for the last three centuries...
A <g data-gr-id="53">wake up</g> call remains incomplete without a good cup of tea. The local Nimrah Cafe and Bakery, which has been clearing away the morning sleep of the old city with its Irani Chai, Malai Bun and Osmania Biscuits for the last two decades was celebrating its anniversary – of course minus the usual pomp and celebrations and doing just what it had done so diligently – just another day of brisk business. The hub-bub at the cafe, increasing <g data-gr-id="51">amount</g> of traffic and the pigeons fluttering around the Mecca Masjid reminded me of a photograph in a coffee table book. This was a hitherto unexplored side of <g data-gr-id="44">Hyderbad</g> to me, oh so far away from the shining malls of the hi-tech city. This was <g data-gr-id="45">assal</g> Hyderabad, the real city, a melting pot of culture and consciousness, a blend quite unlike anything else in the world.
The Indian tea made in the Iranian method at the Nimrah cafe really woke me up with a <g data-gr-id="48">jolt,</g> or rather brought me back to my feet. A tête-à-tête with the son of the owner of this famed cafe, who introduced himself as Aslam answered my queries regarding the cafe. The cafe sold only what Aslam called “entertainment food” – not complete meal. The cafe started operating in 1993 and completed 19 years of service on the 4th of February. People from different walks of life, right from vagabonds to posh city dwellers were served by this cafe. The Nimrah cafe does a great job as a forum for sharing ideas and feelings thus contributing to a larger social milieu. Though quaint, no film shoots are allowed in the cafe. It maintains its exclusivity with a firm hand, exuding the charm and vitality of a throbbing city.
As I stepped out the past seemed to speak to me as I admired each carving on the minarets. The soft light of dawn made them look marvelous. There were many gates other than the iconic Charminar that was being decorated for the festival. Some old buildings with arches, which are now being utilised as shops must have been important buildings in the past. The old keeps pace with the new, all the while retaining its uniqueness.
The heritage breakfast at the Nimrah Cafe and Bakery, the beautiful Charminar and its busy surrounding is worth a dekko not only to newcomers in this city like me, but for anybody who can think a life beyond the “Hot and Happening” malls of Cyberabad. The Old City with its raw charm and a rich history will not fall short of the expectations of those who make a sincere effort to touch its beautiful heart.
MONSOON HOTSPOTS INDIA
Munnar is located in the Idukki district of the southwestern Indian state of Kerala. It lies in the Western Ghats range of mountains and is a hill station and former resort for the British Raj elite. The name Munnar is believed to mean “three rivers”, referring to its location at the confluence of the Mudhirapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundaly river. It is situated on the Kannan Devan Hills village in Devikulam Taluk. These protected areas are especially known for several threatened and endemic species including Nilgiri Thar, the grizzled giant squirrel, the Nilgiri wood-pigeon, etc. Eravikulam National Park, home to the endangered mountain goat Nilgiri Thar, is a seasonal trekking destination encompassing the <g data-gr-id="79">Lakkam</g> Waterfalls and 2,695 m-tall Anamudi Peak.
Panchgani also called <g data-gr-id="99">Paachgani</g> is a famous hill station and <g data-gr-id="118">municipal</g> council in Satara district, Maharashtra. It was discovered by the British during the British Raj as a summer resort, and a superintendent named John Chesson was placed in charge of the hill station in the 1860s. Panchgani is nestled in <g data-gr-id="131">middle</g> of five hills in the Sahyadri mountain ranges and also, there are five villages around <g data-gr-id="103">Pachgani</g>, which are Dandeghar, Khingar, <g data-gr-id="100">Godwali</g>, <g data-gr-id="101">Amral</g> and <g data-gr-id="102">Taighat</g>. Tourist attractions are Sydney Point, Table Land, Devil’s Kitchen, Ganesh temple at Wai etc. Panchgani’s famous ‘Table Land’ has been the location for many Indian movies. Some not so recent ones include Taare Zameen Par and Agent Vinod.
Udaipur, in <g data-gr-id="149">Rajasthan</g> was formerly the capital of the Rajput kingdom of Mewar. Apart from its history, culture, and scenic locations, it is also known for its Rajput-era palaces. The Lake Palace, for instance, covers an entire island in the Pichola Lake. Many of the palaces have been converted into luxury hotels. It is often called the “Venice of the East”, and is also nicknamed the “Lake City” or “City of Lakes”. The places of visit are Saheliyon-ki-Bari, Gulab Bagh and Zoo, Maharana Pratap Memorial or Moti Magri. It has also been the shooting location for many Hollywood and Bollywood movies. Indian sections of the James Bond film Octopussy were filmed in the city.
Ladakh is a region in the state of Jammu and Kashmir that currently extends from the Kuen Lun mountain range to the main Great Himalayas to the south, inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent. It is one of the most sparsely populated regions in Jammu and Kashmir and its culture and history are closely related to that of Tibet. Adventure tourism in Ladakh started in the 19th century. The places of tourist interest include Leh, <g data-gr-id="163">Drass</g> valley, Kargil, Zangla, <g data-gr-id="164">Phugthal</g>, Salt Valley and several popular trek routes like Lamayuru, Darcha, the Nubra valley and the Indus valley. The Amir Khan and Kareena Kapoor <g data-gr-id="165">starrer</g> 3 Idiots’s ending was filmed on the famous Pangong Lake in Ladakh.