February 17, 2008

Hyderabadi Biryani

My brother Balaji got married on the 20th of January. So my entire family had been to Hyderabad for the wedding where Renu(my sis-in-law) is originally from.

We left on the 18th night and arrived there on 19th morning..... At the station, we were greeted by Renu's Chittappas(uncles). Transport had been arranged for us to reach the mantap. The address of the hall :

Jain Bhavan
3/5 141/2 - A Eden Bagh
Ram Kote
Hyderabad 1

On the drive, my first impression was that there were very few vehicles in comparison to Bangalore. This was to change on the last day of my visit :)

On arrival at the Kalyana Mantap we saw Ravi firstly :) (There you go Ravi.... Thats for having sent that loooooooong helpful mail ).

A little introduction about Ravi. He is one of Renu's best friends. He is essentially a warm person. He tries to make everyone feel good and special. An entertainer par excellence. Never a dull moment when he is around. I dont know if he ever feels the need to be on the other side and have somebody making him feel at ease. Hmmmm

So where was I before Ravi sidetracked me :)..... Yes, we had arrived at the Mantap. My sister and I had to be with the bride and groom for small ceremonies that we had to perform. So we kept some of the luggage in a room allotted for us and retired to a hotel nearby which was in essential a guest house courtesy daddy dearest.

We arrived dressed in splendor as everyone else. Paid respects to thatha and pati ( grandad and grandmom) . Mom and Dad had started introducing us to people who had seen us from the time we were toddlers, some whom I remembered and others I just could not place despite racking my brains real hard. After all the cursory hi's, hello's and how are you doing - we got together with all cousins as the entire clan was there and started loud conversations amidst all the existing noises.

In all the ordered cacophony I noticed "Jonathan Peter Day", the bridegrooms colleague and friend. He was so fair I was sure that he has been painted or he was a mannequin. Something made me want to know him better.He was looking a little clueless about all the activities but still snapping away to glory on his camera.

I asked Ravi to be introduced to him. We immediately got on like a house on fire and there was great rapport. It was initially strange but we started exchanging thoughts and ideas of our respective cultures and struck a chord there.

I explained to him the meaning and the importance of the extensive chantings that happen in our weddings. He observed that our weddings were noisy and there was happy chaos everywhere. I said that their weddings were very organized, there was also some rehearsal of it a day or two earlier and it was over in half a day.

It was 19th evening by now, and there was the baraat which included lot of dancing and music. This was new in our South Indian custom. But the bride's family were a fun filled lot and wanted laughter and fun, so baraat it was. I am shy when it comes to dancing, so I watched others dance from distance and was clapping and just shaking my shoulders.

My sister and I left the party midway to get dressed for the Reception later in the evening. Jon and Ravi looked dapped in their suits. Since morning we had also been introduced to Renu's side of cousins.Sakshi, Sunny, Srikant, Srinivas and lots others... Yes a lot of "S" names. Everyone was looking smart.

Balaji and Renu looked resplendent in their respective outfits. She in her sea blue saree and he in his suit. I was feeling sorry for them as I realized how much of smiling they had to do and be on their toes all the time. Also in the harsh lights and the photographer constantly asking for poses, its a wonder that they actually turn into grizzly bears :) A wedding is never a time that the bride and groom look back with great joy as they are so exhausted 24/7 and expected to still smile through.... Phew..

That night after the reception, we youngsters had an Antaskshari session till midnight. The bride and groom participated too despite knowing that the next day was the "D Day" and they had to be up early. I guess it was their way of being themselves without any pressure to act a certain way. The singing session was a fun riot all the way what with Tamil, Hindi and even English songs making a foray. And then it was goodmorning Sunday :)

20th - Sunday

Morning was chaos in the hotel. Each one wanted the other to get up first and finish bathing. Dad went in first and realised nobody was even contemplating putting a toe out of the cot. Dad lost his temper and switched off the AC. That had us squealing and scrambling to get into the bathroom. Mom who went for the bath next, came complaining that the water was freezing. Time was running out and so was patience. She managed to drip some water over her and called it a fine bathing experience. My sister went in next and I was meanwhile folding all the clothes and arranging them neatly. Also I kept out the morning outfits and the jewellery. I love arranging, folding and stacking up things neatly. Little bit of a Monica Gellar there but without the eccentricities.

As luck would have it, when I went in, the water was hot just the way I liked it. And I was busy doing a jig inside laughing at their pitiful bathing experiences, when dad said he was going to abandon me if I did not finish soon. Hufffff Parents .... especially when on outings become such tyrants. So the three women- me, my mom and my sister finally got ready and left in an auto to the Mantap. And imagine our plight, we were lost in a new place and there sits my mom like she was a temple deity complete with all gold ornaments and big bindi. Finally after what seemed like 4-5 circular movements on the same old roads we chanced upon the venue.

The traditional garland exchanging ceremony was going to begin.

This is where the bride and the groom are carried by their respective uncles. Woe betide anyone who crosses 60 kgs at maximum and the uncles will have problems ;). So after being lifted up in the air, the bride and the groom are supposed to fling the garland alternatively, please note alternatively and not at the same time else it will become a garland war :). These flung garlands are supposed to land on the others' neck. (Miracles especially when one is precariously sitting on one's shoulder and trying to balance oneself, there comes the additional pressure of having to basket the garland. And I have decided I am gonna start basket ball practice to be good at it later when my turn comes... if it happens the traditional way that is ;)

After this, the bride and the groom are made to sit on a jhoola( long swing) and the feeding session starts -- to make up for all their starved sorry states the previous day. There are some songs sung teasing the bride and the groom in a subtle manner. Each of the singing party competes with the other as to who is the loudest in this department :) . My uncles won it hands down.Then starts the mini function of all the elderly aunties feeding them banana and milk salad and then swinging some rice balls covered with kumkum(vermilion) and manjal(turmeric) and resembling laddoos(a sweet item that looks like mini yellow colored cannons) around them. This is supposedly meant to ward off the evil eye. After the swinging, comes throwing them wherever you can :) This was the fun part as each one took on the others in who would land it the farthest. Bret Lee would have been shamed today.

The wedding muhurtam(good time) finally arrived. I tied the second and third knot as is tradition(being Balaji's sister) around Renu's neck after Balaji had tied the first and Renu was family. There were tears of happiness and loads of congratulations. And lots of confetti in my mouth. I was spluttering a while looking like I had entered from snow land as my hair was covered in little white chunks of "God knew what".

Jon as he called himself was the center of attention of all people as we are a naturally curious community and he had to answer the same questions " How did you find the wedding" , "Are you enjoying" etc etc posed by different people and he answered all of them patiently. And he answered mine too patiently.

The day wore on with people going over to bless the newly married couple while the Vaadyars(the priests) were not letting them go. They were made to repeat one long chant after another amidst all the smoke from the homam( sacred fire or the havan). Watery eyes, kajal streaming down their eyes, it must have been pure agony for them.

On 2oth night

The wedding was over... We youngsters wanted to take a Hyderabad mini trip. After ensuring that luggages had been packed, we went out. And this is the Route Map (thanks to Ravi) in his words with a few modifications here and there :)

We started off in Ramkote and drove directly to NTR Marg via the Telugu Talli flyover from where one could see the Birla Temple all lit up at night...Then we were on NTR Marg which is like the breathing space of the city with Lumbini Gardens and NTR Gardens taking up most of the road. At the end of this road, there is Prasadz IMax which houses the only IMAX #-D theatre this side of the Vindhyas.

We also took a drive on the Necklace Road and caught a glimpse of the ultra popular Eat Street. Then we were back on to the main road....The most notable road between here and HiTech City being the Track....this is an 8 track road, a huge well lit, well maintained road in Jubilee Hills. This is called The Track because of the break neck speeds that people go in on this road. Then we entered HiTech City, saw the campuses of all the multi national giants and stopped near SF(Something Fishy) Durgam Cheruvu (also called Secret Lake).

This was the lake whose name I tried recollecting and made a sorry figure in front of my TL who incidentally is from Hyderabad and there I was stuttering out some unintelligible words that I told him with absolute conviction was Telugu ... Hrmph... and he sat laughing at my inability to remember names as usual.

Ok back about the long drive.......
We sat there for a while and then we had Irani Chai and Osmania Biskut in one of the cafes just before hitting the track again. The Chai I loved, the biscut as Ravi calls it turned all gooey gooey in my mouth and became a paste which I did not enjoy much. Then I was told a small history about the Chai.... That despite it being priced at around Rs.5 a cup, people buy one cup and share it amongst two. Strange history. Then we drove back towards Lakdi ka pul where our hotel was and where my sister was in no mood to finish the trip, so we ended up going towards Mehdipatnam and then the Cavalry Road and then onto Gandipet Lake.

At Gandipet, some of us decided to revive the the Stone Age by climbing the rocks. There was the warning one of us spotted before I could think of putting my little toe in the water "This place has crocodiles" and my bravery was questioned ;)

It was a clear night, with the moon shining brightly. It was calm all around and the lake looked so sanguine. The weather clement, I just removed myself from my immediate surroundings and felt transported to aplace with only the lake . And suddenly I was alone, but unafraid. The vast skies were filled with many stars, some twinkling, some just shining brightly and others shining amidst the shadow of other stars. The moon looked serene and I suddenly felt cold. I came out of the reverie and noticed everyone around me.

It was here that Jonathan asked me, why is it that in India people make mess and expect others to clean up after them. Is it because they think its below their dignity to pick it up? I did not have an answer... All I said was ,If someone thinks they can get away with wrongdoing and don't have a conscience to be harried about, they would do it without any misgivings.

There was lots of silence after that......... And it was time to go home. When my sister and I got dropped back to the hotel, nobody wanted to leave. I met some special people that day and its a bond I hope remains for life. We all exchanged numbers and hugged each other goodnight at 3 am Monday :) :) and went up the hotel to wake my parents and dive into the cot head first.

Alright the title has definitely been misleading :) and if any of you are still looking out for any mention of that Biryani ...... hee hee hee hee I am sorry to disappoint you. I could not think of a better title for my Hyderabad trip so the title came to be hee hee hee.

A night I shall not forget for a long time...............