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Whatever its status, Hyderabad has changed irreversibly

August 07, 2013 14:47 IST

The Charminar in HyderabadThe old Hyderabadi-ness would not resurface. Nor can be recreated. For like in other cities, others too have a right to live and prosper and regardless of what states it gets, the city will not be what it was. Only people, romantic fools at that, look back. Cities don’t; they look to the future, says Mahesh Vijapurkar.

Hyderabad is now a bone of contention between two parts of Andhra Pradesh that would be two new states, Andhra or Seemandhra on one hand, and Telangana on the other. We still do not know if Telangana would be only its ten districts or would have two Rayalaseema districts, Kurnool and Anantapur, appended to it.

We do not know who would run, or be responsible for, Hyderabad during the ten years it would be a common capital. The Congress points-man for the carving out of two states, Digvijaya Singh has said some things about this city which instead of clarity, only creates confusion.

Hyderabad would be a part of Telangana, he has said, which a no brainer, given the geography. It is bang in the centre of the region. It would have the law and order managed, a la Delhi, with the police reporting to the lieutenant governor, the responsibility being the Union ministry of home affairs.

That virtually suggests a union territory status for the city, founded over four centuries ago by Quli Qutub Shah, and does not go well with the successful votaries of Telangana. Those from Andhra would be happy with it for if not a unified Andhra -- that is the status quo -- they would have a city which is nobody’s but the Centre’s.

We do not know if this was a ruse to calm the Andhra people who are jittery at the division as well as loss of a city that they changed after the Nizam’s dominion split into three and reluctantly merged into a new linguistic Andhra Pradesh in 1956. It does not mean that having secured Telangana, the people there would forfeit Hyderabad.

If only law and order is to be the Centre’s responsibility, who would run the city? It is not a small town, is complex, is thriving, and costs both money and patience to keep in order, even such as it is. Where would the bills go and who would pay for it, if it has the contours of a union territory but not be called so?

Apparently politics is still at play. Rayalaseema’s political leaders are bargaining for Kurnool as Seemandhra’s capital or they would prefer to merge with Telangana. Kurnool was the capital of Andhra state carved out of Madras state before the linguistic Andhra was created in 1956. That could explain Digvijaya Singh’s riddles.

To many like me, Hyderabad is more than a city. It was a way of life, like Mumbai too has its own -- the bustle, the determined flow to work and back, order amid chaos, absence of time for anything except seeking livelihoods and chase difficult dreams. Like Kolkata has its life centred on little work, lot of politics and the addas.

I was born in Hyderabad, when it was still the Nizam’s dominion but part of the Indian state without its three parts, Telangana, Marathwada and Hyderabad-Karnataka (Raichur, Gulburga, Bidar) respectively being parcelled into AP, Maharashtra and Karnataka. It was when two currencies, Nizam’s halli and IG, short for India government were still in vogue.

Andhra Pradesh grew slowly on me. The domicile certificate, called the mulkhi -- of belonging to a mulkh -- distinguished me from those who had streamed in. In AP, that was to guarantee me a safeguard of preference. Telugu took precedence over the Dakhini, a meld of several proximate languages -- Urdu, Marathi and Telugu. Even Telugu was peppered with Dakhini.

There is so much of the Hyderabadi in me -- and I wager, is in everyone from there, even if they live outside of it now or have been for decades -- that is almost always visible, at least palpable. It most certainly is to another person from that city. A bit of being laidback, time being stretched to an extent that yesterday could be a decade ago or a ‘soon’ anytime later.

It is not just the biryani or the bangles from Ladbazaar that defines the city or are its icon. Every person from there is, or to put it precisely, was. An unhurried place then, where even if except for the nawabs, others were part of an egalitarian order. Though, others did not mind presuming to be one.

One has stuck to the Dakhani because it was spoken by people whose mother tongues were different. This street language even found favour at home though the court language was much refined Urdu. The dialect is spoken with a singsong flow. One could be spotted in a crowd if hau was a haan and hallui, slow.

Life was lived in itminan -- unhurried -- and a friend who was a born Hyderabadi but lives in Homg Kong had this to say in an email about that city: “The kind of relaxed lifestyle and culture that existed in 1969 has vanished. To me, Hyderabad is a lost city and will remain as a sweet memory.”

If what I am trying to convey is lost on you, trying recalling a renowned Hyderabad-born Shyam Benegal’s movies – Ankur, Nishant and Mandi. But it does not mean that old Hyderabadis like me also hanker for the jamindaris and their hurtful ways where the feudal lords were law unto themselves; everything minus that.

Now that the separate state of Telangana is on the anvil, awaiting the legislative and executive procedures, one wonders what Hyderabad would be like once it becomes a fact. Would my Hyderabad be back? Would things change to what it was, what we miss, having seen it change in the 5-6 decades?

It is unlikely that city would reinvent itself into its past incarnation. There are far more people who don’t even speak that language any more than those who do. It is the arrivals from outside, from both within Andhra Pradesh after 1956 and elsewhere that it became ‘cosmopolitan’.

Of course, the pace of life has changed in all parts of the country and so it has in Hyderabad where technology, industry, commerce and entertainment has speeded it up. There is a buzz where there was a slight touch of the somnolent. It has brought up new landmarks that one cannot navigate the place if visited only once in three years.

That old Hyderabadi-ness would not resurface. Nor can be recreated. For like in other cities, others too have a right to live and prosper -- like we said in the past, chase his barkat even if it was hallu, hallu -- and regardless of what states it gets, the city will not be what it was. Only people, romantic fools at that, look back. Cities don’t; they look to the future.

Mahesh Vijapurkar