Saturday, November 21, 2015

Students from War-torn Countries Flock to Hyderabad

Foreign students see the city as an island of peace that lets them pursue their higher studies 

After arriving in Hyderabad from Gaza Strip, the first thing that Mohammed Ahmed Alsaiqali wanted to see was the Golconda Fort. The rugged old rock castle reminded him of his war-torn country's landscape. He has left that behind and arrived here with a hope for a better future. The next most enticing place for him is his place of study — Osmania University. 

Like him, many other students from war—torn countries are increasingly turning to Hyderabad for their higher studies. 

Another student, Masood Zalmai, who has come to study linguistics in Hyderabad from Kabul, shares, "There's nothing left in my country. Peace and safety do not exist. Our family did not move to Pakistan like other families. During the Soviet occupation, the civil war started, and I lost many family members in one of the attacks. I took up small jobs and somehow kept on studying. Now, here I am in Hyderabad, studying with nationals from other countries. I feel safe here." 

Post—Taliban era life is still very difficult in Afghanistan. It is slowly recuperating from the troubled times of militancy and civil war. "You can see girls studying in the makeshift refugee classrooms. But the teachers are not that really qualified," Zalmai adds. 

Many foreign students from Middle East, Central Asia and Africa find India an economical destination for higher studies, and at the same time, it is peaceful and calm.Ahmed Fuad Musawa from Yemen, who is studying Masters in English Literature, says, "The situation in Yemen is not stable. There's a crisis and it has affected everyone big time. I don't know how the situation will be when I go back to my country. The teachers in my country have studied here. I heard a lot about Hyderabad and India from my teachers in Yemen, and that's why I am here." 

Each year, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) gives over 3,000 scholarships to foreign students, especially from countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Iran, Yemen, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Syria and African countries. G Laxmi, the regional er of ICCR at Hyderabad, says, "For the current academic year, we have received 1,500 confirmed admission applications based on scholarships. Moreover, the education ministries of these countries choose universities in Hyderabad as the preferred study destination. The scholarships take care of the students' travel, rent, tuition fees and everything else as well as their stipend." Mir Ahmad Zabih from Afghanistan, who is pursuing MA in political science from Osmania University says, "I received a stipend of Rs 11,000 after I received the scholarship. I can relate to the culture very well. Many students from my country are here and we share a rented flat in Habsiguda which is easy for our budget." 

Hyderabad is an island of peace for Alsaiqali in contrast to Gaza. He still shivers while narrating the bombardment of Gaza. "Education was out of question. 'Life' was the first priority. When I came to India in 1989, getting a permission to study wasn't easy. I landed here and experienced what peace is. Our cultures are so similar, so I didn't feel out of place here. I eventually got married to an Indian woman here and have children too.However, I am still worried about my family in Gaza Strip and tribe who have to live in fear," he says, adding, "After Pune, Hyderabad is the second most favoured city for us." At present, he is completing his PhD in Microbiology from OU. One can see a huge crowd of students from different nations flocking the University Foreign Relations Office (UFRO), Osmania University. C Venugopal Rao, the director informs, "Students from Iraq and African countries like Sudan face a lot of visa problems. We extend the duration for them so that they can continue their studies. This year, we have received 450 scholarship applications for OU." 

Many such students choose to study Masters and then enroll for a doctorate. Some of them are in their mid or late 30s. Thanks to the volatile political situation in their country, they do not get a chance to study further. 

Ali Hashim Muhammadi from Iraq informs, "This is my only chance to study. Because of the crisis in Iraq, I had to wait for a long time. Most of the instructors and teachers have fled from my country." He sighs, "We hope for the best, but the reality appears to be different."

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Desserts Royal Style

The City of Pearls has always offered an assortment of desserts to choose from for the food connoisseurs. From the ubiquitous soft, gooey apricot dessert Khubaani ka Meetha to milky and the understated delight Elaneer Payasam, the latticed sweet Baadam Kii Jaali, Urusa Halwa made of beetroots and age-old bread pudding called Double Ka Meetha… traditional Hyderabadi sweets have always been around. But now, the luxury restaurants in Hyderabad are giving them a special touch by adding choicest of ingredients. Even the calorie-counting celebs, super busy top bureaucrats and politicians can’t finish their meals without opting for these sweet cravings. We present to you the vast array that luxury hotels and plush restaurants in Hyderabad have to offer.

Khubaani Ka Meetha
No scrumptious dinner or lunch in Hyderabad is ever complete without a bowlful of cooked apricots dripping in syrup and topped with dollops of ice cream or thick layers of cream. Well, whenever a celebrities land in Taj Deccan, Banjara Hills, the demand that chefs get for satisfying their sweet cravings is of King of Desserts: Khubani Ka Meetha. Dried apricots are cooked on very slow heat in sugar syrup for three – four hours till they are tender and get a sheen like glass. And when the dish is served it’s kept plain and simple. Executive chef Rishi tells us, “Simplicity is the key. I just let the apricots soak in sugar syrup till the right amount of time. We top it with cream and serve.” No wonder then other hotels of Taj Group follow suit. But it’s the guests who have the gala time. The price for the sweet dish is ` 225 ++ taxes. Details: 040 66663939

`4Urusa Halwa
Urusa Halwa is an old Nizami recipe. Since it is made with beetroot, the sweet is maroon in colour. This is a much favoured dish of Taj Falaknuma Palace. Chef Sajesh Nair prepares it with beetroot cubes, milk, ghee, sugar and cardamom powder. He says, “The name is derived from the Arabic word uroos which also means celebrations.” Urusa is an Arabic word which means bride. Perhaps because of the colour, the
halwa has been named so. It’s priced at `540 ++ taxes. Before serving, they adorn it with chandi ka varaq. Details: 040 66298585

Shahi Tukda

Yes, it’s that bread delicacy dipped in thickened milk with a dash of saffron and crunchy nuts. Better known as Double Ka Meetha, it gets this name because the dough rises to double its size on being baked. Triangles of golden fried bread are left to cook in condensed milk with saffron and cardamom. That’s how it gets its deep golden yellow colour. The dish is decorated with chandi ka varaq (silver leaf) and served with a dash of pistachios and almonds. Executive chef Agnimitra Sharma of Hotel Park Hyatt, Banjara Hills, informs, “It’s mostly the expats who swear by this dish.” 
13Baadam Kii Jaali

It is a dish with calligraphy. Yes, you heard it right. Inspired from the lattice in the windows of old palaces, this royal sweet has lacunae that are nothing but calligraphic works in Nastaliq script. The result? A delicious and beautiful pattern of sweetmeat. Made with almond powder and sugar Baadam Kii Jaali is sold by kilos. Earlier available only with age-old recipe knowing people in the crooked lanes of Old City now it is available on plush platter of Hotel ITC Kakatiya. Informs executive chef Paul, “I bake Baadam Kii Jaali in the oven for a subtle flavour. The final product turns golden yellow.” For a royal finish, he adds layers of chandi ka varaq (silver leaf) on top of the sweet. He doesn’t mention names, but asserts that his guests swear by this sweet. It is an exclusive item not available on the menu and is prepared on request.