Two blocks before the Charminar—the majestic symbol of Hyderabad and its founding Qutub Shahi dynasty—lies the Patel Market kamaan (arch). Shops dealing in textiles cascade from both sides of this entry to the marketplace. As soon you enter the market and take the first left, you reach Urdu Galli. Ironically, the only trace of Urdu here is the nasq/nastaleeq script on the signboards of some fabric stores and a Sufi shrine.
A little further, in the inner lanes, you will come across a newly restored relic of the Asaf Jahi dynasty’s reign: Named after the sixth nizam, the Mehboob Chowk clock tower was built by the erstwhile princely state’s vizier, Asman Jah, in 1892. This heritage structure, designated as such, is home to bookshops that almost reek of neglect. Most of them emerged after 1948, when English supplanted Urdu as the government language. This is one of the many reasons they mainly stock religious material in Arabic or educational books in English. Delve a little deeper, though, and you will find the Chowk area, a market for poultry and metals, is also a treasure trove of rare literature in Urdu, a language that seems to be dying out.
“Most aristocratic households had big libraries,” says city historian Sajjad Shahid. “But after the abolition of feudalism, many nobles who fell on tough times had to sell their palatial abodes.” Books from those homes made their way to many of these stores.