Opinion

Quo Vadis, Hyderabad?

Whatever happens, the Dakhni in their souls will unite the people of this city

Bakthiar K. Dadabhoy

OUTLOOK The Weekly Newsmagazine, December 28, 2009

Union home minister P. Chidambaram’s declaration on the midnight of December 9 that the Centre would initiate the process of forming the state of Telangana seems to have thrown most Hyderabadis into a severe identity crisis. The last major upheaval relating to Telangana was in 1969. Forty years on, Hyderabad finds itself caught once more in the political crossfire. In the case of Telangana, it has not been ethnicity but socio-economic deprivation resulting from political exclusion that has powered the sinews of the demand for a separate state. Language and culture are no longer a focal point of identity in the dynamics of federalism. It is economics which determines the new federal politics. Telangana and Andhra speak the same language but their economic interests are diametrically opposed. In fact, the latter accuses coastal Andhra of exploiting its resources.

There was a feeling (which still persists) that people from outside (read Andhra) were carpetbaggers and not stakeholders in Hyderabad. In part, this feeling can be explained by the fact that the feudal culture of Hyderabad was unable to deal with the entrepreneurial spirit of the people from Andhra. Their aggression and drive proved more than a bellyful for the laidback Hyderabadis. Anyone who has lived in Hyderabad will testify that ‘parsaun’, which in the Hindi heartland means ‘the day after tomorrow’ can stretch from a week to never. To live by such lexical precision is to create avoidable tension, and ever since I moved to Secunderabad, I have tried to liberate myself from the tyranny of the calendar and the clock in such matters.

Hyderabad has been the meeting place of many different cultures and traditions. It has over the years developed its own distinctive ‘Ganga-Jamuna’ culture. Hyderabad is a cosmopolitan city: people never identify themselves by their religion but only as Hyderabadis. Dussehra, Diwali or Sankranti are all meant to be enjoyed, whether one is Hindu or not. And Id brings celebrations not for a single community but for the entire city. Faith is a personal matter and what unites one is the sense of belonging to Hyderabad. (Old-timers say all this is a thing of the past, but I believe such pessimism is unwarranted).

Language is not a problem. The unique lingua franca, Dakhni, one of the most identifiable markers of Hyderabad, is a delicious blend of Hindi, Urdu and Telugu, with a lacing of old Marathi. The plural character of the city dates back to its founder, Quli Qutb Shah, who was also a Telugu scholar. Geographically too, it is inclusive: the twin cities, Hyderabad and Secunderabad, do not exhibit the cleavage in environment that divides, say, South Mumbai and the suburbs, or the Calcuttan whose life is confined south of Park Street. And now there is also Cyberabad, as the 400-year-old city constantly reinvents itself. (మరింత…)

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