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Purana shahar, naya zamana

Posted by on August 6, 2011 0 Comment

May be the Hyderabadis took pride in reciting this couplet until a few decades ago. But no more. Not any longer in the Old City, the asli Hyderabad.

For the last six decades, the Old City has been variously associated with socio-economic backwardness, recurring gang wars, street brawls, stabbings, communal flares-up and terrorism. It was always discussed in derogatory and ridiculing terms in naya shahar, the new Hyderbad. The new city people still talk about the ‘weird’ dress sense of the Old City potta-pottee (boys and girls), the typical Deccani/Hyderabadi lingo that flows unmindful of whom it is spoken to and strange mannerisms that sound rude and appear charming at the same time . But caring two hoots to what the world thinks of the Old City, the ‘logaan’ (inhabitants), may have unconsciously started linking with the changing times. The process of change started a decade or two back, but has now become palpable.

The unpaved lanes and by-lanes of Old City that were known for their potholes and overflowing sewage lines have been gradually replaced with cement roads.

Not that the Old City doesn’t have well constructed spacious houses. Yes, it was the place that boasted of grand monuments, magnificent palaces, havelis, dewdhis and villas. But with the passage of time, the Old City became a victim of government indifference and self-neglect and slowly got identified with lethargy, rampant poverty and over populated slums.

Poverty has not vanished from Old City. Its stark presence is still deeply felt. But it is also a fact that people have built new houses or reconstructed the old ones. Houses that were made of mud walls and kavelu (tiled) roofs are a thing of the past. To whichever class of people they belong, the houses invariably have reinforced cement and concrete roofs and plastered brick walls.

Arguably, the biggest market in the entire Hyderabad is located in the Old City. Starting from Naya Pul, it swells up right and left at Madina Junction and winds up to Charminar and beyond. It has everything to offer. From gems and jewellery to pearls, garments, bridal wear, home appliances to furniture, almost everything can be found in this market. But unfortunately, some people had started writing the obituary of this market. They say that the ‘maahol’ (atmosphere) here would never allow the businesses to grow. To the utter dismay of such people, the market has bounced back in a big way. Some of those merchants who had left it and set up shops in the new city are said to be trying to buy back their lost spots. But they are deterred by the prices that are rising by the month.

Yet another index reflecting that the Old City has been touched by God once again is the swanky four-wheelers that can be seen parked in the streets during nights. And during the day, visitors may be surprised by the Mercs and BMWs owned by privileged Old City residents running up and down the congested roads.

Given the growing tinge of prosperity, the Old City inhabitants have begun to observe festivals and events differently. Be it the Ganesh Chaturthi or Bonalu procession or Moharram mourning or Id celebrations, their styles betray a flashy change.

Until some time ago it was the density of the Old City population that was increasing. Though density could still be a major issue, the Old City itself has expanded considerably in all directions. There are chances that its growth would lap up surrounding settlements and hamlets.

Behind all this change lies the spirit of Hyderabadis. The Old City inhabitants, it seems, have understood the meaning of hard work, perseverance, education and all inclusive approach to life. They still do not have major medical care units, multiplexes, Imax or Inox cinema screens, parks, wide roads, parking places and many other facilities that are commonly found in the new city or Cyberabad. But they have rediscovered their strengths.

Sensing the growing thirst for knowledge among parents and children, leading educational institutions have started to register their presence here. The students of Old City, especially the girls, who had to travel long distances to study at reputed junior, degree or professional college can now find some well known options to choose from in their locality itself. The numbers of students, among them girls, has been on the rise at the primary and secondary level schools. Thousands of boys and girls are finding employment at IT firms and other multi-national companies in Cyberabad and elsewhere. They are taking back home, besides pay cheques, new ideas to improve life conditions. They are implementing them quietly. Not to be left behind, the boys in the slums of Old City are found hugely using cafes and mobile phones to get connected with the web world.

It is clear that these folks are saying a forceful ‘hau’ (yes) to change and ‘nakko nakko’ (no, no) to status quo. TOI

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