It’s half past two in the night and the precincts of Charminar are as alive as they are at noon. Women and children cutting across cultural and social boundaries move around the markets picking up the best of the merchandise on sale.The ear-piercing screams of the shopkeepers invigorate the atmosphere as salesmen at push carts and the glittery showrooms try to ‘hijack’ the visitors and direct them to their stores.
Thanks to the month of Ramzan, there is an exotic charm to the historic stretch from Pathergatti to Charminar and beyond. The area is bustling with activity round the clock with the shopping reaching its crescendo as there are just a few more days left for the Eid-ul-Fitr festival that caps the fasting month of Ramzan. “The two-kilometre stretch hardly sleeps in the run-up to the festival. On an average, around two lakh people visit the markets between Madina building and Shahalibanda every day in the last five days of Ramzan,” says Pathergatti GHMC corporator Sohail Quadri.
The huge crowd that descends on the market in the evenings tries to make the most of the opportunity by hanging around till early morning. Apparel, footwear, women’s accessories, men’s traditional or ethnic wear, children’s wear, curtains, bangles, crockery, belts, bags, wallets, skull caps, fennel and street food are all lined up.
Esha Hindocha, a fashion blogger, who regularly visits the Night Bazaar during Ramzan, says: “I love the street food there for my midnight cravings, and I love shopping at Laad Bazaar. There’s a unique charm to the night market.” She further adds: “I don’t buy jewellery online because the quality and shine is very hard to determine while picking online.”
Samrya Ruheen, a homemaker from Tolichowki, says Ramzan shopping is incomplete without a visit to the historic markets of the Old City. “At least to buy henna and bangles, we have to visit Charminar. Else, the festival is dull,” she points out.
According to historian Mohammed Safiullah, the trend of Ramzan Bazaar is very old to the city. In fact, the stretch between Madina building and Charminar including the Pathergatti building and Laad Bazaar markets had existed for close to a century.“The Pathergatti stretch has always been a commercial stretch and a crowd puller since the Nizam’s era. After the 1950s, people from across Karnataka and Maharashtra visit the place for shopping irrespective of the markets flourishing across these States,” he explains.
Shops selling traditional apparels, footwear, bangles and other accessories are an age-old concept. The new entrants are the street food kiosks making their way into the market, of late. If Haleem is considered the season’s flavour, then, you have other small eateries selling mouth-watering stuff like Patharka Ghost, PotliKa Korma, Kebabs, Chakna – Naan, KheemaParata, and Dahi Wada, apart from Dosa, andIdly in different avatars.
“The food is available at other places. But, standing in the middle of the crowd and eating is a totally different experience. You have to ensure your safety and see the food does not fall off the plate. It is almost like the experience of a village fair,” said S Shiva Kumar, a graphic designer who visits the Old City at this time every year.
Most of the stuff sold on the push carts is picked up by the shoppers. “Push carts constitute 65 per cent of total business outlets in the Charminar area. The goods are priced cheaper and affordable. People pick up small articles meant for women, including imitation jewellery, from the push carts available at a cheaper rate. In fact, the vendors are open to bargaining,” explains UmzaJabeen of Banjara Hills.
A bunch of plush stores
The old city is becoming old only in the name. Everything else is getting new, including the shops. The trend over the last few years has been for popular major stores to first open shop in the Old City and, then, set up an outlet or two in newer parts of the city.
Several plush stores have come up at Khilwat Road near Charminar, GulzarHouz and the Madina building road and are spread over at least 2,000 square feet of area. The stores offer ethnic womenswear, besides apparel for men and kids.
To name a few, Karishma – the wedding mall, Nazakath – the women’s world, Kayenat, Kakaji, Jahanpanah, Kashish and other prominent stores have come up offering designer dresses. The trend started after the business community felt that the public were looking forward to something new.
“A place where there is adequate place to shop around and is not congested is ideal. Many traders went in for a revamp of their stores, especially on the Pathergatti market stretch. Later, new commercial shops began opening up on a big scale,” points out Ateeq Ahmed, a member of Old City Traders Association.
The showrooms are attracting people from various parts of the city for their collections, especially those selling traditional Muslim wedding collections. These entities have also set up branches in areas like Tolichowki, Abids and Ameerpet.
Ample arrangements for parking
The City Traffic Police have made arrangements for free parking of vehicles for visitors to the Charminar Night Bazaar. The traffic police have earmarked adequate spaces at Quli Qutb Shah Stadium near the High Court, Khilwat Playground and Moti Galli Old Pension Payment Office near Chowmahalla Palace and Charminar Bus Stand.
Those coming from Chaderghat can park their vehicles at Alijah Kotla Road Mufeedul Anam school grounds. The police have posted adequate women police officers, and men officers drawn from crime teams and law/order police stations. Apart from this, anti-sabotage checks are conducted every few hours on the stretch and shopkeepers and vendors are advised to keep a watch on suspects and unattended bags and other belongings. Senior police officials are monitoring the happenings from the control room set up at the Charminar ACP office.