This is an almost two kilometer stretch that begins at Charminar and goes through Laad Bazaar, Mehbook, Chowk and Hussaini Alam till you finally reach the Purana Pul. One Saturday morning I met my favorite photographer Madhumita for the first time at Charminar, an appropriate place to meet someone whose love for the city speaks through her pictures. We walked this stretch and the story that we discovered can be best described as the story of closed shutters, as most of the bazaars were yet to open, but these closed doors has a story to tell about the times they have seen and the people they meet everyday.
We started at Laad bazaar and there was precisely one shop open and we actually asked the owner why is he open so early in the day and figured out that it was a day he decided to clean the shop. As we moved out from this famous bazaar crossing the gate that used to fence the parade grounds of Chowmahalla palace once to reach Mehboob chowk, we read boards of bookshops with names like Hindustan Kitab Ghar, a Kalaighar that polishes brass utensils, Unani medicine shops that promise relief from all kinds of ailments, a Karchobwala i.e. all kinds of accessories for garments, milk shops called Doodh Ghar, pearl shop called Moti Mahal and flower shops called Gul Mahal. There was a dry cleaner shop called This Evening and a Patang House where you can get kites around the year. An old man was selling a sweet made from ginger that he claimed can take care of any disease related to stomach and went on the tell why he gets out of home in the morning to sell those small medicinal cakes while his kids are earning well. Shining chariots used for marriages along with brass bands were lying low as if taking rest after long working hours. There were a few gorgeous houses that have been very well maintained but they also spoke through their closed windows that morning. Shop shutters, old wooden doors, gateways, arches and some closed doors were the highlight of this walk.
At Mehoboob Chowk, the clock tower stands tall still giving the right time if someone cared to look at it for that. Around Mehboob Chowk exists the wet market selling all kinds of meat though it is called Beef market. Both of us being vegetarians, we skipped this as sooan as we could. We found a key replicator machine at a lock and key shop that displayed locks and numerous keys like pieces of art. Most interesting interaction was with men at the Naan shop who were making the famous fluffy Naans of Hyderabad. A tandoor or oven in the front was being manned by two men, one was putting the Naan shaped dough in the tandoor and the other was taking it out with a long iron road and keeping them in a basket. Behind them were few men putting the kneaded dough in the shape of Naans and passing them to the tandoor team. They told us that each Naan sells for Rs 8/- and is mostly picked from the shop by other restaurant owners or directly by consumers. After breaking ice with this chit chat they fondly told us about the genesis of this Naan and how this is the first things that the Nizam used to have in the morning and how much he loved it, almost feeling nostalgic about it though I wonder if they ever saw the Nizam having it or they just heard it from their elders.
There were 2-3 Hindu Maths with brightly painted doors. They were open probably but did not expect visitors at an early hour. First math that we went inside was called Alakh ka math and a lady showed us around the temple inside while she was still brushing her teeth. I was surprised to read the Kabir Sakhis painted all over the math. Another math we entered was curiously named Udaasin Math and here we could not go inside and the people were still not awake but we discovered a Peepal tree planted in an old colonial era bath tub that had been painted bright orange. I thought it was a great was to re-use broken bathtubs for planting treed indoors. There was a small Hanuman temple at the base of an old tree standing in the middle of the road.
Towards the end we discovered the dargah of Moosa Quadri that appeared freshly painted and well maintained, though I could not gather much about the man who lies here. As women we were not allowed to go inside but they allowed us to click pictures from outside. Combining the Rajasthani and Mughal architecture there were many Chhatris with graves below them, very similar to the ones you find at Paigah tombs. In pale yellow and green with pink outlines and delicate paintings, dargah stood out in the rest of the surroundings.
By the time we finished walking, daily wage workers had started gathering in hope of work, iron boxes were being heated for the day’s job and Idly-Wada shops were selling them fresh out of the steamer and the frying pan. We ate hot wadas while the cook kept adjusting himself and his equipment for the best pose. We ended the walk at Goodwill Café that looked straight out of 1970s when these kinds of cafes were favorite meeting joints.
A very ordinary walk through the living bazaars of the city…