I am surprised that I am being asked by many of my friends about the change Hyderabad has undergone in the past 50-odd years that I have had the privilege of calling it home.
I am actually tempted to respond like a true blue Hyderabadi and ask them “Howlay ho gaye kya?” but am restraining myself and just telling them that I am quite certain that whatever change the city has had to take in its stride, as it grew from a mere city to a mega city, is only superficial and quite cosmetic. The heart of the city remains what it was, and I am of the opinion that the city will not change significantly even after the influx of so many outsiders into the newer parts of the city.
What makes the city? What defines it? Well, I’m quite sure you’ll agree that there are a few things that matter more than any other in this evaluation. What kind of people are Hyderabadis? What is their temperament? How do they speak? How do they treat newcomers to the city? What do they eat? And, how do they approach life?
Hyderabadis are the warmest, most inclusive tribe I have ever seen. The city embraced me with love, affection and a genuine joy when it was my turn to be a newcomer. And I am seeing the city, along with me, do the same everyday as people from around the country, indeed the world, are coming here to settle down… ostensibly for a few years before they move on.
Here’s where the famous ‘Gandipet ka Paani’ theory comes into play. Once you drink this water, they told me, you’ll never be able to keep away from Hyderabad. After more than half-a-century in this amazing city, I don’t have any reason to doubt the genuineness of that claim. Yes, maybe Gandipet has dried up and Manjira or even Godavari are the rivers that service the city, but the Hyderabadi flavour that the waters imbibe and carry forward, make sure that every citizen becomes a ‘pukka Hyderabadi’ within a few months, if not days.
The first thing that happens is that people adopt the laid-back lifestyle that’s proprietary to Hyderabad, and time becomes an approximation that defies logic. Sure, they’ve stopped apologising with a conciliatory ‘Dekho Miyaan…’. And replaced the phrase with a more universal ‘Chill, Dude’. But, that unique rush of a Hyderabadi in a hurry as he waddles across the timescape changes, and ‘kal-parsoon’ becomes a measure that envelops a few days. And ‘abbhich’ becomes a painting of a few hours’ duration.
Yes, I guess that chances of you spotting a cheeky child riding pillion on a bicycle taunting a policemen with a shrill ‘Arrey ho Khatmal’ are quite remote. But, the habit of teasing the policemen continues unabated. The beat constable posted in Hyderabad usually adopts an avuncular role and the police as a force are not known to be brutal or rough.
When it comes to food too, tradition plays a tasty role and makes the Biryani part of a staple diet. And, suddenly, a fried rice enthusiast looks lovingly at a dum biryani which reflects the sheer Hyderabadiness of its mouth-watering existence.
Another thing that has defied change is the ‘Hyderabadi hug’. While Bollywood only recently celebrated the idea of a ‘Jadoo ki Jhappi’, the Hyderabadis have been practising the art of hugging for centuries. Except that instead of murmuring a few salutations in Deccani, today’s hugs come with a ‘Hi Bro’ attachment.
The language has changed. The spirit hasn’t. The British have left. English hasn’t. #KhabarLive