Today every city is expanding with leaps and bounds. What was the ‘outskirts’ yesterday is the posh area today? But if you want to know the original culture of any place, you must get to know the original residents of the old city. The walled city area of Hyderabad is where you should head to for the authentic Hyderabadi experience. And while you are there, be ready to encounter the following quintessential Hyderabadi peculiarities:
Hum Aiseich Bolte
It’s a common saying in India that for every four villages the language changes and you notice this nowhere more than in Hyderabad. I must admit, when I first came to the city, I had quite a few laughs at the expense of the Hindi people spoke here. And then one day I realized, I am speaking like them! The population in the old city area is fluent in Dakhhani (literally, the language of the Deccan), a dialect of Urdu, which has been popularized (and somewhat defamed) by legendary comedian Mehmood. Yes, people here do understand your chaste Hindustani and your Lucknowi Urdu but they are quite proud of their own language and will insist on replying in the dialect unique to the city. And if you get worked up about how wrong they are, they will definitely put you at ease by saying, ‘light le le’
The Everyday Nizams
The city has a distinct courtly presence resulting from its period as the capital of the Nizams, which is most evident in the old city. ‘Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,’ said no Hyderabadi ever. Hallu se karte re baba! Is the motto of the city. It is clearly manifest in the shops in the old city area. Don’t expect to finish your shopping before the sun hits noon. In fact, most shops open only by 11 ‘o’ clock. The world’s brunch is breakfast here. So, if someone tells you they will meet you in 10 minutes, rest assured, they must have just gotten out of the bed.
While Hyderabadis, in general, are very fond of food, people from the old city area are especially partial towards the rich food of the nawabs. The Hyderabadi biryani and the haleem made in the traditional dum method in humungous pots and pans is a favourite in the old city area and the preparation made here is indeed unique. Once you taste this, you will understand why the people here cannot live without this fare.
Chai Ki Chuski
If there is something the old city people love more than royal Hyderabadi food, it is tea. Hyderabad is one of the few South Indian cities where tea is more popular than coffee. The old city people are so fond of tea that they can actually drink the beverage even after having a classy 5-course meal; and if the tea is the Irani variety, it is even better.
Shimmer and Shine
This is something that sets apart the old city from the rest of Hyderabad. We all know the laad bazaar of Charminar is famous for the beautiful bangles of glitter and glimmer. When you stay amidst such sparkle, you definitely cannot stay away from it. So you will certainly notice the loads of jewellery that these women wear with their traditional, embroidered clothes. Even the burqas they wear are decorated with beautiful gemstones.
Cover Yourself Up
As the old city areas of almost all metropolitans, the people here are quite conservative in their outlook towards women and their clothing. So if you land up here in shorts or tube tops, be prepared for the stares. Well, people here are just not used to seeing women in such clothes. Didn’t I just tell you what women here dress like?
Every city has its quirks and it is indeed these quirks that give the city its unique personality. So soak in the idiosyncrasies of the great walled city, and maybe make an effort to notice them the next time you are there.