A work trip to Hyderabad! This was special in more ways than one – not only was it going to be my first work trip, but Hyderabad was where I spent all my childhood and is a second home. To make it all the more exciting, FOUR of us were going: the boss Swati Mitra, Nidhi Dhingra, Anupriya Roy, and yours truly.
It was a tricky proposition. Since we were going to photograph and research for our Hyderabad City Guide, I’d have to see Hyderabad in a new light – as a potential travel destination. When you’ve grown up in a city, you regard the most exotic tourist attractions with a sense familiarity and affection. We would trek up Naubat Pahad from school to Birla Mandir, drive past Hussain Sagar, Tank Bund and Osmania University every day to get home and past Public Gardens to go for swimming. Now I was back with camera and note book in hand and a whole lot of newly-learnt history and interesting anecdotes to revisit it all.
Even after numerous school trips to the Golconda Fort and the Qutb Shahi Tombs, it was only in my GK II office in Delhi and while poring over dusty volumes in libraries that I grasped its significance in history. The mighty Qutb Shahi dynasty, whose founder broke himself away from the Bahamani kingdom, ruled from the ingeniously protected Golconda fort from 1518 to 1589. Every time a king died, his body would be carried from the Fort, through the Murda Gate, to the Qutb Shahi Tombs where he would be buried in a splendid tomb.
Our guide took us through the fort bringing it alive for us. We even encountered a film being shot, quite a common sight in the movie crazy Hyderabad.
When we visited the Qutb Shahi Tombs from school, they were always a source of great delight. Always hoping to find the skeletal remains of the royal ones, I was more or less impervious to their architectural beauty. This time, I was wonderstruck at the sheer scale and symmetry of the tombs. Since it was afternoon and there were few visitors, it was a surreal experience – surrounded on all sides by tombs and mosques, it was the 16th century once again.
This trip to Hyderabad included my most memorable sojourns into the old city. One thing I brought back with me from those ancient streets, apart from a strong desire to go back, was bottles of fragrant attar. Who would have thought! Attar, which I always associated with grown ups and the old-fashioned, had Anupriya and me in its spell. We swooned with every tantalising fragrance that was dabbed on our wrists: Sanobar, Fankaar, Gulab, Omar Khayam, Shaheen….
Mr Shailendra Prasad of Hyderabad Perfumers lamented how the interest in attar made of natural ingredients was waning and that most of the affordable attar today was synthetic. He did add there were still some connoisseurs of attar who came all the way from the Arab countries to buy it.
There were places I’d never visited like the Chowmahalla Palace Complex, and some real gems, which I am ashamed to say, I’d never even heard about and which you will have to wait for the Goodearth Hyderabad City Guide to find out about!
If you make your visit to Hyderabad before the book is out (a few more months of travelling, photography, research in libraries are still required), then you can try these: