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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Hyderabad Calling #2 - Travelling

I divide this post in two parts: Modes of transport and.... Roads of transport.

Modes of transport:

I proudly say that I took almost every mode of transport that people use in Hyderabad.

Hyderabad has autorickshaws (called 'autos' or 'aatoo' in the Hyderabadi accent), most of which have dysfunctional meters. If you are looking around with a confused expression, the rate quoted would often be twice the actual amount. The difference between the Mumbai autowallahs and the Hyderabad autowallahs is prominent. While a Mumbai autowallah runs only according to a meter (which are allegedly tampered.) the Hyderabadi autowallah prefers a muh-bola daam. Secondly, if you tell a Mumbai autowallah that you do not have change, he will look at you with contempt that will match only a raging bull's anger for the red colour. Ditto if you ask him to come to Irla from Andheri station they look at you as if you asked them to take you to the centre of Arabian sea. The Hyderabadi autowallah pleads and is apologetic if he cannot take you to the place you want to go to.

By the way, I sat in a share autorickshaw (meant for three people) with eight people excluding the driver with glaring Emran Hashmi songs playing! I stared at the rear-view mirror without saying anything. Quite a first for me. One pays half-return fare after 8.30 pm which took me by surprise.

There are these larger autorickshaws too which people generally use for larger distances. They would ideally accommodate ten people excluding the driver. Here too, the people actually travelling were more than the capacity. Not a very good thing to be doing.. but the drivers want to make as much money as they can - so they stop every three minutes and shout out the name of the place they are going to.

There are many rental car services that have come up in Hyderabad these days - Green car, Meru and others. They are pretty good - reliable, give you a receipt and comfortably point-to-point. One can get self-driven cars or chauffeur-driven cars for a day-long tour. That's what I did. I did not go for a 'well-known' company - but just a contact that I found on the sulekha website. The person was polite, terribly impunctual (turned up 40 minutes late on both the days) but decently safe.

Roads in Hyderabad:

The Charminar area - Laad bazaar is extremely crowded and the best way to tread these streets would be on foot. The shops are small but have an amazing variety of stuff on offer.

I observed that the speed brakers on Hyderabad roads are unusually small and high. So, if you don't wait, you are sure to feeel a bump in your bump.. oops, bum. That explains why almost all vehicles that I travelled in almost came to a halt two inches before the speed braker - as if the speed braker was a speed stopper.

The Hussain sagar road is like Talaopali of Thane on a larger scale and a Bandstand on a much smaller scale. A good place, though.

At the end, I would like to mention a funny sign that I saw on a long Hyderabad road - with a high divider separating the lanes of the street going in either directions. The sign had a 'u-turn' sign saying 'Hitech city' - as in, "If you are taking this road to Hitech city", you are going in the opposite direction dude!" And if you try to take a U-turn rectifying your mistake, there is not place to take a U-turn until fifteen minutes later. Funny indeed.

Hyderabad Calling #1 - Food

I am sorry if this post makes you feel that all I have done in Hyderabad is to eat and that the work I was there for took the backseat. But I simply love food and can't stop raving about the food I had there. The mention of Hyderabad reminds one of the non-vegetarian delicacies on offer. Things weren't very different with me.

The first Hyderabadi thing I had was the samosa there. Drenched in oil, the samosa isn't pyramid-shaped like its Punjabi brother. It is flat like its Gujarati brother. The filling is, however, different from both of them. It had carrots and ... perhaps some other freshly cut and cooked vegetables - so it wasn't dry or stale. It was soft, wet and fresh to taste. I could easily forgive the oil for the taste of the samosa.

The first two days at Hyderabad, I had my lunch and dinner at Dominos and subway - making my friends pull their hair in rage: "Tu udhar jaake bhi wahi sab khayega kya?!!" While I had already decided that I would try Hyderabadi food on the last day, I thought I should start from then itself.

The name synonymous with Hyderabadi cuisine is biryani. The portions of biryani are large and certainly sufficient for two people. There are multiple versions of biryani that you see. There is a vegetarian version for the veggies, an egg version with two boiled eggs on the top of the biryani, a chicken/mutton version and finally, a mixed version which has chicken/mutton/egg. These are cooked layered with rice above it.

I had the mixed version last night - and I seriously think I do not want to eat anything today. And before you think that I am diarrhoeic, let me tell you that I am not. It was yummy but filling. Biryanis at restaurants are served with 'mirch ka salan' - which on the first look, looks like the good old Maharashtrian amti. But it is different. Mirch ka salan is thicker and has groundnut powder base in its gravy. The salan often contains a thick chilli - which you can pick up and eat easily - the chilli tastes like a mixture of tamarind sour and slight mirchi pungent. The prawns starters that I had had an interesting accompaniment consisting of chilli flakes and some green herbs.

Dosas. Dosa is what South India has given the world. Dosas are very popular in different parts of the country. So, how is the dosa of Hyderabad different from the rest of the country? Not very different - just a bit more sour than what I would eat at a Ghatkopar Udipi restaurant. What easily took the cake was the sambar and the chutney jiska taste maine sapne mein bhi nahi socha tha. The sambar was thinner than what we get in Mumbai but a tasty mixture of sweet, sour and pungent.

I also happened to taste some Hyderabadi sweet dishes whose names I do not remember. The one I liked the most was a seviyan kheer-cum-basundi which was nice pistachio green in colour. It was thin-but-not-too-thin. It was thick-but-not-too-thick.

If there is anything I have grown up on apart from Cerelac and cough medicines, it is papad. The papads in Hyderabad have a different taste - I did not like them too much. Did not suit my Mumbai taste-buds, perhaps.

Another aamti-like gravy that I tasted in Hyderabad had a rather funny name - Tomato pappu. The bad part is that it was quite ordinary - nothing mentionable apart from the name.

So, my observations about Hyderabadi food: Hyderabadi food has been adapted by restaurants throughout the country. But the authentic Hyderabadi food has the style which the Nawabi palaces of Hyderabad have too. Noticeably, the people from the country who have adopted and adapted Hyderabadi cuisine have not been able to match the standard with the accompaniments that they provide in Hyderabad - the sambar, the mirch ka salan, etc.

It was quite interesting overall - loved it!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hyderabad calling #0

Note : Random rambling

I get to know that I have to attend a conference in Hyderabad in December. I am super-excited. In the super-excitement I book the flight tickets for my return journey.

So on 17th November at around 12 in the afternoon, my phone sounds and I see a sms from the airline. I am sitting in a chair in Mumbai and the airline talks about flying me back from Hyderabad to Mumbai at 3.30pm that day. While some of my friends suggested I run to Hyderabad to manage to get that flight or book another flight to Hyderabad so that I can vasoolofy the return ticket, I realize that I have booked the tickets for a day one month before the scheduled date.

The second problem comes in the form of Telangana disputes going on in Hyderabad nearly five days before my scheduled trip. Once again, I doubt if I will be able to go to Hyderabad or not. I secretly pray that the leader ends his fast so that the condition in Hyderabad calms down and I get to go there. Luckily, things fall in place. The fast breaks with a breakfast (\cite { Sagar Murugkar } ) and I heave a sigh of relief which, I am sure, is louder than the PM's sigh.

So finally, I WILL be attending the conference in Hyderabad. I am not going unarmed though. I have asked a Telugu-speaking friend for the translation of "Bachaao, bachaao.. Mat maaro mujhe... main student hoon" - you know, in case it is required in an emergency situation.

So.. that's it. I will post my 'travelogue' from Hyderabad on my blog with some pictures. Watch the space...

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Paa - Movie Review

Note: Has a read-along clip like all the blogposts. Original, like all of them.

I liked many things about the movie - I disliked some. The many things that I liked have already been mentioned in the newspaper reviews. So, even if this review sounds very negative, I haven't disliked the movie as much as I make it sound in this review.

Cutting a long story short, Amitabh Bachhan has delivered a memorable performance in Paa. He is very endearing. Jaya Bachhan at the beginning is a good surprise. Though I really didn't understand why she was sharmaoing with the lihaaz of a naveli dulhan ('newly-wed' for my English medium reader friends) when she was taking names of the team members of the film. Vidya Balan also stands out as the mother. She is amazing in some scenes. The actor who plays the grandmother is very good too.

When I heard the songs for the first time, I thought the "mudi-udi-judi-kudi" series of songs were quite irritating. After watching the movie, the songs sound quite good and they are the kind of songs which you start liking after you have seen them in the context of the film. Paresh Rawal, I really did not quite notice him at all.

The first fifteen minutes are gripping - extremely entertaining. The speed drops towards the end and the climax is very predictable because it comes directly from Kal ho naa ho/Anand or many Ekta Kapoor serials. Overall, the movie is entertaining in parts.

Some dialogues that one will remember come from Auro - the ones like 'kisi ke personal emails nahi padhte...' or the dialogues between Auro and his friend Vishnu. Quite endearing. Some dialogues are outrageously funny. Btw, I thought people needed to be above 18 years of age to have an email address. Auro chats and shares his webcam on the internet - parental discretion ko pack karke maale pe rakh diya kya?

I have one question regarding the movie. Would the 'performance' and the film receive the attention it has had Auro not been a person battling progeria? Because according to me, the movie and its story would not have been any different if Auro had been a patient of some 'conventional' life threatening disease. So, do the story-makers bring in the progeria angle just to gain sympathy/attract attention because of the uniqueness? If it is either, I think it is not a very good thing to have done.

And it would not be a very good thing to happen if filmmakers keep unearthing newer/rarer physical/mental ailments just to repeat the (Bhansali's) Black-like charm.

Apart from this, I don't have any concerns about the movie. It may make a one-time good watch.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Aamhi secular jhaalot - We are secular now

Dedicated to a friend Priyanka Kulkarni who encouraged me to write a post in Marathi.
This one is among my very few attempts in Marathi. I do not belong to any political party, by the way.

I have also put stanza-wise English translation. But a poem is best read in the language it is written in.

शिवाजी महाराजांनी अफझल'खाना'चा वध केला
हे आता इतिहासाच्या पुस्तकात म्हणता येत नाही,
कारण.. आम्ही secular झालोत...
( We cannot say in history books now,
that Shivaji Maharaj killed Afzal'Khan'..
Because, we are secular now.. )

आम्ही भेद मानत नाही.. पण विसरून जातो..
की भेद ना 'मानण्या'तच भेदाच्या अस्तित्वाची स्वीकृती असते..
कारण.. आम्ही secular झालोत...
( We don't consider differences but forget,
That by not 'considering' differences, we are accepting their existence.
Because, we are secular now...)

मरणारा शेतकरी पाहून कंटाळून गेलोय...
राजपुत्राला cycle वरुन जाताना पाहण्यात दंग आहोत आम्ही....
कारण.. आम्ही secular झालोत...

(We are bored to see the dying farmer,
We are busy watching our prince riding a cycle.
Because, we are secular now..)

सूत-पुत्राला बाण मारण्यापासून रोखले गेले असेलही एकेकाळी..
आता आमच्या मुलांची हक्काची आयुधे हिसकावून घेतली जाऊ देतोय आम्ही..
कारण.. आम्ही secular झालोत...

(People may have stopped Soot-putra from shooting an arrow..
But now we are OK with people snatching away the arms that our children deserve,
Because, we are secular now..)

मूर्त्या आणि हाइवे-वरची होरडिंग्स पाहून आम्हाला फारसे काही वाटत नाही.
आम्हीही झुकून कुर्निसात्त करतो, तो हक्क आहे त्या परिवारचा
कारण.. आम्ही secular झालोत...

(Statues and hoardings on highway, we are fine with them,
We also bow in front of them, that family has that right on us..
Because, we are secular now)

आम्ही secular झालोत...
आम्ही फरक मानत नाही.
कारण तो फरक आता आम्हाला दिसतच नाही..
कारण.. आम्ही secular झालोत...
नव्हे, आम्ही aandhale झालोत..

(We are secular now,
We don't consider ourselves different,
Because we don't see the differences at all..
We are secular now,
Or perhaps, we are blind now.)