The sweltering Indian summer was testing my patience, especially after the slow journey down the claustrophobic and dingy stairways of Charminar.
Once out in the piazza, a man introduced himself to us as a government official for Hyderabad tourism. He had short, neatly combed hair and wore a striped white shirt that looked formal enough. The one proof of his occupation was an ID card that hang on a lanyard around his neck which he quickly showed us when he introduced himself.
And so, we asked him where Mahboob Chowk was.
"Madam, why are you wanting to go to Hen Market? I take you other place..."
Ignoring his question, Vee asked him for directions to a legit money-changer. We had both ran out of rupees and were in desperate need of some cash.
Our guide told us to follow him. We were slightly hesitant at first, but then seeing that Laad Bazaar was bustling with people, and plus there were 2 of us, we decided to go ahead and follow his lead.
About two minutes down the street, we found ourselves standing in front of a pearl jewelry shop. The guide told us that this was a government approved shop and that they gave good discounts.
Knowing that we've been had, we politely refused to browse through the display of pearl jewelry. Vee (always the more patient one) reminded him of the money changer. Only then he started talking about currency conversion to the shopkeeper.
I could feel my crankiness went up a notch as Vee and I stood outside the pearl jewelry shop while our self-proclaimed guide negotiated the value of rupees over dollars with the shopkeeper.
After a few minutes, amid the persistent coaxing to purchase some pearl souvenirs and the conversion rate quoted way higher than what we got in Malaysia, I lost my patience. We left them with a bland thank you.
Standing somewhat lost in the mid of the bazaar, Vee finally pulled me towards the direction showed earlier by a young security guard of Charminar.
"Mahboob Chowk? Ha...Hen Market, you follow Laad Bazaar," said the young security guard, pointing down to the street below, as we stood near the Charminar's balcony which faced the bangles market.
Bangles of a million colors sparkled under the sun as Vee and I walked silently through the bazaar. The first line of shops sold bangles, accessories and clothes. Slowly, we maneuvered our way among men, women, children, speeding autos and motorbikes. Things were in frenzy as everyone went about their business of buying and selling.
In between the bangle stalls, we could see vendors selling big, fat, ripe mangoes. The mangoes look so succulent and juicy, Vee was adamant to get them later even if that was our last day in Hyderabad.
As we walked, Vee took out her shawl and started to cover her head from the heat. I could feel perspiration trailing down my spine. I told Vee that we would try look for "Haziq and Mohi" just till the end of the road. If we still couldn't find it then, we'd get an auto ride back to the hotel and pack our things.
"Haziq and Mohi" is a secondhand and antiquarian bookstore located in the Old City of Hyderabad. Being book lovers, we always made it a point to look for a bookstore or two, every time we visit India. The older or more quaint the bookstore was, the more appealing it would be to us.
We had found several articles on the internet citing Haziq and Mohi. However, none of them actually provided the exact details of its whereabouts other than - after the Laad Bazaar, near Mahboob Chowk, or in the vicinity of Charminar.
And interestingly, almost all of the writings on Haziq and Mohi mentioned how inconspicuous and unassuming its exterior was. That one could have walked by it and not noticed the bookstore at all. There was no fancy signboard highlighting this treasure trove of rare books sought by librarians, scholars, book collectors and authors from all over.
I guessed that was why most of the stories we had read about Haziq and Mohi kind of themed around book lovers actually stumbling upon the place by chance while buying something else.
William Dalrymple, for example, found the bookstore as he was walking around in search of a Bidri box, a souvenir for his family. The boy who provided him directions had taken him instead to Haziq and Mohi. Dalrymple ended up buying 400 pounds worth of books there which was used as reference and material for his best selling 2002 book "The White Mughals".
Despite the short incident with the guide, I was thrilled actually to be looking for Haziq and Mohi on foot. Vee and I concluded a long time ago that the 3 best ways to experience India was on foot, by train and from an auto rickshaw.
"Look! Murgi Chowk! I've forgotten that Murgi means chicken in Hindi, so this must be the Hen Chowk..." Vee cried out excitedly and pointed to a sign across the street.
We grinned at each other, happy that we were finally heading somewhere. We crossed the street into Murgi Chowk. Merchandises on displayed changed from colorful array of clothes to gray and silver hardware and home appliances.
After a while, rows of narrow, wooded bookshops began to appear replacing the hardware stores. At that moment, the walk under the hot sun was finally began to feel worth it.
In one of the articles we read, the writer said that he had found Haziq and Mohi after asking directions from an Achar seller. Before that, he had tried asking other bookstores but they didn't know where the shop was. Well, either they were trying to eliminate competition or Haziq and Mohi was that obscure.
After a while, we came to a junction. We didn't notice any achar shop anywhere, so we decided to give it a shot and asked the nearest bookstore. Upon mentioning Haziq and Mohi, the book wallah quickly pointed us to a particular direction. And I thought to myself - well, that was easy...
We followed the book wallah's direction. On the right side we saw a mosque. Next to it was an old white building labeled Mahboob Chowk Beef Market. I figured we must be close.
After some time, we had nowhere else to go except to turn into a narrow inner lane. The row of bookstores had ended. All I could see then were shops selling antiquities and dried fruits. If we went straight ahead, we would be back at the main road, the opposite to the book wallah's direction. Suddenly, it felt that we had come to a dead end.
This search for Haziq and Mohi had taken Vee and I almost an hour. We were crunch for time as we needed to get our things packed. I let out a heavy sigh as I thought of abandoning this trail taken by Dalrymple.
Disheartened, I looked to my right. Across the small one foot lane, an elderly man with thick graying mustache sat resting on a chair, fanning himself with a paper fan. He was heavy-set and wore a white cotton undershirt with long black pants. Behind him, through the opened door, I could see stacks of books piled up to the ceiling of the narrow shop.
I looked up at the signage. It said Haziq and Mohi, Rare Book Sellers - in English and Arabic.
My frustration evaporated. Oh love, I have arrived.
Safiza is a Travel Blogger, Common Reader, Book Hoarder, Art and Nescafe Tarik Lover.