Ratna G Chotrani/Hyderabad
Come January and it’s time for the Numaish in the city of Nizam. The venue is teeming with people, fairy lights of the Giant wheel create a magnificent view from far, the wafting aroma of sizzling kebabs, the sweet smell of the cotton candy, the sizzle of the frying Mirchi pakoras popularly known as bhajji’s, variety of eggs, samosas and endless foods lure families to spend time shopping and having fun.
For a true Hyderabadi, visiting the Numaish at the exhibition grounds which took off on January 1 and will continue till February 15, is an annual ritual.
A museum of sorts of handicrafts, handlooms, industrial products, crockery, spices, games, thrilling events, fun, and frolic is indeed a historic space that once saw top Indian leaders like the Nizam, Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr, Sarvpalli Radhakrishna, Zakir Hussain, Indira Gandhi, N.T. Rama Rao, Rajiv Gandhi visit.
Even n the age of Artificial intelligence, tech gizmos, shopping malls the Netflix, none can beat this modest but fun-filled Numaish spread on a sprawling 24-acre land granted through a farman (royal order) by the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad State, Mir Osman Ali Khan.
This several decades-old world’s largest consumer exhibition was the brainchild of the Osmania Graduates Association which started the Numaish-e-Masnuaat-e-Mulki or popularly known as the Numaish.
It started at the Bag-e-aam or Public Gardens with just 50 stalls and a capital of Rs. 2.50 paise and has evolved into one of the biggest industrial exhibitions in the country generating revenue in crores that goes into running 20 educational institutions.
An exhibit in Numaish
Enthused by the great response they made it an annual event and used the earnings to promote education.
In 1946 the exhibition was moved from Public Gardens to the present-day venue by the then Prime Minister of Hyderabad Sir Mirza Ismail. Originally it was 32 acres of land that has since shrunk to 24 acres due to encroachment.
The Exhibition was so popular that new consumer items like Refrigerators, Fans Radios, and later Television sets used to be on sale and display for people to pick and choose from and learn of the latest devices.
Even Government departments like the Jail, Khadi, and Village and Village, Police, and Forest Department set up their stalls. Semi-government organizations like the DRDO, BDL, Singareni, ALLWYN, HAL, and HMT were among the pricy stalls.
People travel from far-off districts like Gulbarga, Bidar Raichur, and many other places from the erstwhile Nizam territory to visit the Exhibition. They traveled in Bullock carts in those days. Even to date, people not just from the twin cities of Hyderabad Secunderabad, and Cyberabad but also from other parts of Telangana and neighbouring states come to see the exhibition. The only difference is they now travel in four-wheelers or two wheelers
Getting nostalgic Ashwin Margam recalled that right from noon there used to be workers with sheepskin bags filled with water sprinkling all over the ground to ensure there is no dust from the muddy ground as people poured in. Today it is mechanized water sprinklers that sprinkle water.
Blaring songs, the typical Ameen Sayani voice stating “This is Radio Exhibition” and jingles like the Farrookhy Dant Manjan, Zinda Tilismath, Woodwards Gripe water were popular interspersed with disturbing news of “Aap ka Baccha Kho Gaya Hain Aap is jagah paur Aiye pehchankar apne bache ko wapas le jaiye and then the commercials and announcements of stalls continued. Even today commercials and songs entertain the audience.
An exhibit in Numaish
The most anxious moment used to be the man called the “Fireman” who at a particular hour emerged on top of the ladder at a height, his clothes dipped in kerosene lit his body with fire, and jumped into the pond.
People gathered in huge numbers to see this daredevilry. Apart from this were the toy train, cup and saucer ride, Giant wheel, the well of death or Maut Ka kuan which to date attract huge crowds.
Today there are 2400 stalls and among the many takeaways are the Lucknowi chikankari Kurtas both for men and women, Dry fruits and saffron from Kashmir, Handlooms from Aurangabad, Wooden Handicrafts from Uttar Pradesh M.R. Wooden Works selling artifacts, Egg stalls, tamarind toffees, fatafat churan sweets, South Indian snacks, North Indian food, crockery, carpets you name it everything is found here. The added attraction this year is the Pista House Haleem, Jain food corner, and many others.
For the regulars all they do is board a special TSRTC bus or tell the auto driver ‘Numaish Chaltey Kya? and once they step out at Ajanta Gate they enter into a land of the timeless appeal of smells sounds and sights. The entry is like a visual map, the lanes, the by-lanes inside the exhibition are markers of experiences of lived histories, weaving together threads of identity and belonging
Interestingly Ghousia Sultana has been part of this shown for 20 years. She announces the names of the children who get separated from their parents or ward.
Earlier people came with their Toshe Daans (tiffin boxes) a bedsheet, plates, and spoons and enjoyed a picnic by squatting on the floors. Today there are n-number of stalls offering eats.
Some experts know when to shop with discounts. The “Women only” day tradition continues. It was meant for purdah-clad women.
The numiash has become a bridge between the past and present. Even now as families take with them the memories of a tick-tick trinket or balloons, or plastic toys. Ashwin Margam says, “There are nick knacks from Rs. 10 to household products for thousands.
The event has already seen a footfall of 21 lakhs or so. Numaishhas turned out to be a one-stop destination catering to every customer. At its very heart lies the motive to entertain, serve and help a visitor curate a well-heeled entertainment with a coterie of services from entertainment to fun, food clothes, upholstery, cushions crafts, and gifting all coming together under one roof and many vying for attention.