Quite the time to be in Hyderabad. The city's in a bit of kerfluffle. Separatists are lobbying for the state of Andra Pradesh to be split into two states. Maybe three.
Depending on how adventurous you're feeling (I'm not), you can wander into downtown hotpots hotspots (thanks CurryPuff!) to watch separatist demonstrators. Apparently there will be hordes of them, regardless of the side of the argument. Some will tell you India is a very politically passionate country. Others will tell you the demonstrators are poor people hired for the day to wear the appropriate colours and hold the appropriate banners and chant the appropriate chants. The most hardworking ones among them apparently stagger their engagements so that they can work for one party one day and another party the next.
"Nothing is what it seems in India," people keep telling me. I can't tell if they're warning me or feeling smug.
The more annoying part of all these political theatrics is the separatists strong-arming the city's merchants to go on strike. That is, goondas (hired gangsters) roam the city, making sure businesses have their shutters shut. Or else.
So the boys can't get their shirwanis (long Indian shirt-coats) tailored today, and the henna hasn't yet been delivered to girls' bridal henna session.
But nothing here is what it seems.
At various food purveyors, it's worth checking in with the security guard in front of the shutters. Sometimes, you'll be shown the side or back door, in through the delivery entrace, the storerooms, the prep rooms, kitchens and plating areas, into the establishment where it's business-almost-as-usual. (The sights enroute are a good way to test if you still want to eat there. Maybe all restaurants should be made to admit customers this way.) A network of lookouts send word by text message if the goondas are on the move.
This is how we got brunch from a well known city bakery today. We came home smug with a pile of chicken croisssants, chicken cutlets, chicken drumsticks and coffee cake.
The buttery croissants and moist mashed potato cutlets were chockful of pulled chicken, more generous that what I've seen in any other commercial establishment.
The drumsticks, on the other hand, were just a chicken legbones with chicken-leg-shaped patties of mashed potato, breadcrumbs, onions and masala. And maybe some chicken flavouring.
Nothing, nothing, nothing here is what it seems.