We were going to Hyderabad only for two days. Yet, I was excited as if I were going for a week! This was our second visit to India’s first (or maybe amongst the first) ICT-focussed city. Remember it had earned the moniker cyberabad in early 2000?
We took a night flight from Abu Dhabi International Airport. It was a 4-hour journey but it felt rather short. Vinod explained later that I might have felt so because I had slept for most part of the journey; but it didn’t feel like I had slept for so long!
You know from my earlier post, that day 2 was scheduled to be spent at the Writer’s Carnival. Vinod and I had only one day for ourselves. We had seen Hyderabad in our earlier visit. So, touring wasn’t on our agenda. We had a rough plan in our minds about how to spend day 1. But, first we needed cash in Indian rupees because the notes we had had been declared invalid a few days ago.
So, after we landed at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (I wondered why it was named after RG particularly since he was assassinated near Chennai not Hyderabad), we headed to the foreign exchange counter.
But that was after my sleepy conversation with the immigration officer about where I had landed from! Why should he have asked me that? Wasn’t it clear I was still in dreamland!
At the foreign exchange counter, there was a long queue of Indians (mostly NRIs from the Arabian Gulf) exchanging the permitted amount of dirhams, dinars and riyals for rupees. Foreign exchange centres at airports are known to sell currencies at a rate higher than that in the city but that was their day! We paid a lot more to lay our hands on the new and still not enough widely circulated notes of 500 and 2000. That the staff unofficially tried to rip us off a few more rupees is another sad and shameful story.
With our brand new notes, we could hire a pre-paid taxi and made a smooth ride on the pothole-free roads to Taj Deccan, reaching much earlier than our check-in time. We had at least 6 hours to kill! Where could we begin? Some sleep on the cozy couch in the lobby seemed like the only option. When we woke up, it was time for breakfast.
The buffet had everything I had wished for: soft idlis, crisp dosas, crunchy vadas, vegetable upma and an assortment of interesting chutneys made from beetroot, garlic, peanut and coconut. Vinod had piping hot kaapi too. I finished my course with some fresh fruit juice.
Now, we could have done nothing else but doze off some more. So we upgraded ourselves from the cozy couch in the lobby to the comfortable lounge chair by the swimming pool. We slept under the sun long enough for the spa to open business for the day.
After a scrub and a wrap for me and a scrub and a massage for Vinod in the adjacent Taj Krishna, the hotel was ready to check us in. When we entered our room, we were disappointed because although it was the room we had booked, it wasn’t the view we had wanted. But the spa treatments had calmed us down enough to not raise it with the manager.
So calmed were we that Vinod lied down for a short nap which lasted for three hours. When he woke up, the lunch buffet had closed. Thank god there was an all-day open restaurant. We ordered the city’s most popular dish: the biryani. We shared a vegetable biryani. It was yummy but the gravy was yummier. It was thrillingly hot and perfectly balanced with spices.
That was our second heavy meal that day! We had just taken a nap; we couldn’t have gone back to sleep. So we went to lounge by the pool and then for a stroll in the garden. The air smelt of some local flowers. We even saw a calabash tree bearing… obviously calabashes!
As we strolled further to the other side of the hotel’s grounds, we saw some closely constructed tenements and loosely hanging electricity cables beyond the short wall. To run away from there seemed safe.
Back at the hotel, we enjoyed live guitar and desi Chinese for dinner. We had scored a hat trick with heavy meals that day; a rare happening in the UAE.
Hyderabad has a lot to offer in terms of touristic attractions and shopping; their distinctive ware being the traditional meena work bangles. But a quiet day at the hotel was what we could have enjoyed the most!
Picture of Charminar