In any other time of the year, Hyderabad is the City of Pearls, a major IT hub and a highly liveable city. All these tags take a sidewalk when Hyderabad goes into Ramzan gear – that time of the year when the city becomes the hub of shopping streets, night bazaars, food walks, and, most importantly, of haleem adventures.
Muslims and non-Muslims alike, vegetarians and non-vegetarians together, all take to the streets in Ramzan to have a go at the immense spread of dishes that crop up for Ramzan alone. There is haleem being sold in all kinds now – what started as a mutton-pounding delicacy has taken veg, fish, chicken and other avatars.
Food streets and shopping streets merge and become one. Every Ramzan, it is a custom for locals and non-locals alike to take ‘food walks’ in Old City, mainly near Charminar. One has to park their vehicle before Madina building and walk all the way through Pathergatti, click pictures of Charminar, taste Irani and lemon tea, Keema Paav and Samosa chaat, and relish Haleem at Pista House in Shah Ali Banda. This summer, there is no stopping the frenetic sales at Matwale Doodh Ghar, the famous lassi shop near Pista House, and one is always shopping along the way.
City monuments wear a new, brighter look, and hotels and shops are given official nod for running 24/7. They double up in numbers, if not triple up and treble, as Ramzan provides immense short-term business opportunities. Temporary food stalls, clothes shops and artificial jewellery vendors come into a cheerful existence, while the police department ensures there are more cops than ever on the ground. Special SHE teams keep watch at busy places, dressed in mufti to arrest men who misbehave with women.
The city gets much louder too. Festive music in the form of Naath and Hamd, songs in praise of the Prophet and Allah, emanates from most shops in Muslim-majority neighbourhoods, such as Mallepally, where clothes shops and food stalls keep as busy as those in Old City.
Photographers have a great time during the Holy month in the city. All they have to do is go out after Iftar; photo stories wait for them in all parts of the city, in the viral laughter, the sombre Taraweeh prayers, the steaming hot food, and the invincible Hyderabadi spirit of celebration.
A season of specialities
Ramzan brings in new vibes, flavours and aromas to the city. And for once, the food associated with the festival is not restricted to either one part of Hyderabad or to one community. If there’s something that people across all communities look forward to in this holy month, it is the Iftar which promises a tasty treat – and a wide variety of food.
Ramzan time is a treat to every Hyderabadi who wait the whole year for this month. From an abundance of seasonal fruits and dates to those yummy dahi vadas which act as a coolant in scorching summer, to the evergreen Hyderabadi Biryani, and the ubiquitous Haleem – the flavour of the season, there’s something for everyone.
The popularity of this meat dish is such that many visit the city during Ramzan at least once just to savour the Middle Eastern delicacy made of meat and wheat. The original recipe of Haleem contains more wheat than meat, whereas our Haleem has more meat and less wheat. Throw in a few extra spices and a whole lot of clarified butter for that local flavour, and you get a dish that is very unique.
Actor Salman Khan loves Hyderabadi Haleem so much that he sends his team to Pista House every year to get him a few boxes of it. Celebs from our own city too go gaga over the traditional dish.
The process of preparing Haleem is tough and takes more than nine hours to cook. More than 150 goats are used to make one day’s Haleem in Pista House. Mohammad Abdul Mohsi, son of the founder, Pista House, says, “We have vendors who sell us goats from different parts of Telangana. We mince the meat and cook it on a low flame for 8-10 hours adding lots of clarified butter, until the meat is cooked into a thick paste.”
There was a time when only a few joints such as Shadab, Paradise, Shah Ghouse, and Pista House used to serve Haleem here. But today, Haleem stalls are spread across the city. And, at the end of the day, the dish is sold out with hardly any leftovers.
Joining the stalls on the streets are a few restaurants serving various kinds of Haleem for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. SodaBottleOpenerWala brings ‘Gyarah Handi Haleem’ with variants like Persian mixed vegetable, roasted corn, chicken, mutton, prawn, duck, and turkey. Similarly, Vivaha Bhojanambu has five different kinds of Haleem.
— Nikisha Uddagiri
Of piety and charity
Ramzan, a month of piety, fasting, charity and festivity, either comes in chilly winter or in scorching summer. It brings in lots of spirituality, prosperity and joy to both the poor and the rich sections of the society alike.
Once the news of Ramzan’s crescent moon being sighted spread through traditional sirens which have been installed in each and every mosque in the city, the environment in homes, religious and public places has changed.
Scores of Muslims gathered in mosques, which were decorated with lights and paints, to observe Namaz-e-Taraweeh, a special prayer in which Huffaz, those who memorise Quran by heart, recite Quran during the whole month.
Ramzan in Hyderabad not only enhances the religious fervour but also gives a boost to the economic activities in the city – right from the owner of a café, hotel, kirana, and mutton shop to a petty fruit vendor, everyone earns almost double the daily income in this holy month.
Tailors and cloth merchants open their shops round-to-clock to cater to the demand of customers. Many tailors in Old City stitch kurta-pyjama and sherwani which Muslims wear on the Eid-ul-Fitr.
According to Mohammed Maqbool, a store owner in the age-old Shehran Market in Pathergatti, during this month, many youngsters, especially students, have begun to make a decent earning through ‘seasonal petty business or jobs’.
“Leading Haleem sellers hire the services of at least 1,000 youngsters as delivery boys; many youth put up small stalls of fruits, dates and dahi vadas,” he added.
Moulana Anwar Ahmed, assistant professor in Islamic seminary Jamia Nizamia, said that during Ramzan, Huffaz, and fakeers (beggars) come to Hyderabad from various parts of the country. “Huffaz get huge money in terms of honorarium, while beggars receive large amounts of Zakat and Fitra – obligatory charity which Muslims distribute during this month to purify their wealth,” he added.
Ramzan is mistakenly considered a month of eating, outing at nights and social gatherings for Iftar parties to savour delicious Haleem and Biryani whereas the religious concept of Ramzan is totally different from the customs which are being practised by a good number of people in the name of holy month.
According to Maulana Mufti Khaleel Ahmed, Vice-Chancellor of the 150-year-old Islamic Seminary Jamia Nizamia, among the five basic tenets of Islam, Roza or fasting stands third after Kalima-e-touheed and Namaz. “Fasting during Ramzan is a compulsory religious obligation for Muslims except those who are seriously ill, women who are pregnant, feeding mothers and menstruating women – but, one has to compensate once they are out of these conditions with equal number of days which were missed during Ramzan,” he added.
Maulana Ahmed also said that fasting is not an ordinary ritual in Islam – the Roza not only enhances the spirituality in a man but also purifies the soul, mind and body. Even medical science acknowledged that fasting a whole month in a year is good for human health, he added.
He further said that Ramzan is a month of giving, feeding the poor and extending help to needy relatives and friends. The Zakat is the fourth obligation in Islam after Roza – which means that those who are economically sound must take out 2.5 per cent annually from their savings for charity, he said.
Hence, Ramzan is purely a month of piety, spirituality, charity, fasting, and bountifulness.
— Naseer Giyas