Hyderabad: Haleem, Sheer Khorma and good friendship. The month of Ramzan used to be a heady mix in my Hyderabad. Visit to the ‘Shoppers paradise’- the night markets all around the historic Charminar, at least one evening with family was a must.
During one of the years, we landed up at my colleague from The Hindu, K Venkateswarlu’s house in Hussaini Alam. We had a wonderful evening of good food and chat with –Warlu, Shivani and the kids in their Green Gates (an ancestral residence).
At The Hindu office, haleem from the Pista House or one of the better one’s in the city was a regular during Ramzan, courtesy our Photographer Mohammed Yousuf; journalist colleagues-J S Ifthekar and Asif Yar Khan. There was also homemade Sheer Khorma and stuff from Asif and Syed Mohammed in more recent years.
For some of us friends a trip to Paradise, Shah Ghouse, Sarvi or Bashirbagh’s Cafe Bahar for Biryani was a must. Sometimes, an evening to the Press Club, Hyderabad, which introduced its own variant of haleem, courtesy, the good cook Yousuf was on the cards.
The 1980s & 1990s:
The best phase of my mingling with friends, greetings, warm hugs and sharing on Ramzan and Bakrid happened just after my college and professional years as a Journalist during 1983-93. Having studied Intermediate in Aliya Jr College and Degree in Nizam College, I had no dearth of Muslim friends.
I recall a typical Eid day, sometime in the late 1980s. I had a particular liking for Sheer Khorma and Biryani. Among my close relatives too, it was known that I enjoyed ‘Semiya Payasam’ (Vermicelli).
So, Ramzan was the fitting time to indulge. One year, I recall it was around 11 am, I started off on my LML Vespa 150 (it was an achievement having one those days as it was an Italian brand competing against Bajaj Scooter), and my first halt was at Imtiaz Mohammed ( my Intermediate friend), who lived in a spacious house near Musheerabad Chowrastha. His father, Sardar Ali Khan (Vice Principal of Nizam College), particularly liked me. After a round of Sheer Khorma and my respects to Sardar saheb, I moved on.
PTI office was in Hyderguda, near the St. Paul’s High School. Since, it was a holiday and little work, an attendance marking exercise was required.After a few calls to check any crime or other developments, I set off to the next destination. My Chief Reporter during those days was Jamaluddin Ali Khan, a soft spoken, ‘Haji’, who efficiently managed the office. There was Kaleem Ur Rehman, a go getter, with lots of contacts (his father, Zia Ur Rehman, was a journalist too).
Just after noon, I landed up at Kaleem’s home in Banjara Hills. Here, a big friend group would descend, Srinath Avula, Kishore (builder), Ravi Surapaneni (Electronics Industry), Srinivas and Gokul Singh, lively Police chaps etc. “We would savour the Sheer Khorma and eatables specially made by Mrs Kaleem and his mother as we exchanged greetings.
Slowly, post lunch, my destination was Red Hills area, where, first I would greet Jamal & family and then to Riaz Arasthu’s house. I found the Arasthu’s father–D Yusuf Hussain, a noted Ophthalmologist, Mrs Arasthu, a well-read lady–particularly warm and caring. In their massive bungalow, tastefully designed and green housed a rich collection of books and stood an Austin 1930 vintage. Time used to just fly. Me and Riaz, would then call on, Imtiaz Quereshi, our Nizam College junior and his father, Yousuf Quereshi Saab, an MLC (who would come to PTI) regularly. It would be a quick rendezvous for several common friends in Red Hills.
It was time to return to PTI around 4.30 pm. Again, a few calls, taking care of the press releases and a round of tea with senior colleagues, Ram Murthy and Seshadri followed. At around 7.30 pm, I made my way to Adarsh Nagar Colony (near Birla Mandir) and the home of noted Psychiatrist of the 1980s, Dr S Majeed Khan.
That year, somehow, Dr Khan Saab, wanted me to come to his place. I had been interacting with him for stories for some time. However, it was not easy to be vocal about going to the home of a Psychiatrist those days. So, I made my way with rather trepidation. The gathering was really one of well known doctors. By the time I exchanged greetings, I was in for a surprise. I met, Ms Khahkashan Khan, my batch-mate in Nizam College. Always knew her father was a doctor, but never thought that it would be the Psychiatrist Majeed Khan. The evening ended up on a very pleasant note indeed.
It was already, an engaging, enjoyable, but a long and challenging day. But, yet another visit was still due. On my Vespa, I drove to Ghasmandi in Secunderabad and to the home of Mustapha Kamal, another of my Nizamian batchmates. His was a large family of brothers (Akbar, now well settled in New Zealand) and sisters. It was a must that I had biryani or their home made food and greeted and chatted up with them.
All these engagements would clearly end my Did around midnight as I made my way home in Musheerabad.
Those were memorable Eids & repeated over many years. There were many and scores of my friends, whom I am unable to mention, but made the days so happy.
In recent years, with social media, WhatsApp, SMS, calls have been slowly replacing meetings and greetings.
But, Eid 2020 has turned out completely unique—sans all the physical visits, the goodies and eats, but to all my good friends and families, the love, warmth and greetings will remain the same.
Somasekhar Mulugu, former Associate Editor & Chief of Bureau of The Hindu BusinessLine, is a well-known political, business and science writer and analyst based in Hyderabad.