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A Heritage Walk near the Charminar

Last Saturday, I led a heritage walk for a group of bloggers around one of my favourite heritage areas in the whole world – the Charminar area. The walk was put together by RuddBuddy, a peer-to-peer experiential platform that connects you with locals who offer experiences and micro tours. I do heritage walks with them at Charminar, the Qutub Shahi Tombs and Golkonda fort.

The day dawned bright and early, and by the super-early (by my standards) time of 8:30AM, the area was already buzzing with activity. The iconic Nimrah Cafe and Bakery was the meeting point, and Irani chai and the accompanying biscuits were duly ordered and consumed with much enthusiasm.

We were a group of 7: Bloggers Atul Maharaj, Makrand Lowalekar, Sherna Jayaraman, Priyanka Wycliffe, Dhanya Menon along with Bhavana from Ruddbuddy who valiantly wrangled all of us to ensure the walk stayed on track, and of course, me!

We started by exploring the Charminar from the outside (we didn’t have time to go inside – that’s a whole heritage tour all by itself!). As Atul excitedly tweeted, do you know that each side of the charminar is different from the others? It was quite an enjoyable exploration, as we made note of the Qutub Shahi architectural characteristics as well as the origin of the city if Hyderabad. The old wise men of Isfahan would have approved, I daresay!

Then we set off down Lad Bazar, noting the interesting architecture of the bangle shops which hide a dark secret, and made a game out of finding how many of the ancient tiny doors survived. We spotted three of them – every time I return to the street, it is with trepidation on how many of the doors will remain. I dread the day when we are unable to spot any.

We made a quick stop at a naan bakery, where we saw the traditional Hyderabadi breakfast bread – square naans – on sale. The oven was still warm from the morning’s baking, though it had been completed some time ago.

Then we made our way to what I consider the most amusing of our stops – the cross-toothed, cross-eyed earthen tiger that lends its name to the locality. We paid our obeisance to the splendidly kitschy statue by taking a selfie with it – another must-do when you visit the Charminar!

We had worked up quite an appetite by then – so it was only fitting that we made a pit stop at one of the best known eateries in all of Old City – Govind ki Bandi. We gobbled down the mega-buttery delicacies that are his dosas and idlis, made videos of him cramming handfuls of butter into all his creations, chatted with him between shouted orders and learned that he has been doing this for 40 years, and witnessed his not-so-unique wireless, peer-to-peer, voice-based, zero-delay, instant-response comms system. You see, even though most of the magic happens on the bandi in front of your eyes, he has at least one secondary kitchen operating nearby to deep fry the vadas and grind the chutneys. All communications with this secondary kitchen use the ancient but effective comms system of loud yelling. So, when you ultimately end up eating at Govind’s, don’t be alarmed if he suddenly yells loudly – he is merely calling out to the kitchen for more deliciously crunchy vadas, or freshly ground chutney!

Sufficiently victualled, we went on to the really well-hidden tomb of the Deccan Sufi saint, Syedna Shah Sadullah, and the mosque near it. It is a unique tomb in that the top of the memorial, in accordance with the holy man’s wishes that his tomb should be a humble one, is just a pile of sand. Devotees place their hands on the sand and offer silent prayer in the Sufi tradition. It is an oasis of calm and peace in the midst of a bustling business district.

The penultimate stop in our tour was the Gulzar Houz, from where we could see all four arches that make up the Char Kaman. Standing there, we could see the designs of the old architects come to life when they designed and executed the plans for the city of Hyderabad, and we attempted to unravel the mystery of the Charminar.

A brief walk brought us to the Charminar Kaman, the last stop on our tour, where we could see how the local people’s everyday life was inextricably interwoven with the city, and as a result, the heritage of the city was not merely the structures we walked past, but also included the lives and livelihoods of its inhabitants, many of whom have been here for many, many generations.

As we bade our goodbyes, it was a return to my old blogging days for me – when being a blogger actually meant connecting offline with fellow bloggers! We have made plans to keep the collaborations going, but as with everything else, only time will tell if any of that will come to fruition!

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