As a lover of Kalyani beef biryani, Hyderabad's less famous but much loved other biryani, I wonder what all the fuss about consuming the meat is about. I get it that the cow is like a maata for some Hindus and most will probably not eat beef. But that still leaves a substantial minority that do eat beef. And as I can testify from numerous outings to Kalyani biryani joints in Hyderabad, I've been allowed to consume this meat unmolested.
As I mentioned, Kalyani biryani is Hyderabad's "other" biryani. Unlike the more famous dum ki biryani, in which the meat is chicken or mutton, Kalyani uses beef or buff, as the case may be. That's not the only difference. "Hyderabadi biryani" is available in restaurants while "Kalyani biryani" is served at hole-in-the wall joints, tucked away in a side street or upstairs on the first floor corner of the building. While the chicken and mutton variants use the finest spices, rice and meat the beef version is unpretentious, but tasty. The key difference is that Kalyani is cheaper.
"I've lived in Hyderabad for a decade and I've never experienced any aggression or heated conversations about beef, or anyone questioning me about eating Kalyani biryani."
I discovered Kalyani biryani quite by accident. When I was in college a friend took a bunch of us to eat beef biryani to celebrate his birthday. A plate cost Rs 18. It was all he could afford. The place looked shady and the waiters shabby. I didn't mind and if I remember correctly, we all ordered a second plate each, much to my friends' dismay!
I kept revisiting the place. The thing that amazed me was that this particular eatery was located beside one of Hyderabad's busiest intersections, and bang behind the local police station. Even the cops dropped in sometimes for a cheap meal of rice and protein. I continued visiting the place when I started working for a newspaper in Hyderabad. The office was walking distance and this place was the only one open after I got off the night shift at 11.00pm.
I've visited other places in Hyderabad that serve Kalyani. All of them are located in crowded localities and market places, with "Kalyani Biryani" signs written in English, Telugu and Urdu. All of them have fabulous names too: Al-shafa, Amfah, Alhamdullilah, Bismillah, Naseeb!
Getting to a Kalyani joint can be quite an adventure. Jump into a rickshaw and give the driver vague directions, in Hyderabadi lingo, "Ek Minar Masjid kane uss Kalyani wale ke paas jaana," or "Charminar kane wuh choti galli me Kalyani milta kehte, jaate kya?" They unerringly take you to the right spot.
There was one that opened close to my home called Mazdoor Kalyani Biryani: no prizes for guessing who the clientele were! The owners had converted a car repair garage into a biryani joint. I went a couple of times, but quit after I thought I caught a faint smell of industrial grease and paint in the food.
The cost of a plate of Kalyani biryani has gone up from Rs 18 when I started eating in the early 2000s to around Rs 80 now. That's still cheaper than the cost of a chicken or mutton biryani.
I've lived in Hyderabad for a decade and in that time I've never experienced any aggression or heated conversations about beef, or anyone questioning me about eating Kalyani biryani. Even when I told my extended family, quite a few of whom are BJP supporters, no one questioned my choice.
Once, a bunch of us from university felt the "urge" and took off to the nearest joint, 12km away. A batchmate, who was beginning to show conservative tendencies and hung out with the right wing students' union tagged along. When we warned him where we were going he shrugged and said that he would get them to remove the beef and eat only the rice. I lauded him for his tolerance, even when I disagreed with him on virtually everything else.