True blue Hyderabadis would complain that Hyderabad today is without ‘Hyderabadiyat’. It is turning out to be something like an oven-cooked Biryani served with packaged, ready to serve mirchi ka salan. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the difference. But if you do, it is sacrilegious.
Hyderabad today does not look, feel or sound like Hyderabad. And I am not referring to the call-centre accents alone, nor to the metal or glass architecture that seems to be changing the character of the city.
Recreation for Hyderabadis meant different things, not just lounging at a bar alone.
Possessions meant that a Bentley or a Jaguar was just another in the fleet of cars in your portico and not something that you flaunt.Specially tailored John Burton suits from England were brought because he knew how to make suits with perfect cut for each of his esteemed clients including the Prince of Berar. Shikaar (Hunting) was a favourite pastime on any of the seven days of the week. Men played polo to work out, not just themselves but their horses as well, and women dressed specially in their chiffons and pearls to watch them which added raunaq between the chukkers.
Eid was not just a Muslim festival or Diwali for Hindus alone. Pure ittar was considered more discerning than branded colognes. Servant quarters in palatial havelis more spacious than today’s upmarket condominiums.
Guests coming home for dinner meant an effortless, home cooked seven-course chowki dinner. Or at least an elaborate high tea at your naturally manicured lawns. Thin laced sheer pardahs in ‘Ladies cars’ added to their grace and poise. Sathladaas and Jadaavi Lachcha (the seven string pearl necklace) inevitable pieces of jewellery in their dainty vanity box.
Shopping for them was when car loads of stuff was sent home by the sellers for detailed days-long ‘selection’.
I remember, as a toddler my two siblings and I used to play in the mehfil khana, a music pavilion with seven arches on four sides of a huge open well, at the Ahmed Bagh Palace where we were born.
Live performances could never be staged today in more authentic settings.
Times changed and one would use shikaar ke machaan as just hunting trophies, polo mallets as mere wall hangings and riding breeches reduced to your ad films costumes and props room.
The kimkhaab sherwanis as permanent fixtures in one’s wardrobes. The tandoor by the lawns a symbolic barbecue party relic like those lotus shaped ponds with huge fountains.
Dastaars and roomi topis let only for formal dress parties. Grandmom’s saalgirah rings knotted in pure resham, a distant memory along with her silver paandaans.