Kalpana (Devika's Mother), Gauri (Devika's Aunt), Max, Devika, Steve and
I went into the old city -- Char Minar. We went to go pick up Devika's Lenga, get the bangles we'll need for the wedding, and look at fabric for me for the Pasadena reception.
Driving into Char Minar reminded me of the old sections of Delhi and Lucknow. Char Minar is a mix of different people from different walks of life, most of the people being Muslim. The centerpoint -- the Char Minar is a building with four minarets (Char means 4, Minar means Minarets). As this is Ramadan, and it was Friday when we went, some of the shops were closed and the normal hustle and bustle of people was a minimum. When we got to Ahmedi, the place where Devika's lenga (her wedding garment) was purchased, the shop was closed. A few quick phone calls and the owner agreed to meet us there later. The good news is we then had time to do the other shopping we had to do. In this photo you can see one of the many streets with shops in Char Minar -- and a decent view of Char Minar itself in the background. Of the left you can see two minarets (one behind the other), and if you look through the upper pole on the right, you can see the other two minarets.
It began to rain a bit harder on us, but nothing that was unbearable. The weather was a bit cooler today, which made the humidity bearable. First stop was a little shop to buy small items Kalpana needed to bring back to the US, and to buy the appropriate string to tie the bundles of sari's purchased for the women in my family. We bought little things to bring home as well.
What I found fascinating in Char Minar, as I did in the old parts of the city of Delhi and Lucknow is how the shops are basically arranged by type of shop. Each city has it's own specialties, and Hyderabad was no different. Rows and rows of Hyderabad-style bangle stores in one area. Rows and rows of pearl shops in another area. Rows and rows of clothing stores in yet another. I was so grateful to Kalpana and her many years of shopping experience in Char Minar She knew just where to go, and the vendors to buy from -- it was amazing to watch her! Again, as this was Friday and it is Ramadan, the streets were relatively empty which made shopping and getting around easier. Normally the streets are packed!
The longest time we spent was in one of the bangle shop -- Femina. There were thousands of different kinds of bangles. I needed to purchase bangles to wear with my two saris. Kalpana was working with Devika to purchase bangles for the wedding day. It was interesting watching the men behind the counter listen to us, and pull out box after box of bangles until we found what we wanted and what fit. Steve and Max had left us to go get some coffee, and when they came back the owner of the shop offered to take them over to see where the bangles are made. Steve and Max went with him, and although they were not allowed to take photos of the process, it is basically three young women who work affixing hot glass beads unto copper backings. I was able to purchase some of the bangles they made, as well as some he buys from others to stock his shop. Here is a picture of the green bangles I purchased for the wedding, and you can see the wall of bangles and the men behind the counter. What you can see is less than 1/8 of the merchandise filling this small stall.
We headed back to Ahmedi, and the shop owner had just gotten there. Devika tried on her Lenga, and discovered that adjustments had to be made to the blouse. While I will not post a picture here of her lenga, let me just say, BEAUTIFUL! So, Kalpana once again successfully negotiated with the shop owner, who located a tailor and had the adjustments made on the spot (well, about 45 minutes). In the meantime, we went and found the two petticoats I'll need for my saris -- which we did -- they are "one size fits all", and as with the Salwar Chemise pants, you have a drawstring at the top to tie the top of the pants or petticoat closed. The picture here is of the shop when we first encountered it -- closed! But it gives you an idea of the area. As with some businesses there, it is expected that you take your shoes off and leave them at the door to enter the shop. Around the corner from this place was another place that Kalpana found to embroider the napkins and table cloths I want to have made for the Pasadena wedding--we went around the corner to talk with the owner. I now have to find the right fabric! That will be for another day.
We were all getting a bit tired. Max popped into a shop and bought us crackers to munch on -- we all had big breakfasts, but we knew we were probably not going to grab lunch, and we had a great chaat party to look forward to in the evening. Max has been so great in looking out after all of us.
As we walked around prayers came over the loudspeakers from the Mosque. I loved hearing this when we were in India in 2008 with Max -- and Char Minar was no different. There is something soothing and beautiful about prayer -- in whatever language, from whichever religion. It made me stop and say prayers for those I have been holding close in prayer.
We got back into the cab, and Kalpana stopped the cab in front of the line of shops selling shoes. We jumped out and walked into this shop that is literally under the mosque. Thankfully because I'm short I cleared the very low doorway easily. Max and Steve had to duck down low. Max and Steve were looking for shoes for the wedding (special sandals or typical shoes for Indian weddings). Because Max has ginormous feet, it has always been difficult if not impossible for him to buy shoes in India -- he recently purchased a pair of Dr. Scholl sandals there, for example. Max tried on the largest pairs they had, but no luck. He ended up ordering a custom wedding shoe and a pair of sandals to be made. Steve easily found a pair of sandals, and I found a pair to wear with both my saris. This is a picture of Max in the shoe shop (really a large closet) and the kind of shoes he was looking at on the wall.
We headed back to the hotel, and rested for a little over an hour before being picked up by Aishwarya who is married to Ipshita, Kalpana's eldest sister Urvashi's daughter. Max has been living with Aishwarya and Ipshita for the last month -- we are so grateful to them for taking such good care of Max! Aishwarya and Ipshita hosted the Chaat party at their beautiful apartment on the outskirts of Hyderabad. When we arrived, they put on Bollywood music and we all danced into the apartment to start the festivities of the wedding -- that was such a powerful way to say, "this is a party -- let's get it started!" They put out a beautiful spread of food -- pani puri, dosa, chutneys, chole, tav bhaji, aloo tikki, sambar, mini idly, peanut chutney, suji halva -- everything was DELICIOUS! I didn't get a picture before the buffet started, but here is the remnants with Aditya drinking chai.
I love Devika's family -- everyone is kind and wonderful! I am amazed by all the details Kalpana has put into this event for our children. As dinner was ending, we started practicing our bollywood moves -- music videos were put on and we all danced (well, most of us danced -- I did for sure!). No pictures of the dancing, though. I was able to take group pictures of Devika's male and female relatives, and a picture of Steve and me -- me in my new salwar chemise, Steve in his new kamikuri shirt which you will see below -- and the last picture is of the bride and groom.
I can't wait to see what my next day in Hyderabad will bring -- what adventures, what tasks to be done, but one thing I know -- there is life and love in the extended Saxena/Sinha family, and I'm happy to now be part of this amazing group of men, women and children.
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Location:Road No 1, Hyderabad, India