It’s a nice feeling of returning to the place I first visited a couple of decades back. My eyes run wide to figure out if the landmarks that made Secunderabad what it was, still exist. It’s a yes and no. While the tall clock tower exists in all its splendor, i learn that another iconic structure Sangeet Theater has passed into history.
This twin city of Hyderabad is a little over 200 years old. There is a touch of history to this place, having been the barracks of the British troops and a popular trading center, since 1800’s. This history shaped the future of the city. Secunderabad today houses a cantonment of the Indian Army. You can easily sense that the trading origins has left a lasting impact, flourishing even now. As i see it all around, modern city development has had its impact on the quaint little place that this once was.
As I observe, Secunderabad is a nice calm place. Affordable living and multitude of choices make it a surprise package. But what explains the soul of the city best, are its bazaars, the street side eateries and religious institutions. This brings Secunderabad to life.
Monda market is the place for fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers and household provisions. Think of your daily needs during your stay here and they are all available here at wholesale prices. It is a riot of colors here at the market. MG Road, is the nerve center for all shopping in Secunderabad. General Bazaar next to MG Road, is narrow and crowded. Yet you will find it bustling with young adults. You will find all things that cater to the basic living needs at lowest prices.
The eateries (road side stalls)
The mention of Secunderabad brings to mind the Paradise Biryani which over time became the bye-word for Hyderabad Biryani. But for a taste of local food, it is best to step into roadside stalls. The locals root for these places, for an array of interesting mouthwatering food, despite its rustic setting. I had to wade into the crowd, but true to their fame, they have plenty to offer. I recommend these places, having tasted food from them over time. Whether it’s for fried items or bakery products, without batting an eyelid, these are the places to go.
Alfa Hotel, besides the Secuderabad Railway Station, and Rio Cafe, near RP Road Junction, is the place to go for bakery products, Irani chai and fresh samosa & puff. Andal Swamy a mixture shop, tucked away in the quiet bylanes at Nagarjuna Nagar, Tarnaka, is the home to some of the best Andhra fried items like Mixture, Bajji, Punugulu, Bonda and Masala Vada.
The bandis (push carts)
If you choose to be a bit adventurous and not scared of water and surroundings, these push carts are backpackers paradise. They serve some very authentic food that makes you come back. This is such a hit with the common folks that it isn’t surprising to see many stopping by to take a parcel or have a quick bite. In particular, I found these two to be of a high order and their food qualifies to be awesome!
Push cart at South Lalaguda (on the road between mosque and SBI) – Run by a person who doubles up as employee elsewhere in day time and snacks vendor in the evenings, there are few who can match his skills in dishing out some of the best chilli bajji and masala vada, which is his staple produce. You can rate his chilli bajji and masala vada top class. As they say one time is never enough. Makes you come back again and again.
Push cart outside Swapnalok complex (outside the vehicles entry gate) – Run by husband and wife, their staple produce is mini idli (you don’t get the regular sized idli there), as also dosa (masala dosa, upma dosa, podi dosa) and puri bhaji. If you want a taste of the authentic food, then this is the place to go after a busy shopping evening. People gobble up the produce, and its more like a drive-in service for the well-heeled.
The religious institutions
Rarely in a small city, would you find religious institutions of most faiths in one place, all located within a radius of 3-5 kms. The city’s liberal thinkers believe in peaceful coexistence. A few took roots even as the city was coming up in the early 1800’s. The Ujjaini Mahakali temple 1815, St. Mary’s church 1850, Parsi Fire Temple 1847 and Jamia Masjid 1825 are worth mention.
For an experience of the rich Jain traditions, a visit to the Digamber Temple in the bylanes of MG Road is a must. If visiting North East for a Buddhist experience is tough, head straight to the Ananda Buddha Vihara at Mahendra Hills. If you would want some awareness of the culture and traditions of Sikhism, then head straight to their Gurudwara in West Marredpally, opposite the public park.
An experience to remember
If you are a busy traveler, and have time at hand, say a time span of 24 hours in the city, then a visit to these places, would definitely bring greater awareness, of what makes this twin city of Hyderabad, unique in its own way. You will return with an enriched experience for sure. That’s Secunderabad for you. The confluence of influences.