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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Changing Hues of Hyderabad

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Not just journalism, but journalists themselves are vanishing or should I say a diminishing breed. This is the day of the “Influencer” whatever that is…Plus there is the ChatGPT that can write a better edit than I ever could

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When we first moved to Hyderabad in the mid- 70’s, Hyderabad was a sleepy town. The hangover of the Nizam’s era and his nawabs was still thick in the air, and people were still deferential towards royalty. Surprisingly, though the accession of Hyderabad to the Indian Union was way back in 1948, there were still people who held Osman Ali Khan in great awe calling him ‘huzoor’. There
were Hyderabadi women who remembered going to schools like Mahboobia Girls High School in purdah cars and rickshaws, or of how the allopathic doctor would examine the ladies of the house from behind a curtain as they daintily held their wrists out to have their pulse read. 
I myself remember the Naubat Pahad as a monument where the Birla Mandir now is, that we would climb on idle afternoons, and Public Gardens where we were sent off to on Sundays with the household staff. We would run amok in the gardens, eating ice golas and riding the train. I remember visiting the Archaeological Musuem there and seeing my first Egyptian Mummy. There was
a Bal Bhavan here (where the artist Vaikuntam taught drawing once) that held sundry classes for children.
I remember the roads were so bereft of heavy traffic that we could cycle all the way from Shanti Nagar where we lived to school in Gunfoundry. In the ghoulishness that only children are capable of, we would stop by to see another dead person who had flung himself from the Lakdikapul bridge on to the railway tracks below.

Childhood was space, even a country in Hyderabad, especially during summer holidays. Except for a few tutors who came to keep the pace of our mathematics and science intact, we were free spirits most summer. If we were not eating chinna rasalu at lunch, breakfast or any time of the day, we wanted to participate in the ritual that is dear to us Telugus, the avakaya making ceremony that was done on the hottest day of May. And once they were stored in huge jaadis (and tied with a muslin cloth at their opening), we couldn’t wait to open them to taste the first avakaya mukka dripping in oil, blood red as if there had been a murder around. Summer also meant picnics at Qutb Shahi tombs that we would hike from Banjara Hills in a few hours, climbing over rocks and dirt roads. There were hardly any guards there then, and we could picnic and play rounds of antakshari at the evening hour, our voices echoing full and clear around the tombs.
Shopping was done mostly at stores in Abids. AA Husain for books, Dayal’s and Bhoolchand’s for clothes, the first organdie sari from Finlay’s there, and the first piece of random jewelry from Vithaldas from the line stretching across from Zamarrud theater. The high point of excitement in our life was the Numaish exhibition from where we stocked up on Kolhapuri chappals and Lucknowi kurtas.

Newspaper reading was a daily habit that went with the morning filter coffee. There was the city newspaper more well known for its movie listings and obits of locals, and a staid newspaper that our grandparents loved more than we did. We hippies (as we thought of ourselves then) read magazines like the MAD magazine and JS. And as we grew up, we thought of ourselves as intellectuals 
(dreaming of Paris and Exisentials) reading Sartre and Camus, Kafka and Gide. These we carried with us on buses from University to impress guys or girls. 
Times, they are a changing as Bob Dylan (who we played ad nauseam many decades ago on our tape recorders) sang. Indeed, they have. This sleepy town I knew has changed so much. For one, the Nizam is not even a memory now among the new generation plowing through their jobs in high rises in Gachibowli. Who remembers Naubat Pahad and which of our children go to Public Gardens on a Sunday? No Hyderabadi kid now stays in town for summer eating mangoes and smelling avakaya as they are all skiing in Switzerland or Aspen. And if they cycled to Qutb Shahi tombs now, they’d get knocked down by traffic that has become a nightmare after KBR Park. 
I may be among the few who still reads a newspaper with my coffee. Others log on to their phones to read news updates. The way we are consuming news has changed so much from the era of newsprint. People customize news their news. The thrill of reading politics, city news, obits, film, sports, business all in 24 pages of a single newspaper, is I believe, on the wane. Print journalism itself is dying a slow death. Not just journalism, but journalists themselves are vanishing or should I say a diminishing breed. This is the day of the “Influencer” whatever that is…Plus there is the ChatGPT that can write a better edit than I ever could.
In my lifetime alone I have seen so much change. We were a generation that neither had choices of movies that is now available on a Netflix or Hotstar, nor a smart phone or even the choice of a (night) club to go to in our younger days. Even this magazine that started with tentative steps has now grown to be a trend setter in the city. I am proud the way it has grown, as one of its founders. I am fortunate that I have been able to exist in the old as much as the new. Still, the time is right for me to move on. To try new things. Art for one. Italy for another. And plenty of time to read and write. 

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