HYDERABAD: There is more to Hyderabad than Bombay Bakery.
Yes, its coffee cake is legendary but the city also has a katcha qila, pakka qila, the Ali Qadam, Rani Bagh, Sindh Museum and beautiful buildings from the British Raj.
There was a time before Partition, when Hyderabad was known as the Paris of Sindh. Now it is the second largest city in the province. The two-and-a-half hour drive from Karachi to Hyderabad can be pretty hectic – most people behind the wheel start suffering from a severe case of road rage which usually lands them in a ditch or nasty hit-and-run.
Salvation, however, can be found in a trip to Rani Bagh, Resham Gali, Shahi Bazaar or Thandi Sarak.
The bagh which was initially a zoo named after Queen Victoria, is unkempt today but attracts a large crowd in the evenings. The people of the city are rather proud of the fact that they have managed to maintain a snippet from the Raj. A man who wished to remain anonymous said that unlike Karachi’ites, Hyderabadis had ensured their culture and history would be remembered by making it an inseparable part of daily life.
The Hyderabadi love for language, literature and nationalism is hard to miss because of the red flags fluttering everywhere, posters of Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz’s late leader Bashir Qureshi, Sindh Taraqi Pasand Party’s Dr Qadir Magsi. They are plastered on walls, doors, or anywhere a hand can reach. There are occasional portraits of members from the Bhutto family or Pir Pagara and his brother under bridges and near toll plazas.
At the Sindh Museum, which is situated right next to the Sindhi Language Authority office, there is a large, life-sized Sindhi topi which is kept there all year round. Inside the museum, they have clay models depicting the Indus Valley and Harappa civilisations, a huge jhoola and lots of Ajrak.
The Sindhi Language Authority, which is part of the Sindh culture department, is an interesting building. From the outside it looks like any other government building, but once you step inside it’s different. With a mangoes and mulberries growing in the small courtyard covered with blue lattice work and Hala tiles, it is quite a sight. There is also a small bookstore at the office which has everything and anything Sindhi – from histories and dictionaries penned by the British to numerous collections of Sheikh Ayaz’s poetry.
The centre of the city, also known as Saddar, has a lot of narrow lanes, old buildings and government offices. If you want to burn your pockets shopping, then residents suggest you go to Resham Gali and Shahi Bazaar. They claim that you can find anything here, from the traditional soosi and Ajrak kapra to the finest silks and cottons.
Also a must-see in Hyderabad are the bangle factories. With rows of colourful bangles behind him, a man in Resham Gali said that they were the largest producers of glass bangles in the world.
As the weather of the city is rather humid and hot, residents believe that it is best to walk around Thandi Sarak to cool down and have a snack. The street got its name after the trees planted alongside the road grew so tall that their shade covered the entire street.
If someone tells you to go and be institutionalised, in Hyderabad, they probably think you should go to Giddu Bandar – one of the biggest mental asylums in the country. It is an imposing institution which covers an entire block and separates those inside with people from the outside by white walls.
If you haven’t already been to Hyderabad, you should. If not for the museum and bangles, then you should go for fresh Bombay Bakery cakes which are available every three hours. Just be prepared to fight down the couple of 100 people who are already in line.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2012.