When love is lost in the city of bridges

 

G S Vasu, the Indian Express

 

Puraana Pool is not just a mediaeval physical structure of stones and plaster across river Musi. It bridged many a gulf. Between a man and a woman. A prince and a pauper. A future king of a rich dominion and a dancing girl. A Muslim and a Hindu. Capital city Golconda and a small hamlet Chichlam.

 

charmninar-the-new-indian-expressHowever, in the four centuries that followed, the Musi has seen at least seven more physical structures, in the course of time erasing most of, if not all, emotional bridges.

 

The present day Hyderabad saw its foundation stone laid, in 1591, by Muhammad Quli (1566–1612), the fifth ruler of Qutb dynasty. Though it was true that the then capital Golconda was unable to cater to the emerging modern requirements and building a new capital was much in order, the choice of place has a legend behind it.

 

Quli, as a young prince, fell in love with a dancing girl Bhagmati, who used to live in Chichlam, a small hamlet near present day Shah –Ali – Banda. (The Deccani coinage Chichlam might be a distorted form of Chenchulagudem, similar to Chanchalguda now). The young prince was so enamoured by the dancing girl that he used to cross the Musi, even when it was in full spate, to meet his beloved.

 

Quli’s father and the then king Ibrahim ordered building the first bridge on the Musi, Puraana Pool in 1578. However, Quli has not lost the charm of the place of his first love and wanted to make that place eternal by setting up his new capital in 1581. One of the finest Urdu poets in his own right Quli wrote a couplet to celebrate the new city:

 

Mera shahar logan soon mamoor kar,

Rakhya joon toon darya mein

min ya sami

(Fill up my city with people,

My God, just as you have filled the river with fish).

 

Of course, Hyderabad over the years was filled with people, as the founder wished. But the bridges started getting destroyed and the river became uninhabitable for fish. The city is now seen as a fertile ground for communal divide. Refer to any communal tension and violence in the country, the needle of suspicion, sometimes with evidence, but most of the times as a ‘manufacturing doubt’, points to this city.

 

In fact, Hyderabad has no history of communal tension and violence till late 1930s and even after that there are so many economic and political factors than religious ones. The cosmopolitan culture, which made the Muslim kings write poetry in Telugu and observe Hindu customs on one hand and Hindu subjects call the Muslim king with Hinduised names like Malkibharaama (Mulk Ibrahim), has now given way to a paranoia where every second person is a suspect.

 

The city that grew on love is now replaced by a culture where there is a stinking and vulgar affluence peacefully (or explosively?) co-existing with bitter misery. The city that attempted to introduce modernity in education, health, drinking water, transport and communications, way back in the 18th and 19th century still exhibits large patches of pre-modern existence with some islands of conspicuous post-modern ultra-rich extravagance. What is happening to the city? Whither Hyderabad?

 

 

Source: The New Indian Express, 16 January 2009