Biriyani and beyond

I’ve developed a saying here in India. While greedily eating an indian meal I turn to the H and say “I wonder…will I ever get to the point where I’ll be sick of Indian food?”  I think I might and then I’ll eat a yummy curry and think Naaaaaah, it’ll never happen.

Readers, I very nearly reached that point this week.

We were in Hyderabad for a few days; the City of Pearls. The city of the Qutb Shahi and Nizam dynasties, pearl production and the biriyani. I learnt that Hyderabad is actually in the state of Telangana; a new state which was only formed in 2014, formerly a part of Andhra Pradesh. The H goes to Hyderabad a lot for work, but he’s never seen any of the sights. Like most travelling business men he’ll only see the inside of his hotel and his office. So when a friend said she’d be coming to Hyderabad for work, we made plans to meet up and took the opportunity to have a look around.

We made a schoolboy error in our sightseeing plan by not checking opening times. We wanted to see the Chowmahalla Palace on the Friday, but it’s closed on a Friday…..However, we did see Golconda Fort and the Charminar.

Golconda Fort is perched up above Hyderabad city. Like a lot of historical buildings, each successive resident realising they were onto a prime bit of real estate added their own touches and the fort grew to massive proportions. We spent a good couple of hours walking round the ruins and became a bit of an attraction ourselves.

Indians love a photo. What Indians love more than a selfie is a selfie with a foreigner. There were a lot of surreptitious efforts to get a photo of the H. Some were brave enough to ask and for those that did pluck up the courage, I obliged. The H said I’d probably be all over Facebook in days, tagged as “my foreign girlfriend”!

The same happened at the Ganapati Pandal. This week is Ganesh Chaturthi – the birthday celebrations for Lord Ganesh; the Elephant God. There are purpose built statues of Ganesh which are venerated for several days before being immersed in water. The one we saw in Hyderabad is one of the largest in the country. It takes 4 cranes to move him to Hussain Sagar, the lake in the centre of Hyderabad where he takes his dip. The pandal was heaving but people were still distracted by the sight of two foreigners and there were more photos taken.

After so many selfies I decided to mix things up a bit so I pulled a face and did a thumbs up – “No ma’am, CLARITY!” I was firmly told by the young chap taking the photo…hey ho, no artistic license allowed.

That night we had dinner with our friend which can only be described as an exercise in excess…I think I had a hangover from all the food. In fact I’m instating a food hangover as an actual thing…The biriyani was amazing, as was the lamb, and the tandoori prawns weren’t really necessary but by golly they were good! I woke up feeling rather unwell, proclaiming I would never eat again……or at least not that day. Two poached eggs on toast with several cups of tea for breakfast soon put paid to that nonsense. It was at this point I thought I’d come to the limit of my love for indian food, the thought of anything spicy set my stomach gurgling and heaving in what seemed to be it’s concerted effort to escape. However the Jet Air lounge at Hyderabad airport does lovely vegetable pilau and kadai paneer……what can I say……I have greedy genes. I didn’t eat the food on the plane though, I thought that showed a modicum of self control!

A food hangover in 40 degree heat is not conducive to a pleasurable sightseeing experience. The visit to the Charminar was brief. It’s an elevated mosque with four pillars in the old part of town. It was prayer time and the street was full of worshippers making their way to the huge Makkah Masjid – the imposing mosque up the road. This part of town was my favourite. It was busy busy busy and funnily enough, here we attracted the least attention.

I didn’t know what to expect from Hyderabad and I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed my stay. The Hyderabadi people are really friendly and the city seems normal compared to over the top Mumbai. I certainly need to go back so I can visit the Chowmahallah Palace….but next time I’ll ease off the biriyani.

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