Monday, August 2, 2010

Charminar

Today we made the inevitable trip to that dangerous area of Hyderabad (in my perspective), Charminar! It means “Mosque of the four minarets”. It was built by the 5th ruler Mohammad Quli Qutb Shah of the Qutb Shah i dynasty in 1591. The picture that comes to anybody's mind, when Hyderabad is mentioned is, of Charminar.

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The famous Laad Bazaar or Choodi Market, is located on one of the four main roads that branches out of Charminar. I had wanted to show this monument structure to my kids.

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I can still remember our experience of visiting the area during our previous visit to Hyderabad, 2 years ago .  It was the time of Ramadan, a Muslim festival. The streets which is usually crowded in Charminar is super crowded during the month of Ramadan. The driver had warned us, saying that it may not be safe to take the kids along. Burkha is a common dress here, a black veil dress that a Muslim women wears to cover herself from head to toe, except showing her eyes or face, if she so wishes.

The kids were very curious about this dressing style and had many questions for me on it. "why are they hiding?" "Why are they dressed like this?", "won't they get hot?", ... Disregarding the driver's warning, we had all set out to see the four minarets. It had been a long time that I had been to the place myself.  The place where this is located is called the Old city now.

We had set out during late afternoon, and as soon as our vehicle approached Charminar, I started to shout in excitement telling my kids to watch it. They didn’t see anything great about an old tower. Anyway, we got off at this monument, the lane to the right side of the monument leads to Laad Bazaar. This is the bazaar, that sells the famous stone bangles of Hyderabad and Mehendi. One has to walk this lane and you will find people calling you to their store from everywhere. We went into some of the stores and then, I was looking at stuff from another store while my mom was keeping an eye on the kids. 

Suddenly, I felt the crowd increase around me at the roadside box shop. I remember, I was surrounded by at least 4-5 burkha clad ladies. I was busy looking at the embroidery stuff and had felt tugs on my big tote bag. I had thought my kids are pulling on it and had asked them to stop doing it without even looking back. After a while when I turned, I saw the tote bag on my shoulder, open and things hanging from inside it, like my i Pod wire and some receipts, I looked inside and found my purse missing. I still couldn’t believe. I thought maybe the kids were playing a trick on me.

But, this was really happening to me. Some thug had flicked my purse. When I realized that it was indeed missing.  That's when I really looked around. I found all the burkha crowd around me were gone. I ran this way and that, trying to figure out who was standing beside me, but, with all the burkhas,  I wouldn’t have known even if that person was right beside me. The person who must have flicked my purse would have conveniently hid it inside her/his burkha and slipped away. We ran to the nearest police station. They told me that this bazaar doesn’t come in their jurisdiction.

They took me to another police station somewhere inside the lanes there. Scary! Charminar, in general is a very communally charged sensitive area of Hyderabad. Only the locals feel comfortable being there. It had been a very difficult night for my mom and me and the kids. She had managed the 4 kids during this ordeal.  The kids had lost their patience too and wanted to be home. When I had finished the police report, it was 9pm in the night. I had been robbed of more than $3000 in cash and jewelery most of which had been priceless to me. My wedding ring and some more jewelry was in there that I had removed during a visit to a beauty salon that morning. My credit cards and all my identity were lost.  I felt so horrible.  But, I was happy that my kids were safe. We had come back home that night and I had wept. Then we started to analyze the situation that had led to all this. It made us shiver at the thought of how in the world we had taken the kids and driven into an area that was so full of thugs. We were a total give away to these thugs. We were announcing around to everybody to come and steal from us. The kids spoke only English and were clearly identified as from out of town…

After that incident, I never had wanted to go there. But, again the need arose. We have been looking for a tailor who could stitch a few Katha k costumes for my kids. Katha k is a north Indian classical dance form. It consists of a lot of footwork tapping and pirouettes. This form of classical dance has been influenced a lot by the Mogul rule in India. And so was the costume. There are 2 ways of dressing a Katha k dancer. Either in the traditional Ghaghara Choli or the Mujra dress(Its also identified as the anarkali dress or Umrao Jaan dress) which was worn by the courtesans of the Mogul courts. Since we wanted the Mujra pattern for the dress, who better to stitch it, than the tailors of Charminar. 

Today, since the kids were having a sleepover with their cousins, my Mom and myself set out to find that tailor in Charminar. We made sure that we were carrying just enough cash and no jewelry with us. We were there in time for the stores to open. Found a tailor who wanted to stitch the dress for us. All the time, we were holding my tote bag to our chests, like our lives depended on it. Did a little bit of window shopping. On the way back, we drove to my Sil’s and picked up my kids, only to find that my little one running a fever. Even the triplets, didn’t look so happy. Once home and settled, Richa recovered, and the triplets too. So, did my mom and myself. It was such a happy feeling to have the kids back home and the kids were happy to be home again.

It is so funny when it comes to sleepovers, they love it, they want it, but, cannot enjoy it, as they start to miss their home and their parents.

P.S. The 2 pictures in this blog of Charminar and Laad bazaar are not mine. I have taken it from the internet. Haven’t had the guts to take my camera along with me to click some pictures there. Once I am able to get that strength, I will post my own pics of this beautiful historical place.
There are beautiful travel blogs on Charminar posted on the web with a link to one of them here

http://stonesandzones.blogspot.com/2009/11/hyderabad-photo-essay.html

2 comments:

Rajesh said...

Very scary experience. I had been to that place only once and returned back unharmed.

gayatri said...

Hi Rajesh,
I had visited Charminar, as a student, growing up but didn't have any such experiences. But, that one time, I think we were very conspicuous, we didn't seem like locals. Attracted unwanted attention. I had also been so careless to carry so many valuables on me and we were managing 4 kids. I think I was too trusting of the people there. The police office who wrote my report, was talking about another incident that took place a few days before mine, where a Swedish couple/lady (not sure) was robbed of all her cash. Later, I visited the place with my husband (me empty handed) to complete my shopping, that's when I noticed signs posted everywhere asking tourists to beware of pick pockets. There picture that was posted to depict the crime was exactly how my purse was pocketed maybe.