A bar proudly proclaims that it serves chilled beer. You do not need a second invitation. The Sun is scorching. It’s brimming fire. The outside temperature is 43 degrees.
However, inside it’s like being shifted from a frying pan to a sauna. The air-conditioning is not working. “ No power” I am told. I nod understandingly. After all how can anyone run air-conditioners on a generator. The beer arrives. I am willing to forgive. But the moment I take a sip, I feel like throwing it. It’s lukewarm. Again the same response. The young waiter is grinning and unapologetic.
I look first at the Notice behind the waiter. The Notice warns that anyone below 21 shall not be served beer. I then look at the waiter. He’s barely 18. I call the Manager. He simply shrugs. Pressed further if it is legal , He simply grins. I ask him if it’s not legal to serve below 21 years, how can a boy barely 18 serve beer? He quickly diverts the topic.
“Try Chicken Biryani.” I joke with him if it is hot? He grins again and leaves. But the Biryani is as succulent and delicious as promised. The Mirchi ka saalan is to be eaten to be believed. I could walk many miles in that sweltering heat to eat it. Every inconvenience is forgiven as I leave. He invites me to come again in the evening and promises to serve chilled beer then. He is not even embarrassed!
Welcome to Hyderabad where nonchalance is the grammar.
A city is not just bricks and mortar, it has a throbbing heart and a soul. Each city has its own special character. Hyderabad, to me, always seemed like an ageing courtesan, mellowed yet still having enough seduction making me to want visiting again and again.
I am travelling in a cab. This visit is strictly nostalgic. Suddenly I long for a cup of coffee.
The coffee in Hyderabad is excellent. Sai, my Cab driver, looks at me disdainfully. “Why do you drink black? You will never get the true flavour.” He doesn’t understand my explanation. But then he wouldn’t understand a lot of other things too. He is bemused as to why a perfectly well settled man travels thousands of kilometres just to rekindle memories. As far as he is concerned, only today matters. His favourite mantra,
“Yesterday is not worth remembering and tomorrow is not worth worrying.” I nod. He has a point.
A young student had asked me yesterday that why there are so many rapes in the North. “ Don’t you teach your children to respect women?”. It was a very strong and misplaced remark . But he was young and impressionable. I was looking for the right words to explain to him about the complexity of rape and that it is not restricted by geographical boundaries. I gently explained it to him and warned him that it could happen even in his neighborhood. He was all ears and at the end of the conversation smiled and apologised. “ I was wrong. I shouldn’t have said that.” Today morning I received a phone call from him. One auto driver had raped a seven year old in Hyderabad. He was now angry that Hyderabadis had not taken the issue as strongly as the North Indians did. “ We are weak and insensitive.” I just laughed. “ You will have to be more patient in life. You always are quick to jump to conclusions.”
I could feel him smiling at the other end.
Hyderabad is a delightful blend. It is sometimes brazen like the Manager who has no compunction of breaking the law. It lives for the day like the Cab Driver and yet it is caring like the young student who wants to change the society.
It has many surprises. Each year I tell myself this is my farewell visit and yet I find myself coming back again and again.
Hyderabad you never disappoint me.