Come January and all roads lead to Hyderabad’s ‘Numaish’ or All India Industrial Exhibition which is on from 1st January to 15th February. The Numaish has been an annual pilgrimage of sorts to the citizens of Hyderabad and Secunderabad since it started in 1938. It started modestly as a local exhibition with only 100 stalls and it now has over 2600 stalls from all over India, 25 lakh annual visitors as well as stalls with products from Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan and Bangladesh too. The Numaish has its page on Facebook and there has even been a stamp released to honour it!
I have been visiting the Numaish since my childhood. At first the trinkets, candy floss and attractions like the mini train on tracks, motorcycle rider in the ‘Well of Death’ fascinated me, now it is the Patthar ka Gosh, Hareez, a close cousin of Haleem, fried fish and shops selling Lucknow suits, Rajasthani Saris, Kashmiri dry fruit, Leather bags and Bed sheets and Quilts that draws me to the Fair. The Giant Wheel hasn’t lost its charm although newer, noisier and scarier rides jostle for space alongside my favorite ride and the mini train is now on wheels.
The entrance is still Rs 10 on weekdays and 20 on weekends and the entrance is still full of assorted beggars and peddlers of popcorn and toys. But the simple and beautiful fish made out of hand painted paper, intricately folded and stuck onto a reel of thread has been replaced by battery operated toys flashing lights and making screeching sounds, enough to give a Police Car’s siren a run for its money.
I used to go with my 3 aunts and mother by 2 auto rickshaws when I was a small girl. Now I go in a car which is parked miles away and the charge for this ‘convenience’ is Rs 100. I used to have more fun in the auto, although I used to be constantly told to sit quietly and not stick my head out of the window, much like I admonish my dogs these days. As I grew to be a gangling pre-teen, sometimes the auto driver used to refuse to take 3 passengers, to which my Aunt once said, “Par yeh to sirf bacchi hai” to which the driver retorted Hydera-baddy style, “Aise to main bhi meri Maa ka Bachha hun!” Then I had thrown a tantrum and threatened to walk to the exhibition a good 20 miles away if my Aunts ever used the same phrase again to describe a growing child, who was already a head and shoulder taller than my petite Aunts, but now I can only smile at these memories as two of my aunts have since passed away.
Ladies’ Day in the good old days was the Best. I used to watch open mouthed at some of the ladies dressed to kill in their colourful best. It was not uncommon to see a flashy electric blue khameez, lime green salwaar, gold dupatta and silver sandals on the same woman. Mix and Miss-match used to be the order of the day as the ladies vied with each other to make an exhibition of themselves. It was cool for kids to buy and wear coolers and shades although it was already dark. Or maybe they were just protecting their eyes from the fashion glare!
Haggling was and is still the order of the day. I have honed in my bargaining skills at our Numaish and after every shopping victory after a brief episode of bargaining in Bangkok or Singapore’s Chinatown, I have said a silent thank you to the Numaish for having taught me the trick of stating your price, which is less than half of the shopkeeper’s price and pretending to walk away until the shopkeeper calls you back. It works every time. After all, I cut my bargaining teeth at Hyderabad’s Numaish.