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Home Features

Features

You can judge their popularity by the number of people standing around them! You can see them from a distance too, thanks to their loyal customers! In fact, as you ride/drive by, the whiff of the gastronomical delights entices you and you are tempted to stop yourself and discover the source of the delight. Late into the night, whilst most of the city sleeps and gets its share of rest, these people start their day and serve what they serve best! Delicious, cheap and hot food!!!

Hyderabad’s a great city to live in and the food’s brilliant. But one issue that many late-night dwellers have is that the city shuts by 11pm and there are no food options left, apart from the usual biryani at the hotels. What is bane for the others turned out to be a boon for the bandiwallahs who have turned this to their advantage and set up food bandis (carts) across various locations in the city.

Innumerable bandis dot the roads of the city in every main road and junction that is usually crowded late into the night. Gulzar Houz, Gachibowli, Charminar, Mozzam Jahi Market, Srinagar Colony, Dilsukhnagar and Banjara Hills and many other places in the city are known for the many bandis that exist there. And the range of food that these bandis offer to many a hungry soul are unbelievable.

Apart from the quintessential soft idli and crispy dosa, you have the fluffy bread & omlet, tender chicken & super soft parotha, deliciously crisp-on-the-outside and soft-on-the-inside Mysore bajji, variety of tangy and spicy chaat, made-to-order zesty Chinese noodles and rice with egg or chicken, fresh out-of-the-oven bun with piquant chicken gravy, soft chapathis and alu curry, hot, watery and delicious upma and even warm, soft and gooey gulab jamuns with hot sugary syrup or hand-made seasonal fruit ice-creams!

The time could be anytime between 11pm and 4am and the roads appear as empty as it can be. It is a pleasure to go around the city at this time, since there is absolutely no traffic at all. At certain junctions in the city you will find a jostling, pushing and a happy crowd. Under the yellow halogen street lamps or a couple of night lamps tied to the bandi there is an island of light on these carts. And it is here that the ‘chef of the bandi’ under the halogen lamp glare, turns out the fare.

Hailed as the saviours of thousands of hungry people of the city, the bandis are invariably out there in various locations serving food day-in and day-out without fail. In fact, many do not even have a name for their bandis and it is just by their names that the bandis are known as and famous for. Just after all the commercial establishments have called it a day and have shut shop, these bandis come to the fore quietly and set their ‘shops’, with make shift tables, clean plates, potable drinking water, the ingredients to  cook instantly and a couple of plastic stools for customers to sit and devour the delicious fare! All during the day, they relentlessly prepare for the busy night ahead, either getting the batter ready, grinding the chutneys, kneading the dough, marinating the chicken, getting the half-cooked noodles ready, cooking the curries ahead of the ‘night shift’.

You will find a varied customer base here at the bandis. There are high-end cars, wherein the customers themselves are seated inside and their drivers come to the bandi and take the food to them and then there are also the local sweepers and cleaning personnel who help us keep the city clean. Then of course there are the IT professionals, late-night pub dwellers, cinema-goers and party-hoppers who want to quickly grab a bite and head either home or to their next destination.

Whoever it is, the service remains the same and so does the taste of the food, unless it is custom-made. That is, service with a smile!

Some of the bandis are so popular that they even exist on Google maps. As soon as you reach the place, you find a huge crowd of 10-12 people surrounding the bandi and eagerly waiting for their dosas while a few groups of youngsters are already enjoying their dosas. And then there is the ‘Chef’ himself who is engrossed in preparing dosas. With two to three assistants helping him serve butter idli, tava idli, vada etc. to the customers it looks like business as usual. The only difference being that the clock has struck 1 in the night!

Most of these bandis start their business around 9pm and are open and functioning way into the night till as much as about 3am or 5am while some of them claim to be open throughout the day and night! Once business is done around 3am in the morning, they head home to get some rest and again start their day around lunch time prepping for the night ahead!

All said and done, it is taste alone that matters and reigns supreme. If the food served at these bandis is nowhere to being tasty, the clientele don’t come in and either the bandis change for the better or shut shop. Hyderabadis are born foodies to a great extent and when hunger comes knocking the hygiene, cost, ambience or even extra ghee-laden calories are dismissed with a wave of a hand, even as they ask for an extra helping of their extra spicy favorites with sliced onions and lime! Needless to say, apart from all the hoo-haa about the cleanliness apart, what is clear is that whatever they are cooking is right in front of your eyes and visible and it is for you to see and decide what is neat enough to eat or not to eat!

Since this is street-side cart fare, you can definitely not expect it to be in an extremely hygienic atmosphere. The roads leading to the bandis might be narrow but vehicles can easily pass into it. There is no place to sit for many. Do not even expect that since we are talking about a street cart. So, enjoy the food in your car else nothing beats eating while standing. Of course, there is a small water dispenser that is provided to wash hands. And newspaper bits as tissues to wipe hands!

Some hard-core bandi-food lovers even said that these are not places for the health conscious. The amount of butter that goes into the signature dishes can make you squirm. But the butter and gun powder mix along with the spicy chutney all together produce a taste that’s unparalleled.

Coming to the price of each item on the menu (not written anywhere, but verbally said out when asked) of these bandis, it ranges anything between Rs. 15 to Rs. 90! It is an ideal deal for many a hungry person who is short of cash late in the night! So, within a hundred bucks, one can have a hearty meal at a time when there are no other food options available!

It is unbelievable to see these people keeping track of who eat what and how much! There are no coupons or tokens issued anywhere. They look at you and keep track of what you have ordered, eaten and asked to be packed!

Delicious Bandi Fare

The sights and whiffs of these gastronomical delights are ‘to die for’ as one foodie put it. The food bandis too are and form an integral part of the Hyderabadi cuisine, one which attracts everyone from IT professionals to Film Nagar’s crowd to the local food lover. You will find people from all walks of life religiously thronging places like Govindbhai’s bandi, Vinaybhai’s bandi, Rambhai’s bandi, Kishenbhai’s bandi and many many more; all known by their names since the bandis are nameless!

It is no wonder that they have metamorphosed into drive-in eateries that boast of a fleet of waiters who run to take your order the minute you drive closer to their bandi. You wouldn’t be surprised to find yourself jostling for space and waiting endlessly to find some space just to squeeze your car or bike in. So popular are these roadside bandis, that some of them have become famous landmarks of the areas itself and not otherwise. Be it Govind’s dosa bandi near Charminar where your dosa is topped with a generous dollop of Amul butter, the tiny Mumbai kulfi stall near Pizza Hut on Banjara Hills which boasts of over 20 varieties of kulfis or the creamy, hot gulab jamuns sold at Maharajgunj, rich chai sold at the tea stall opposite the XLNC store near Banjara Hills Police Station that runs out of chai within an hour everytime, almost every locality boasts of its famed bandi(s)!

Dosa is perhaps the most discussed and demanded of menus in Indian breakfast and it is the same scenario here too. It is the most popular item on the menu and there are more dosa bandis in the city that anything else. This otherwise routine item on a breakfast menu, has been serving the foodies all over. According to an online news portal, the humble dosa is one of the 10 items in ‘try before you die’ list. The masala dosa was also voted as the ‘national dish’ in Outlook’s year-end food survey, due to its acceptability across borders, and the report even said that it was the toast of a Kashmiri, Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati as well as of an Ashomiya palate. It is no small feat in a country where gastronomic variations can be tracked every 25 km, with the change in dialect, for an unassuming yet complicated roll like the dosa to triumph.

Now, to the actual center of attraction of the bandi. The dosas. The batter is smeared on to the gaint tava, a dollop of yummy upma, a big dollop of Amul butter, generous amounts of onions, coriander leaves, a slice of tomatoes squeezed and their special karampodi generously added to it. In few minutes, a crispy, crunchy, mouth-watering, spicy, buttery, can-never-have-enough dosas are ready. You would have had many dosas at many restaurants and hotels but nothing can ever beat the dosa at the bandi nearest you. Offering a twist to the otherwise traditional menu; the dosas come with a generous sprinkling of grated paneer and loads of butter or a good dose of watery upma which in itself is delicious!

The masala dosa is modified over and over yet again! The lengthwise gas burners have been modified so that they give flame in two wide rows under the 5-mm iron sheet and keep it hot consistently across. First, the cook spreads the batter on the flat long tava making 12 dosas on each sheet. The dosa is not the usual round shape as it is made at home but a long oval. Once the batter is spread (11 to 12 circles), he sprinkles a powdered masala that has a hint of curry leaf, then he puts a tablespoon of a red chutney, over which he smears a scoop of gruelly yellow rawa upma on the dosa. He then repeats the process on other dosas and in quick steps he sprinkles chopped onions, chopped tomatoes, chopped coriander and then a big dash of masala  powder (gunpowder). Over it, he pours a generous scoop of butter and then spreads the whole thing. Some folks want extra cheese he pats cheese squares on the dosa. The masala dosa is ready without the usual scoop of potato and onion curry, albeit in another tasty version.

Thanks to the inventiveness of these new-age and local cooks, the humble dosa is seen in its many avatars, varying from the usual masala dosa to crispy dosa to paneer dosa to chicken dosa to egg dosa to even noodle dosa. Butter-paneer dosa, butter-onion dosa, masala dosa, so on is the best you would get to buy at most places.

Not to forget each and every bandiwallah have their secret ingredient which they are not willing to share. But it’s the surfeit of dosa they offer; make foodies shout ‘one more’. Dosa, by its very nature is open to innovation and there are always options on how the batter can be spread to what can be done with the filling to what is to be added as the filling. Almost all the bandis in the city are creating dosas that have nothing in common with the traditional recipe.

The red-hot-chili-peppered upma dosa is another very intense item on the list. To get this, they add a ground chutney of red hot chillis with some salt and other ingredients, and this is then topped on the dosa along with onions and tomatoes!

The idli is the next in the line for being popular with the bandiwallahs. There is nothing tastier that devouring the steaming idlis right off the oven when you are hungry. If not anything else, you are bound to find these bandis selling idli and dosa for sure. Idli, dosa and vada are important items in South Indian cuisine’s breakfast but now they seem to have invaded the dinner and late-night meal scene as well. Though the ingredients are the same, the taste changes from one bandi to the other owing to the fluffiness, crispiness, the types of spices used for seasoning, chutneys served etc. A real idli/dosa lover would visit every other place that serve these, even if it is a bandi.

Every item is served in either a banana leaf or clean plastic sheet and the idlis are rather small sized, but very soft and fluffy. When the same turns to tava idli or butter idli, one can have 2-3 plates easily. Tava idli is where they add a dollop of butter, masala powder and idlis on the tava and fry it; whereas the butter idli is where they add loads of just plain butter and idli and fry it till it is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and then served with chutney.

Same applies to vadas as well. Since there are many dosa lovers, compared to idli/vada lovers, there is more concentration on preparing dosas. So, if you find idlis/vadas being served, do not ignore it. Grab a few plates and wait for your turn to get dosas.

You might seen them many a time late in the night and at the stroke of dawn but not quite realised it. They are the cyclewallahs, who have a make-shift design at the back of their bicycles, wherein they have two boxes, storing either idlis or dosas or both. They usually work between early morning hours from 4.30am to 8am. For Rs 10 you will get a thick small dosa or two small idlis with slightly tangy groundnut chutney. Catering to the low-income group, these dosa cycles have a consistent crowd. Though not hot, as they are prepared overnight, they taste good.

Then there are some bandis that offer a slightly tangier version of the dosa called Pullattu, which is getting popular. The dosa batter is made to rest for more the usual time and once it ferments, it is ready to be made into the crispy or soft versions loved by many. The tangy dosa is accompanied with chutney and podi and not to forget, butter too! Some others add a squeezed tomato onto the paper-thin Pullattu to add the tanginess and then the product is served in two halves with white chutney on a banana leaf!

Don’t be surprised if the usual cheerful bandi chef who normally greets you and chats with you, ignores you sometimes. This is applicable on weekends. If one can spare time on a weekday, yes, you are the king at that bandi. You get whatever you ask for and that too in a jiffy. If it is on a weekend, be ready to face the crowd, waiting for your turn, and most importantly have patience. And yes, after all that waiting, one would never regret for that waiting-time.

The Chinese have not just invaded the market in other areas but also in the arena of local street food fare. The local Chinese grub too is an integral part of the city foodscape, which has a taste of its own and of course its very own loyal customer base, none which can be compared with the ones served at high-end restaurants! Hard-core food lovers who have travelled far enough in their culinary journeys would nevertheless know for a fact that the Chinese we get here is not authentic at all, but it is Chinese for sure in a different sense. Or ‘Chainese’, ‘Chinnese’ and many other versions of it! Goes without saying that in spite of that knowledge and what your mind says and denies, you would definitely feel like tucking into a piping hot plate of mixed vegetarian or egg or chicken noodles, Schezwan  chicken and not to forget the obnoxiously bright red Chicken 65 served hot at the numerous Chinese bandis. Everyone have their own loyal and favourite bandi to go to when they are craving Chinese and eat with good old steel forks in plastic plates with a plastic sheet on it.

For those in the mood to eat non-vegetarian food, that is available too, late in the night. Bread Omlet, Chicken Roti and Chicken Bun!

You have various versions of the egg that you can order and enjoy. Apart from the regular Bread Omlet (wherein two eggs are beaten with salt, chilli and masala powder and served with four bread slices), you have the Egg Fry (the egg is fried on the tava directly and garnished with masala powder and served with bread) and the Egg Burji (scrambled eggs served with bread). Each is delicious in its own right and served piping hot.

For chicken lovers, there are bandis serving version s of chicken and roti. Here you will get Chicken 65, Tandoori Chicken, Fried Chicken, Ginger Chicken along with roti and onions on the side. When you park your car on the side of these bandis, it is understood that you want to eat their food and promptly a waiter comes by to take your order.

There is another version of chicken that is available, called the Chicken Bun. Fresh long buns are cut and filled with hot, steaming chicken pieces straight out of a boiling curry. The chicken pieces come straight from a simmering curry which helps keep the chicken hot and moist throughout the night.

For many Hyderabadis, ice cream in the late hours translates to Famous Ice Cream. And no gelato or ice cream smoothie can bring a smile on a Hyderabadi’s face quite like a scoop of this ice cream.

Hand-made seasonal ice creams reasonably priced are famous across the city and many of their customers drive from the opposite side of town, late in the night, just to eat it. They are however not open beyond 11pm. Over the years, only the chairs and tables have changed, but not the quality and ymmy taste of the ice cream.

Heading Out!

So, the next time you are out late at night without a clue of what to eat and with no food options left, you know where to head. Look out for the nearest bandi, taste their food and savour the taste!

Month: February 2014

 

It’s a sight to behold, day or night, or anywhere in sight! Made with the utmost love and passion, studded with semi-precious stones, they have withstood the test of time and have only got more popular over the centuries.

In fact, not just fame, they have become synonymous with our great city of Hyderabad, the land of the Nawabs!
Hyderabad itself is known for its bangles made of glass and lacquer, and studded with stones. Lac bangles, then and now, from time immemorial have continued to literally lure not just local citizens but the innumerable tourists who have to and love to pay a visit to the very legendary Laad Bazaar.

Bangles, traditional ornaments worn by women are the essence of womanhood and a tradition that has continued since ages. And every woman in the world who has seen lac bangles, would like and love to wear these Hyderabadi bangles as it adds more charm and glory to her. With their appealing colours and cultural patterns, lac bangles have become more fashionable for today’s jet-set women. Keeping a check on the latest trends from across the country and the globe, the lac bangle-makers have adapted from old to modern trends with beautiful artificial diamonds.

Bangles are circular in shape, and, unlike bracelets, are not flexible and it is said that the word is derived from the Hindi word bungri (glass). Bangles have rightly so, become a fashion accessory with a wide range of designs such as glass bangles, kundan bangles, wedding bangles, ethnic bangles, Indian wedding bangles, designer bangles, fashion bangles, love bangles, Bollywood bangles, Indian bangle bracelets, pearl bangles, plastic bangles, bamboo bangles, 22k gold bangles......the list goes on.

But somehow, holding their own stead and rightfully so with regale are the lac bangles, which completely outshine the rest. Beating the rest by huge numbers, sales and designs, the lac bangle makers are not far behind in creating magic with it. The trend of starting a trend holds well in lac bangles too, for they have a wide range that is hard to beat.

Lac bangles have a touch of class and richness. Extremely popular with intricate detailing of master craftsmanship, they are the most sought after items and studded with stones, and what have you; they are as lavish and glorious as their metal counterparts.

Going Down History With Lac Bangles
Bangles made from lac are said to be one of the oldest ones and among the brittle category too. Lac has been and is popular due to it being the oldest source of colour, its pliability, its advantage of adding other colours or embellishments to it and of course its cheap prices. It is said that lac bangles have been made since the 15th Century in our region. The known type of process involved in making lac bangles is the hand-crafted method of using a mould.

According to an article by Dr. P Jogi Naidu of the Archaeology and Museums Andhra Pradesh, the origin of this great craft goes back to the days of the Qutub Shahi era. It states that the pioneers came to the city as hakims to cure people (which was their primary occupation) and bangle making acquired the form of a subsidiary one. However, there are other tales too, to their origin. Another one, as per the author of the Bangle Char Chaman, Mohd. Hussain, says that “As the trade relations between Golconda and Persia were cordial, a group of Persians, whose main occupation was hakim and subsidiary occupation was bangle making, came to Golconda at the invitation of the King and settled down here. Therefore bangle making as an industry started in Hyderabad during the Qutub Shahi period.”

Yet another version is that, there were regular trade ties between the Golconda and Vijayanagara Kingdoms in the 15th and 16th Centuries and during this period Vijayanagara was the main centre for manufacturing glass bangles which were brought to Golconda, the main market place in those days.
There are yet other historians that state that this craft originated in Rajasthan during the 17th Century and Mumtaz Mahal, the Mughal empress, was a great patron of beaded bangles and set the fashion trend among the nobility at that time.

Whatever is the history or the story behind the great craft of lac bangle making, one thing for sure is that, they will remain for time immemorial and continue to entice its wearers.

Laad Bazaar, the ‘Street of Love’
Laad Bazaar or Choodi Bazaar is a very old market popular for bangles located in Hyderabad and is on one of the four main roads that branch out from the historic Charminar.

While it is popularly believed that laad means lacquer (which is used to make bangles); according to local artisans it is said that Laad Bazaar got its name about 150 years ago during the time of the Sixth Nizam, Mir Mehabub Ali Khan and it also then that the craft of lac bangle making originated. To add credibility to their story, they say, is the fact that it was in Laad Bazaar that the Chowmahalla Royal Palace was constructed to house the ruling Nizam. And hence it was but natural to call the street Laad Bazaar or Street of Love or Bazaar of Fondness.

The one kilometre stretch shopping strip, houses most of the shops that sell lac bangles and other items like saris, wedding related items and cheap imitation jewellery.

According to estimates, currently, more than 15,000 people are employed by this street of bangles alone as compared to a work strength of 200 to 250 people a decade ago. It is estimated that on an average about 500 to 800 foreign and local tourists visit the bazaar each day. With the increasing demand for the bangles of Hyderabad, customers for Choodi Bazaar is getting higher and higher by the day.

The craft has acquired the form of a small-scale industry now and there are thousands of workers in Old City who earn a livelihood by making these lac bangles. They are part of the unorganised sector and work out of small units, usually their homes. In many families, it is a family affair and the whole family comes together to help and make the final lac bangles; while in other cases members of different families come together to work. They are then sent to the shop keepers to sell. The shopkeepers give a commission to the bangle-makers and the glimmering bangles are sold for outstanding profit margins.

Most shopkeepers sell the bangles as a pair, leaving it to the choice of the customer to mix and match the bangles the way they want it. While the thick bangles are sold in singles, the thin ones can be purchased in sets of six, 10 or 12.

Enter the small stretch and you will literally be beckoned by the sellers to come and see their bangles, many a times with a ‘Kya hona Madam!’ (What do you want, Madam?) Bargaining and haggling for the best price is a part of the game in this market that knows how to keep their customers happy. Some stores are furnished with a clean, soft cotton mattress where customers can sit and the sales person will show you what you want.

To enable free flow of customers here, auto rickshaws and cars are barred entrance from Charminar end and only pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles and scooters are permitted.

What is Lac?
Lac is a clay-like material which is moulded in hot kilns-like places to make these bangles. Lac is a resinous secretion of Lac-producing insects such as Laccifer lacca, Carteria lacca and Tachardia lacca. These plant-sucking insects colonize on the branches of host trees to produce scarlet resinous pigment. Later the coated branches of the host trees are cut and harvested as sticklac. These sticklac are crushed, sieved and washed several times to remove impurities.

Lac is the source of resin, wax, and dye. It collected from forests in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, West Bengal, and Assam. It is available in different qualities, dark black, brown and light golden, the latter being the best and most expensive. It is sold at anything between Rs. 200 per kg to Rs. 400 a kg and stays fresh and malleable for about roughly a year.

Reference to lac can be found in Vedas too and the Atharvaveda provides a detailed account of lac, its production and uses. Ayurveda stresses the importance of lac in medical therapies. India is one of the largest producers of lac and its principal exporter. It is widely used in food processing, textile, leather, cosmetics, varnish and printing industries. Being bio-degradable and eco-friendly its usage is becoming highly popular by the day.

How Are Lac Bangles Made?
Raw materials like chapdi (black lac), orange chapdi (light golden lac), beroza, giya pathar powder, coal, sequins, semi- precious stones and colours in powder form; pevdi (yellow), safeda (lithophone), mirgam (copper), green, chamki (gold) are used in the making. Tools used are angethi (coal burner with flat steel plates/silla on top), kadai (shallow vessel), wooden rod, stone piece, hattha for pressing and shaping lac, iron bangles for sizing, tin foil, round wooden rod/khali for shaping bangles, cutter, tool for picking sequins, haddi or bone shaped wooden tool.       

The process is that first the lac pieces are melted in a shallow vessel or kadai. When it is in a semi-molten state, the desired colours and beroza, giya pathar powder are added to it. The mixture is then stirred continuously. The coloured lac is now stuck on the end of a wooden stick and left to dry. The lac (without pigment) stuck around a wooden rod is heated slowly over the coal burner or angethi and is simultaneously pressed with a stone or a wooden tool called hattha at regular intervals. When it is sufficiently warm and soft, it is wrapped with the desired colour by rubbing the coloured lac stick on it evenly. 

For this purpose the coloured lac stick also has to be warm enough and is therefore heated over the burner when needed. After the colour has been applied to the lac base it is shaped into a thin coil with the help of the hattha and cut off from the plain lac rod. The coil is then heated over the burner so that the ends can be joined together to form a bangle. While it is still hot, a plain golden coloured metal bangle, sona bai, is slipped inside the lac bangle to strengthen it. After being joined it is slipped through a round wooden beam (with a tapering end for different sizes) and adjusted for size.

The bangle is now ready to be embellished with sequins, semi-precious stones or whatever is desired. The sequins are placed on a tin foil and heated over a burner. They are warmed so that they can melt the lac surface on which they are placed and stick there after solidification. They are picked up one at a time and stuck on the bangle according to the design chosen. The process requires great precision and practice and is hard for a first time user to even attempt to make. It takes much longer when working with smaller sized sequins.      

Bangle-making is a laborious process and most of it is done by men. Once the bangles, in various shapes and sizes, have been crafted by the men, they are embellished with shiny artificial stones, beads and glass fragments in a riot of colourful patterns by the women, who meticulously affix each of these tiny pieces onto the warm, one-inch, or even less, lac base.

A basic set of bangles can be made in about 20 minutes. During the entire process, the material is repeatedly heated over coals so that it stays malleable. The melting and mixing is done on kerosene stoves. Over 180 bangles are crafted out of a kg of lac powder bought for Rs 350. The colours cost about Rs 200 a kg and can be used for almost 1,000 bangles. Sometimes, the colours used for Holi festival are used too in getting newer and different colours.

For the lac bangles, as many as 300 colours can be made from the basic seven to eight colours, by mixing and matching them in various permutations and combinations. Colours like rosam kala, pila rosam, kali chapdi, chapdi, golden chapdi, gulabi, blue, khuleri, golden neela, pearl, gulabi heer, titanium, safeda etc. are to name a few.

An interesting fact in the process of making lac bangles is that, out of all the processes involved, only the sona bai bangle is made by machine. The rest of the process is all by hand, which makes it all the more unique and beautiful.

The Lac Craft
Other regions in the country that make the popular lac bangles are Gujarat, Rajasthan and Bihar. It is said that Lakhera or Laheri is the hereditary artisan community of Hindus involved in lac bangle making.

Apart from lac jewellery items like bangles, necklaces and earrings, other decorative and utility items are also made from lac; like boxes, mirrors, photo frames, key chains, pens, penholders, tea coasters, notebooks, phone books, etc. Another item called the ‘rakhi’ (a small red bead kind of piece) is also made which is worn during Marwari weddings by both the boy and girl.

Lac Bangles Importance
Lac bangles are considered auspicious in several cultures of the country and therefore popular during marriage ceremonies in regions like Rajasthan, Hyderabad and Bihar. They are considered a sign of good omen and are worn by married women on all auspicious occasions in Gujarat and Rajasthan; where red and green are the traditional colours.

In Rajasthan lac bangles continue to be popular among married women and are preferred as they are soothing to wear and do not cause infections or itchiness like in the case of plastic or glass bangles.  Worn in ceremonial functions, traditional designs are popular. Traditional colours have been replaced by a whole array of pastels and other colours which are now preferred by customers.

Sequins, semi-precious stones and glass work on lac bangles is quite popular today in Rajasthan and Hyderabad. The demand for lac bangles has increased in the international market and a number of lac artisans have migrated to Gulf countries from Hyderabad in search of bangle making jobs. However, utility products made out of lac such as tea coasters, boxes, notebooks, etc are gaining popularity too.

Designer lacquer bangles come in various hues and tones like red, green, black, blue etc. and are available in an exclusive range of ethnic designs. With intricate designs some have rhinestone crystal, artificial diamonds, pearls and mirror work. From teens to working women to housewives, everyone wants to embrace the magic of lac bangles. In fact, if you are getting married in Hyderabad, the lac bangle is considered a must in the wardrobe.

Lac Bangle Merchants’ Say
The first thing that a seller of lac bangles, Mohd. Mazhar Ali Khan (whose family has been in the lac bangle selling business for over 30 years), says is “Madam, glass bangles aged aurathon aur daily wear ke liye hain, aap ke liye nahin. (Madam, glass bangles are for the aged women and for daily use only, not for young people like you).” Then he immediately adds with a smile, even as he reaches out a glittering and shiny bangle and says “yeh bangles arash (chamki or glitter) ke saath aacha hain, party wear ke liye. (These bangles with glitter are good for party wear).”

Keen on showing off his knowledge about lac bangles, he relays the price range for all the bangles by the dozen. So, you have plain bangles at Rs. 25 per dozen, the ones with kundan work at Rs. 75 per dozen, the ones with springs are at Rs. 75 per dozen, the ones with glass and stones stuck on it are at Rs. 150 for four bangles. Coming to the lac bangles, they are priced anywhere between Rs. 250 for six bangles (studded with Chinese white stones) to Rs. 470 for six bangles (studded with normal, shiny and colourful stones) to Rs. 750 (no less!) for six bangles (studded with real American diamonds). Goes without saying that as the price keeps going higher, everything from the quality of the products used to the fine craftsmanship is of the topmost quality and definitely worth the high price!

When I state the same, he says, “Ek minute Madam, kuch aur dikhayenge. (One minute Madam, I want to show you something else).” Sure enough it was a sight to behold. A ‘family set’ (as it is called) of 14 bangles with bright and shiny stones set in a lovely colour, was fetched out from a cupboard to be shown to me. “Yeh sirf Rs. 1400 ka hain, Madamji. (This is only for Rs. 1400, Madam),” he says with a big grin. His brother Jahangir Ali Khan says, “Hum order bhi lethe hain Madam. Aap ko job hi chahiye, hum teen ghante mein kar ke denge. (We also undertake personalized orders. Whatever you want, we can make it and give it you in about three hours time.” He then adds, “Family set ke saath, aap sona bai chudiyaan zaroor pehenna. Sona bai bangle kisi bhi bangle ka shaan hain. (For the family set, wear it along with the sona bai bangles. Sona bai bangles are the charm of any bangle set.)” Sona bai bangles are light, golden coloured metal bangles that gel with any bangles and make it even more brighter and appealing; and are sold at a throw-away price of Rs. 25 per dozen.

Another thing that has continued for generations is filling gold bangles with lac inside to make it stronger. Imtiaz of Barkat Bangles (who are exporters of lac bangles and function out of their home-cum-workshop) says, “We charge about Rs. 25 for each bangle. By filling in lac inside the hollow part of gold or silver bangles, it makes it stronger and sturdier.” Speaking about lac bangles themselves, he says, “I can make about two pairs in an hour. We are continuing our family heritage and have been involved in this business for over 90 years now, in the same house and same place.”

How is it business wise? Both shop owners say that business is getting better and definitely much better than previous years. Sales have been on the rise and money is better nowadays. Keeping in touch with the times and changing trends of today, many bangle makers like Barkat Bangles also come to functions and celebrations (at a premium price) and make personalized bangles according to the customers’ needs. But here, they will only make the plain lac bangles, since the ones with studded stones are time-consuming and require more effort.
By been part of event-managing companies to showcase the craft of lac bangle making, these craftsmen are glad that they can make some extra money by going to celebrations or even displaying their craft at hotels for tourists.

Your Lac Choice!
Head to Laad Bazaar, visit one of these age-old lac bangle makers and sellers and get adventurous. Pick, choose and create your bangle sets by mixing and matching what they have or even better sit with a lac bangle maker and craft your very own lac bangle, complete with your choicest embellishments, stones, springs, sequins or what have you?! What’s in your mind, will be adorning your hands. What’s more, it will give you the pleasure that you created your very own designer lac bangle set. So, go ahead and be a part of history, in your own sweet round way!

Month: June 2012

Come January and the blue skies are a colourful array of bright hues and tones. The usually calm skies come alive with the swaying kites dancing in the winds.   

Head held high, going against the strong wind with all its might, tails aflutter, flying in all its glory, on a single lifeline lying in the hands of its owner who can either make it feel literally on top of the world or let it lie deep and dead - an exhilarating feeling that makes one flying the ‘humble’ kite feel like the ruler of the world.  

Kites have a universal fascination. It’s difficult to find one who can resist the temptation of using the wind to defy gravity and make a man-made object, like the kite, not just fly but soar high up in the sky. It is an interest that goes back thousands of years and kites today have developed into many forms and uses throughout the world.

Kites appear in the culture and history of many countries around the world. They have been worshipped as religious symbols, used as instruments of war, been developed as practical tools apart from simply being a source of entertainment and enjoyment.

Sailing in the wind, scaling distances, arousing curiosity, amazement and wonder as well as entertainment for the spectator, are the humble kites. Kites that come in all shapes and sizes never cease to enthral young and old alike with their rather tempting designs. Kites flying so high up in the air, that they look like tiny little dots decorating the sky. You have the Jehiya fighting with the Gudi Langoti, while their Disco and Feroza manjas ably help them decide who can last it out. 

Do Kalam, Jehiya, Gileri Do Paan, Naamamdar, Gudi, Gudi Langoti, Dulhan, Ounda, Jeebiya, Char Paan, Paachisi are just some of the 200-odd varieties of kites that dot the Hyderabadi sky. Dulhandaar, however, is the most prominent one since it is Hyderabad’s very own design and is immensely popular. Vying for their share of attention, and without whom kite-flying is a futile attempt, are the innumerable manjas (thread treated to make it razor-sharp) like Motiyan (pink), Ganlak (light yellow), Gajar (orange), Disco (white), Angoori (light parrot green), Feroza (sky blue) and many others.  

Kite Flying Today
Today the world of kites is enormous. It ranges from simple children’s toys ideal for a family stroll in the park to the latest state-of-the-art kites. Whether you enjoy the artistry and craftsmanship of making kites or get a kick out of synchronized team flying, kite-flying no doubt is a great pastime. 
Even though, the gravity defying technology and aesthetic craftsmanship of kite making and flying is acclaimed by one and all, it is yet to be recognized and propagated as a sport, rather than a hobby and pleasure, in India. 

It might be hard to believe for many but there is at least one Kite Festival every weekend of the year in some part of the world and kite-flying is known to be one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Why, people were flying kites 1,000 years before paper was invented. Each year on the second Sunday of October, kite flyers in nearly every country of the world unite and fly a kite to celebrate ‘One Sky One World’.

Kite-flying is a great treat to watch, especially when it takes the form of ‘kite fighting’, in which participants try to snag (cut) each other’s kites. The kite fights are at their maximum in India during the Sankranti festive celebrations and fighters enjoy competing with rivals in which one has to cut-loose the string of another kite - this is popularly called as ‘Pench.’ As people cut-loose an opponent’s kite, shouts of ‘kataa’ or ‘aaffaaaaa’ ring through the air. Reclaiming the kites, after they have been cut-loose, by running after them is a popular ritual especially amongst kids. Highly manoeuvrable single-string paper kites are flown while using line friction in an attempt to cut each other’s kite lines, either by letting the line loose at high speed or by pulling the line in a fast and repeated manner.

Family and friends gather in hordes on roof-tops and unleash their kites on the sky. The band of revellers is so great, that the sky becomes almost invisible behind the montage of colourful paper creations. In Hyderabad, the International Kite Festival is organized by the Andhra Pradesh Tourism department. From bytes to kites, corporates too are holding kite festivals regularly as part of their recreational activities. 

Kite-Sellers in Hyderabad
Where do you head to, in the city, if you have to buy kites in bulk or want the best of kites for the best of bargains? Gulzar Houz and Dhoolpet, without a doubt. The die-hard kite-flyer, I’m sure, knows these places like the back of his hand. It is here that the lanes and by lanes take on a festive spirit, closer to the ‘Festival of Kites’, Sankranti. This is one of those festivals where one can truly witness a heart-warming sight of complete communal harmony; what with people of all religions participating in it with full gusto.

Hyder Baba, of Ahmed Kite Shop at Gulzar Houz, says with a smile, “Sab log aake hamare yahan se patang khareedthe hain. Bachche tho bachche hain, unhe koi faraaq nahi padtha. Patang udhana hain tho, bas udhana hain. Bade log bhi bahut khareedthe hain, kilo mein.” (All people come and buy kites from us. Kids are kids; it does not make any difference for them. If they have to fly a kite, then they have to do it, no matter what. Older people too buy a lot of kites, at times in kilos.” Started by his father, his shop has been around for more than 40 years and is quite a popular one at that. Why, he gets orders for large amounts of kites from far off places such as Delhi.

To cater to the mad rush of demand for kites of various shapes and sizes, just like the many others in the field, he starts stocking up on kites from the month of February till December every year. Sales start picking up pace from December and he says, “Usually by January 15 every year, all the kites are completely sold out.” Speaking about the kites that he makes and buys, he says, “Hyderabad mein tho sirf kagaz ke patang banthe hain. Plastic wale patang hum log Ahmedabad aur Kanpur se lathe hain.” (Only paper kites are made in Hyderabad. We get the plastics ones from Ahmedabad and Kanpur).

Another shop in the same vicinity that has been around for more than 50 years is Bajaj Patang Mahal. Started by Venugopal Bajaj’s grandfather, it too does brisk business around Sankranti. Speaking about the vast difference in kite-making and selling compared to his grandfather’s generation and today’s, Bajaj says, “In those days, all kites were hand-made wherein even the kadi (stick) was cut by hand and not machines unlike now; and were sold for not more than 1 paisa or 2 paise. Then only paper kites were made. In fact, why then, a lot has changed in the past 10 years itself. Now you have PVC plastic kites too.”

Kite-flying is an art and a passion in itself. And Venugopal Bajaj is one of those firm believers too. Speaking about the benefits of flying a kite, he says, “Flying a kite is a physical and mental exercise. And there is no age restriction here, anybody between the age of five and 100 years can fly it. When they fly a kite, they feel very happy.” He even goes to the extent of saying that “people who fly kites regularly do not need glasses because their sight improves to a great extent,” and adds, “people have a lot of tensions in this digital and express age; and flying a kite truly has its own benefits for them.” 

Kites’ Business
Kites in the city are mostly made locally, while some are brought from Ahmedabad, Kanpur, Baroda; and sell for anything between 50 paise to Rs. 30/- (large kite) for a paper one and Rs. 10/- to Rs. 20/- for a plastic one, whereas manja sells for anything between Rs. 10/- to Rs. 30/- for each gitti (a small bundle). Chinese kites, including small paper lamps, are available from Rs. 10/- to Rs. 100/- each. Higher end versions of both are available too, for those willing to splurge. You can get a Katrina Kaif kite (a huge kite with her photo pasted on it) or a Spiderman kite for Rs. 250/- and a ‘very sharp manja’ for Rs. 200/- per charki (the wooden device that holds the manja and thread). But the most popular or ‘running-wale’ (as they call it) ones are the medium kites that sell for Rs. 5/- or Rs. 10/-; and China and Bareilly manjas that sell for Rs. 5/- to Rs. 20/- per gitti. However, old passions die hard. Paper still rules! Paper kites account for more than 80% of the sales and the remaining 20% are by plastic ones. Kites and strings are definitely a big business in the country.

Making Kites & Manja
Deep in the lanes of Dhoolpet are many shops and houses that are busily making countless numbers of kites. Watching them make a kite from scratch was truly an amazing experience for me, who has always flown one but never really cared about how it was made.

Santosh of Chotum Singh Patang Shop in Dhoolpet, which he claims is over 200 years old and started by his forefathers, took the pains of not just explaining everything, but also showing how it is done. Why, he even led us to his house, which had become a make-shift workshop with his parents, uncles and aunts all pitching in, in making kites in bulk to cater to the festive season. While they sell kites singularly at their shop during the festive season, the rest of the months they sell it to other stores in bulk.

Kiran, his mother and a rather sweet lady who made me feel at home immediately, explained the process of making a kite, which begins with cutting the double ghoda (a very thin and delicate paper made and sold in Old City) or China paper (comes from Mumbai) in different shapes and sizes (depending on the type of kite you have to make), sticking the different papers to make a square, attach the middle stick (tadha), then the tail (punne), then the small round paper on the top (tikli) and then the arched stick in the center (kamp or kadi). The last step is to stick the thread (dora) around the kite to give it the strength it needs to fly against the wind. Some are stuck with the round stickers (gariyal) on them to add more colour. 

The double ghoda paper is dyed in various colours at Talab Katta and then dried before it is cut in desired sizes. One bundle (ream) of paper makes over 1000 medium-sized kites, which they make in about 10 to 15 days, and fetches them about Rs. 500/-. Lai (home-made gum made with maida that stays fresh for four to six days) is used to stick everything in the kite. The sticks are brought from Nepal or Calcutta for Re. 1 each (for the big ones). Sometimes, each person can stick about 500 kites on an average in a day.

Since they make kites months in advance, the fear of termites eating them away is always there for them. To tackle this, they have a rather simple yet risky solution. Kiran who has been making kites for the past 35 years says, “Hum maida mein Neela Thotha milathey hain aur phir use lagathe hain.” (We mix Neela Thotha, which is poison, with maida and then use it to stick anything on the kites).  

So, is there any loss in making kites? “Hamere liye tho nuksaan sirf kadi mein hain. Mota kadi agar chote patang ko laga diye tho, dukaandaar nahi lethe hain kyunki who theek se udhega nahin. Hazaar mein se sau kadi toot jathe hain. Kagaz agar phat gaya tho bhi, us se tikli banathe hain.” (For us, the loss is with the sticks only. If we put a thicker stick on a smaller kite, then the shop keeper will not buy it from us, because it will not fly properly. Out of thousand sticks, about a hundred break off. If the paper tears, we use it to make the smaller rounds that we stick on the top of kites). To curtail this, the sticks are soaked in water to make them more flexible, but it doesn’t always work. So, what do they then do with the broken sticks? “Chulha mein isthamal karte hain (we use them as firewood for cooking),” she says with a smile. Well, nothing is wasted here.

Sunita, another relative of theirs who puts the dora around the kite, says, “Ek din mein char sau patang ko laga dethe hain (In one day, I put the thread for about four hundred kites)”.

With all this talk about the making of kites, can the making of the manja be far behind? Dharmesh is one of the many people who make manja during the peak season to cash in on the demand. Working hard under the sweltering sun he explains how it is done. “Pehle tube-light ko bareek powder banathe hain. Phir use ubla huwa chawal mein colour ke saath milathe hain. Us ke baad, ye paste ko mota dhaga ke upar ghisthe hain. (First we make a fine powder of the glass from tube-lights. Then we mix this powder into boiled rice and add a desired colour. Then we rub this mixed paste over the thick thread).” The threads are stretched from one end to another on wooden poles and left to dry in the hot sun. Each ball of paste makes about 50 gittis which sell for about Rs. 6/- to Rs. 8/- to the shop-keeper, who in turn sells it for about Rs. 9/- to Rs. 10/-. Dharmesh makes about five to six charkis in a day. He however laments that unlike earlier when he would start making manja six to eight months in advance, he now starts it only two months in advance and says, “Woh naya Tangrez manja aaya hain bahar se jo bahut tez hain. Uske wajah se hamara business barbaad ho gaya hai. Sab log wahi lete hain. (That new manja called Tangrez that is brought from outside is very sharp. Because of that our business has taken a beating. Everybody buys that one only).”

Culture of Kites
While kites have come to be associated with the Sankranti festival for us, it has many a folklore to tell from various corners of the world. Here are some:
- The Chinese believe that looking at kites high in the sky maintains good eyesight and that when you tilt your head back to look at a kite in the sky your mouth opens slightly, which gets rid of excess body heat - giving you a healthy yin-yang balance.
- Kite flying was banned in China during the Cultural Revolution. Anyone found flying a kite was sent to jail for up to three years and their kites destroyed.
- There are 78 rules in kite fighting in Thailand.
- The Maori tribes from New Zealand made beautiful birdman kites made from bark cloth and leaves.
- Kite flying was banned in Japan in 1760 because too many people preferred to fly kites than work.
- Kites were used in the American Civil War to deliver letters and newspapers.
- Large kites were banned in East Germany because of the possibility of man lifting over the Berlin Wall.
- When the Japanese were building some of the early temples and shrines they used large kites to lift tiles and other materials to the workmen on the roofs.
- The Russians used kites to tow torpedoes in 1855 with great accuracy.
- In the Second World War, the RAF issued pilots with a rescue kit, comprising a dingy and a folding box kite called a Gibson Girl which enabled them to send an SOS message from a portable transmitter with the kite line acting as the aerial.
- In Vietnam, kites are flown without tails. Instead small flutes are attached allowing the wind to ‘hum’ a musical tune.
- In Bali, large bows are attached to the front of the kites to make a deep throbbing vibration.
- In Malaysia row of gourds with sound-slots are used to create a whistle as the kite flies.

History of Kites
Kites have probably been in existence for over twenty-five centuries and it is now thought that the first kite was probably flown in China around 1000 BC. The kite was said to be the invention of the famous Chinese philosophers Mozi and Lu Ban. By at least 549 AD paper kites were being flown, as it was recorded in that year that a paper kite was used as a message for a rescue mission. Ancient and medieval Chinese sources list other uses of kites for measuring distances, testing the wind, lifting men, signalling, and communication for military operations. Kites spread quickly throughout the Far East and by the end of the first millennium they played significant roles in many different countries and cultures.

Fighting and fishing kites appear throughout the Malay Peninsula. Early forms of fishing kites were as simple as a large leaf threaded with strips of fine bamboo, with a hook hung from a long length of line – a form still used in Asia today. In Japan kites were used to wage war and there are many records of warriors being strapped to large kites and raised up above the walls of cities under siege.
Until the eighteenth century in Europe, kites were almost exclusively a children’s plaything. Eventually scientists and inventors began to realize their potential and the period from 1860 to about 1910 became the ‘golden age of kiting’ where kites started to be used for scientific purposes. 

Kite Records & Trivia
- The smallest kite in the world that actually flies is 5mm high.
- The largest number of kites flown on a single line is 11,284, a record held by a Japanese kite maker.
- The longest kite in the world is 1034 meters (3394 ft).
- The largest kite in the world is Peter Lynn’s Flag Kite, measuring 42m by 25m (1050 sq m).
- The fastest recorded speed of a kite is over 120 mph (193 km/h).
- The record for the highest single kite flown is 13,600 feet above sea level.
- The world record for the longest ‘kite fly’ is 180 hours.
- The fastest crossing of the English Channel towed by kites was 2 hrs 30 min, by a team from Flexifoil International in 1999.
- Some Japanese kites weigh over 2 tons.

Safe Flying
There are safety issues involved in kite-flying and one needs to be careful with kites and manjas. Kite lines can strike and tangle on electrical power lines running the risk of electrocuting the kite flier. The manjas are sharp and can be very dangerous. Apart from causing serious cuts, manjas have also killed pedestrians and motorcyclists who fail to notice the almost invisible thread dangling across the roads. While flying kites, keep an eye on the ground too, especially when you are on roof tops and elevated points. People tend to get so engrossed in flying kites that they fail to notice roof edges or the roads and traffic. Fly kites safely.   
So, what’s it for you? A Dulhandaar or a Jehiya? Whichever one it is, have a Happy Flying!

Photo Credit: Varaprasad Ponnaganti

Month: January 2011.

Pi Patel lives in Pondicherry, where his father owns a zoo. When he is sixteen, his parents decide to emigrate to Canada, taking their large family with them, but tragedy strikes when the cargo ship carrying them sinks during a terrible storm. One solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild blue Pacific.

In it are five survivors: Pi, a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orangutan and a 450-pound Royal Bengal Tiger. The scene is set for an extraordinary adventure.

Month: January 2011.

As more homes turn to organic food, Navdanya - the organization that brings farmers’ organic produce in new and creative ways to your table - serves you a compilation of tasty traditional Indian recipes that enable you to best use organic fruits and vegetables.

Apart from the obvious advantages of organic food - they have not been doused with pesticides or genetically modified - organically grown fruits and vegetables are unarguably more flavourful and mouth-watering. Besides, organic foods can be more nutritious, richer in vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids than non-organic.

Covering the rich diversity of Indian cuisine, Navdanya brings to the health-conscious a collection of recipes that makes organic cooking easy, as well as delicious. With this book, Navdanya comes full circle in connecting the seed to the table, the farmer to the kitchen.

Month: January 2011.

Page 6 of 33

Kaleidoscope

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Chai.Coffee.Company - C3

Ivy Woods

Hyderabad Arts Festival

KPMA Business Publications

AP - Facts

Tirumala – Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh, India), the most venerated Vaishnavite shrine of Lord Venkateshwara and his consorts, is the richest Hindu temple and the most visited religious center in the world

Polls

Do we need younger politicians in the State and at the Centre? Do younger politicians make better leaders?