South Indian Tales: Paan

Every late Friday afternoon, in a busy market at the intersection of Bowenpally and Sikh village in Hyderabad, a small group of men gather to begin a rather peculiar ritual. Pouting their red lips they spit a jet of red liquid. They try to say something to each other but they spit again. The ritual continues until a clamorous mob around them drowns their voices.

These men fade into the market’s background and nobody regards their obsession to spit and chew. It may seem strange, but for these compulsive chewers the market is their place of utmost sanctity because a corner shop here sells the infamous paan. 

Adding the zing to the paan leaves
Adding some zing to life in Hyderabad

The people of Hyderabad are some of the happiest and nonchalant people I have come across in South India. They love nothing more than to take light (Hyderabad’s colloquial phrase for a mood of conviviality). But what do they do then when things aren’t so chill? They relish in their love for paan.

Paan in South India has long been an after food mouth freshener. In Hyderabad, though, paan is the meal for the daring and non-conforming which comes in different flavors for its unique buyer.

The unconcerned people of Hyderabad often eat saada paan [Urdu: plain paan] which is made of nuts and aromatic spices. People chew it, keep it in their cheek and then about half an hour later, they spit it out.

Cautious people who don’t like spitting; prefer the Meetha paan [Urdu: sweet] which oozes grated coconut, candy and pureed rose petals. The sweetest of all flavors is also one of the most juiciest paan to chew. Among the racially mixed population of  Hyderabad, millennial Begums and new age Nizams enjoy spitting, rather than chewing paan. A dash of tobacco and some powdered spices offers the zing that such people in Hyderabad are always on a lookout for.  

Paan seller packing a sweet paan
Some shy away from sellers

Other paan aficionados in Hyderabad, like older women, avoid eating paan from a designated seller. While doing groceries or on their way around the city, doddery women sneak in a few leaves from handcart vendors, who sell baskets full of betel leaves.

Elderly women eat paan leaves with their distinct concoctions that have probably been handed down from generations before.

Wrapped and ready to eat paan
Wrapped and ready

Like many non verbal expressions of affection and happiness, Hyderabad’s paan joins other cultural ambassadors like flowers, sweets and clothing to bond with estranged friends. Probably the reason why many people in Hyderabad embellish weddings with threaded jasmine flowers and sweet paan.

Regardless of where the paan comes from, either from an over affectionate wedding host or from a bored seller in an alleyway, paan intoxicates the people of Hyderabad to help them do what they do best: chew at the city’s problems and spit what they don’t concur.

 

 

 

 

12 Comments

  1. They seem normal while eating PAAN and spitting like it’s a part of their culture.

    Visiting Sophisticated I. T. Hub
    & experiencing about ‘PAAN spit’ thingy was completely contradictory and a disheartening experience.

    But nevertheless it’s India .
    People don’t give a fcuk about anything. They do what they love even if it includes violation in the law .

    Thank you for taking out this topic Alisha
    Keep going ! ✌

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are too kind, Suntih, it makes me happy that I am able to deliver content that is making it worth your while. Your feedback is the kind of motivation my young website needs to thrive! I hope to continue to share little bits of this wonderful region for you to enjoy too! Here’s to sharing knowledge in our little blogging community. Thank you again and I look forward to your posts too which has so far motivated me to continue to work hard!

      Liked by 1 person

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