Hyderabad of yesteryears: Recalling the guzra huva zamana

Hyderabad: The COVID scare over, they came out of the woodwork. All of them were in their twilight years. Some walked briskly, some with a little effort and a few used a walker. One could detect a sparkle in their eyes which seemed to say, ‘we are down but not out’.

It was a day out for the oldies. And they enjoyed it thoroughly. No, they did not let their hair down or shook a leg. They simply talked heartily to each other and went down the memory lane. Old events, pleasant and not so pleasant experiences were shared. There was an old-world charm and bonhomie radiated from their conversation as they indulged in yaden aur baten of Hyderabad.

The auditorium at Oxford Grammar School, Himayatnagar came alive on Monday evening as senior citizens dropped in to relive their good old experiences.  Dr. Anand Raj Varma, writer, academic and social activist was the brain behind this unique programme of providing a platform to the golden agers to rewind. The conversation was mostly in Dakkhani with a generous sprinkling of Urdu couplets.

The good times of the princely Hyderabad couldn’t be brought back. But one can at least recall the pleasant days that bring a meaningful smile to our lips. In his opening remarks, Mazharuddin Javed explained how the programme was being resumed after a long gap of two and half years thanks to the pandemic. But Varma did not like the expression about the long hiatus. He sent everyone into peals of laughter by saying like a true Hyderabadi – the event was held ‘parsun-parsun’ (literally meaning the day before yesterday).

As everyone waited for the programme to kick-start, Varma set the ball rolling with this couplet:

Hum ko hai ishtiyaq uthayenge naqab wo
Unko hai zid taqaza kare koi

(I crave that she lifts her veil/ But she insists that I should demand for it)

It was rewind Hyderabad for the next two hours. There was a lively discussion about Khaleel Khan ka fakhta, kheer of Mallappa, Turram Khan and Syed Sab ka bokud – things which are part of Hyderabadi lore.

There were some youngsters in the audience, and they thoroughly enjoyed it. They were there to learn about the old Hyderabad. “I am here to know more about the life and times in the princely state of Nizam,” remarked a youngster.

People like him were not disappointed. Mohd Ghiasuddin Akbar, Member, Historical Society of Hyderabad, spoke about how people kept track of time in the olden days. He gave a power point presentation on various clock towers and gate way clocks of Hyderabad while Prof. Masood Ahmad, Director, MESCO Institute of Management and Computer Science, took everyone on a tour of the historic city of Hyderabad.

Clocks arrived in India, especially in the princely state of Hyderabad around the 18th century. Nizam III, Mir Akbar Ali Khan, built the Secunderabad Clock Tower in 1860 and it was inaugurated by the British Resident, Sir Trevor John Plowden on February 1, 1897. Akbar threw light on the clocks adorning Charminar, King Koti, Chow Mahalla Palace. He gave a brief history of the Sultan Bazaar Clock Tower, Mahboob Chowk Clock Tower, Fateh Maidan Clock Tower, Falaknuma Gate way clock, Aza Khana Zehra gate clock, James Street Police Station clock, Kachiguda Railway Station clock, Devdhi Shamraj Bahadur gate way clock, St. Joseph Cathedral clock and the Moazzam Jah Market clock.

Prof. Masood presented the historic Hyderabad through pictures. He shed light on Hyderabad’s progress in various sectors like education, health, railways, architecture. “Don’t forget your past if you want to progress and prosper,” he remarked. Well known Hindi poet and artist, Narendra Rai, regaled everyone with his Dakhani verses.

Wish I could rewind back to the old days and press pause … just for a little while. That’s what everyone felt.