I recalled a faint memory of a man trying out different perfumes in a market of one of the Indian towns. The man was on TV. I don’t remember the channel, may be Discovery or National Geographic. The city was Hyderabad.
Years later, when I got a chance to visit Hyderabad, I made sure I didn’t miss discovering the unique aromas of the city.
Travelling in the old city of Hyderabad is not an easy task for a person foreign to the mechanics of the city. Firstly, the streets and alleys are no short of a maze. Secondly, transport is snail slow. Trains are not reliable, buses are hard to navigate for a newcomer and traffic jams are so real.
We were staying in the outskirts of Hyderabad and Uber was our only chance to get to the heart of the city on time. After hopping around Charminar, Mecca Masjid and Chowmahalla Palace, we were ready to take on the intense shopping experience in one of the oldest Asian cities!
Guided by Google Maps, we found ourselves walking on a broad street. The billboards on the shops read ‘Laad Bazaar’. Basically, Laad Bazaar is the surrounding area of Charminar. Men in white pyjamas and women clad in burqa were all around. Hands down this area is the shopping Mecca of Hyderabad.
We know Hyderabad is famous for pearls, but that’s not what we were planning to buy. On our radar were the colourful jingling bangles. The bangles of Laad Bazaar are popular and the bright colours make them camera friendly.
We were scrutinising the shops with our eyes and trying our best to ignore the ambitious invites from the shopkeepers, calling at us from the doors of their shops. My (Tania) eye-blindingly orange salwar suit and the dangling camera made me an obvious “tourist”. The husband could have blended in with the crowd had I not been by his side.
We chose a random bangle alley. I (Tania) sifted through the never ending rows and columns of bangles on show. The cheerful shopkeepers, Osman Patil and Mohammad Hauz gladly posed for a photo. This is what we loved about Hyderabad. Initially, the people may appear to be grim, but once you start talking, you realise they are incredibly friendly and welcoming.
From them we got to know that the bangles are made somewhere near Agra in Uttar Pradesh but the largest market of the bangles is Laad Bazaar. In this market, the bangles are generally made of either metal or glass. The costs of the bangles vary depending on the quality, but the starting price for a dozen is INR 30. I (Tania) gladly bought two dozens of bright red and yellow clinking glass jewellery for myself and a friend.
While leaving the alley, a young lad continuously requested me to click a photo of the “old man”. Initially, I couldn’t believe all this was being said with nothing but pure friendliness. Such is the warmth of Hyderabad.
The old man was disinterested but he posed anyways. His powerful face and eyes is any photographer’s dream.
We were walking through a beautiful chaos of carpets, colourful Indian ethnic wear, jewelleries, spices and vendors selling a variety of accessories at dirt cheap price on carts.
As we left Laad Bazaar and continued walking towards Patthargatti in search of ‘attar’- a type of perfume made by the indigenous population, we noticed a change. ‘Tourist’ oriented shops got replaced by grocery shops. The ambitious invitations to visit the shops stopped. For the first time in our lives, we saw shops selling dried fish.
We reached a dirty cobblestoned lane where goats freely roamed around and ate remains of fruits and vegetables. The smell of rot hung heavy over the area. We assume this place comes to life at a certain time of the day when the vegetable, fish and meat sellers gather to do business. An arch, probably standing there from the time of the Mughals, stood as the gateway to another alley.
This place was Mir Alam Mandi. We soon reached Pathargatti as recorded by our Google Maps. If I am to believe Google, there is almost no difference between the two! With headquarters in Hyderabad, it would be a shame if Google Maps shows wrong information in the city.
Mohammad Naseeruddin of Al-Saba perfumers is the fourth generation of his family. His shop specialises in attar and incense. He applied small bouts of the different scents that his shop displays on little parts of our hands. Our sweat laden body was soon covered in the fragrance of rajnigandha (tuberose), sandalwood and many other aromas which we failed to identify.
We purchased the smallest possible quantity of the sandalwood attar as a memento of Hyderabad. Mr. Naseeruddin poured the attar in a vial and handed it to us.
The vial has found a royal place in our humble home. We don’t use it in fear of it getting exhausted. We don’t move it around for the fear that it may break. The vial is representative of Hyderabad and the wonderful time we spent in the city. We can’t wait to return!
Did you like my article? Have you been to Hyderabad? Have you ever been obsessed with any memento that you bought? Comment below and let me know your thoughts!
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