Coffee and the Paper: Taj Mahal Hotel coffee and the Deccan Chronicle

Coffee and the Paper is a series of blogs where I take a break from my travels and explore local media and local brews.

Hyderabad Edition.

Deccan Chronicle at Taj Mahal Hotel
Deccan Chronicle at Taj Mahal Hotel

Hyderabad, the central Indian city where I have been living for the past three months, is at the beginning of the Deccan Plateau—a raised section of the Indian subcontinent that generally denotes where South India begins. It also is home to South India’s biggest paper: the Deccan Chronicle. Here is a look at DC (plus a review of my favorite local coffeeshop).

Newspaper: Deccan Chronicle (“The largest circulated English daily in South India.”)

Established: 1938

Edition: Vol. 77 No. 277, Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Price: 4 rs

Newsroom: Secunderbad (the twin city to Hyderabad)

Where I bought it: A roadside paper stand in the Nampally, where usually the newspaper seller is sitting with his friends and a small white fluffy dog.

Sections: 11 (City, Politics, Seemandhra, Nation, World, Editorial, Op-Ed, 360, Business, Games, and local insert: Hyderabad Chronicle)

Top Stories: Hyderabad is not yet in the top 50 global cities to attract business investment, India is ready to retaliate after Pakistan violated ceasefire in Kashmir, and Andhra Pradesh’s Chief Minister’s new office at the Secretariat is bulletproof, but not soundproof (something key in the traffic congested area near the capital building, and a bit awkward given that Telanganga just split from Andhra Pradesh, and Hyderabad will be a shared capital between the two states for the next decade, at which point Andrah must get a new capital).

Major stories:

  • Power cuts have been a major issue for the new state of Telangana as most of the power plants for the region are located in Andrah Pradesh. After citizen protests due to power cuts lasting up to 12 hours in rural areas (generally the city has seen two 3 hour power cuts per day) the state has been forced to buy power at a higher rate from private power companies. The Chief Minister, K. Chandresekhar Rao, believes it will take up to 3 years to solve the crisis. The fact that rainfall has been about 30 percent less than usual this monsoon season hasn’t helped the power crisis either (less rain means overheated generators and more people turning to air conditioners to cool down).
  • Those in Tamil Nadu are anxiously awaiting the bail decisions on the case of their Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, who was convicted of corruption last week. If she is denied bail, many believe more riots will break out among her supporters, something that happened last weekend and prevented travel in certain parts of the state.
  • Analysis of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US last week took up an entire section of the paper – 360, “a look behind the news”—with comments on the effectiveness of the visit. One scholar pointed out that he was aggressive in India’s movement toward a more efficient and productive economy, so much so that “a few Americans were left wondering whether he was talking to them or just doing campaign stops abroad.” Though the focus was largely on business and economics, and they spoke little of his background that previously prevented him from entering the United States at all.

Overall thoughts: The Deccan Chronicle has been my go to source for news about Hyderabad and greater India. It introduced me to Indian media, its sometimes confusingly colloquial (try to keep track of all the acronyms for the hundreds of political parties in India without any prior knowledge), often skewed (pro-Modi, anti-Pakistan), though always diligent reporting style. It has great balance of coverage of events and news items of local importance (like a horrible case where a man in a custody battle with his wife killed their two sons before committing suicide in an act of revenge, a story that has had feminist groups and the general public in major discussion about gendered brutality across the state) as well as national importance (like the Modi analysis). Though it has taken me awhile to get more versed on current events in India, given it is a massively complicated country, I feel the Deccan Chronicle has been a good guide. I am also partial to their Hyderabad Chronicle insert. Sometimes I feel the Indian media I read has a lot of hard news reporting without the soft news features and local interest stories that can add context and personality to a paper. Rarely are locals interviewed in major political stories, and even rarer do I see a profile or story lead that opens with someone affected by a larger issue. It is a different style than US, and has taken some adjustment. But in the HC, between lifestyle stories about Tollywood actors and actresses, you can almost always find interesting features on local Hyderabadis doing cool things—like a story on three tech entrepreneurs who invented smart trash cans that can alert garbage collectors when they are overfull.

Ultimately it does remind me that Hyderabad is a small city. This edition had photos from a gala a friend had invited me to (unfortunately I could not go) and even a connection back to the US—my cousin recently married a comic book illustrator for Marvel, and he told me to look out for two of his friends in the comic book world at India’s Comic Con in Hyderabad this weekend. The preview of the event had both of them mentioned! Sometimes, it only takes a newspaper to remind you how tiny the world really is.

 Coffee: Taj Mahal Hotel

Taj Mahal Hotel is our local comfort food joint, offering south Indian staples (dosa, uddappam, vada, chai) at cheap prices. I’ve spent many an hour on their patio decompressing after class or rewarding myself for waking up early. Their coffee is typical of India—a small teacup size, about 3 centimeters of thick almost syrupy filter coffee and about 5 centimeters of hot frothy sweetened milk. Coming from Boston, where I often indulged in dark roasts with just a spot of 2 percent milk from Bean Town’s many fantastic local cafes, it was like assaulting my senses with a sugar rush. But I’ve come to wean myself off of straight black coffee and come to love its small sweet morning treat. Not the best coffee I have ever had, but there will always be those coffee shops that hold a place in your heart, not for the coffee but for who you were and where you were when you drank it. Taj is that place for me in Hyderabad.

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