Quite a few travel reviews paint Hyderabad as a romantic amalgam of bazaars, heritage architecture and Hyderabadi biryani. The same combination is commonly labelled as “old city charm”. While little can be said against the biryani, I have a few thoughts on the portrayal of bazaars in popular media.
The bazaars, one of the cornerstones of the so-called “old city charm”, are largely characterised as bustling and thriving markets full of diverse traders selling exotic wares. After four years of calling Hyderabad home, I set aside a weekend to visit its famous bazaars (‘Moazzam Jahi Market’ and ‘Sultan Bazaar’ to name a few). Needless to say, I was quite excited to finally experience the charm first-hand.
Unfortunately though, upon actually visiting the bazaars, the excitement gave way to a bitter aftertaste. I felt the literary revelling in the bazaar’s “old city charm” was a rather perverse celebration of manifest inequalities.
Firstly, most of the traders are small-scale businessmen, often selling cheap trinkets, clothing, or footwear on street-side stalls. While data relating to their financial condition is unavailable, I would have to take considerable creative license to term the traders as “prosperous and thriving”. In other words, we tend to overlook the plight of these traders in the noise of narratives romanticising the “hustle and bustle” of the marketplace.
Secondly, the bazaar also serves as an indicator of inequality on the demand side. Let us consider the example of the tattoo artists plying their trade on the footpaths of ‘Sultan Bazaar’. Their rusty instruments were possibly cutting edge during the Stone Age. Yet, despite the health hazards, despite the availability of safer (albeit costlier) alternatives, there exists a market for such services. Hence, we can conclude that either the market is unaware of the affiliated risks or is too poor to afford healthier options. Irrespective of the causes, waxing eloquent about the “old city charm” cloaks these realities. It diverts our attention from issues that unquestionably deserve our attention.
Due to the culture of extolling Hyderabad’s traditional charm, we tend to form an exalted, yet inaccurate, perception of the city. It clouds our ability to discern the undercurrents of inequity and neglect that, I feel, lie at the heart of the panegyric.
The parallels with Hyderabad are uncanny. The negative elements that the said article’s author asks readers to overlook are the very elements that I wish to bring to your attention through this piece.
It is not my case that bazaars and street hawkers have to be done away with. They are struggling to make ends meet and I would hardly wish that more hindrances be levied upon them. Rather, it is my case that we need to stop viewing cities and bazaars through rose-tinted glasses. We need to stop calling inequality and hardship a “lively bazaar” or “old city charm”. As long as we get lulled into these adulatory narratives, we might fail to give the requisite concern to the problems behind the artificial glossy veneer.
With the month of Ramzan in its third week, the Old City shopping frenzy is just about to peak and it is certainly the best time for going on a shopping spree in the galis of Charminar.
Braving the notorious
traffic jam and chaos — that becomes the signature of the area during Ramzan with vendors occupying the footpaths — one must head to Laad Bazaar, the historical bangle market in the city. The shine, shimmer and glitter on the bangles here can make the most bling-loving folks ask for more! But if that’s not what your style statement is all about, there are many other options to choose from — the only thing you need to do is scout smart and don’t let the flashy display dissuade you from searching inside.
A walk in the bazaar and you would realise that the market has a lot more to offer than the bling bangles. The latest this season, shopkeepers say, are the Monalisa square bangles. Priced at `150 for a pair, these bangles come in all kinds of bright colours and can be teamed to jazz up a subtle traditional or Indo-Western outfit.
You can’t miss the mitti ki chudis — the classic plain bangles that are available in almost all colours under the sun. If you have some really colourful traditional attire, you can pick a dozen or two to mix-match or even wear one colour. Priced at a modest `30, they go up to `150 for a dozen.
If you are not that much into Indian wear and are looking for something to team up with your Western outfits, the market has loads to offer for that as well. You can choose from a variety of colourful wooden bangles. There’s also a wide range of metal and crystal bangles that add to the chic look.
And, how can pearls go amiss when in Hyderabad, right? Slightly pricey — starting from `200 — than other counterparts, pearl kadas and chudis are a classic that never go out of fashion. Whether you wear a dress to work or a silk sari, there’s a range you can choose from.
And if you are not that much into bangles, standalone bracelets — the broad and colourful ones — are best suited for you. Ranging from `100 to `400, these can be paired well with your party dresses.
Indeed, you won’t run out of choices in the bazaar, but the best part is you can bargain. So, don’t shy away from quoting the price that you think is right and you will most likely get lucky. #HydTravel #hydnews