Why am I wasting precious time saying all this? Because here lies the root of my total confusion over what should happen to Hyderabad, the city of my birth. Like me, Hyderabad too has multiple identities, cultural, religious, linguistic and ethnic. And for much of its 420-year-old history, it's an idea that has been coveted and fought over by each one of its communities. While its more recent, post independence history is chequered with communal riots, and pro-Telangana protests, its early history is inextricably tied to the Qutb Shahi dynasty. Until some years ago, driving to Gachi Bowli from Mehdipatnam on the old Bangalore road, you could still see their tombs rise above the landscape. They are now being restored with funds from Iran- the spiritual and cultural fount for the city's Shia Muslims, many of whom are more or less confined to the old city, divided from the new by the natural boundary of the Musi River. A friend once said to me Hyderabad's communal cartography is evident, the lines between Hindu and Muslim neighbourhoods absolute dividers, sometimes even referred to as "sarhad" or border. The same friend, a Hyderabadi Shia, a Left leaning management professor and itinerant poet, asked me last week what the creation of the state of Telangana would do to his identity.one of the vilest remarks i've read recently, at one of the many separatist sites, was that muslims of hyderabad have stayed 'aloof' from the 'mainstream' (with the obvious hint that that's probably the reason why they aren't supporting separation). what is the 'mainstream'? another post from the google group which is 'tracking telangana' would give you an idea about what or who the 'mainstream' is:
The Hindus in Hyderabad are an equally motley lot. Conservative, Andhras who dominate the political landscape, and much of the big industry - Film, Pharmaceuticals, Real Estate, for example. And not to forget the Marwaris- who came in to trade in gems and jewels for the Nizams, and like the Sindhis have an entrepreneurial spirit that allows them to call anyplace home. Culturally completely different from each other, and I am not even going to get into the caste and class break ups within the different communities.
Add to this mix now, a third, even newer Hyderabad. HITEC city. Chandrababu Naidu's dream, of making it the Dubai of South India, this part of the city, spreading outwards even beyond Jubilee Hills (once the far end of town), has over the last decade become the city's showcase, with several visiting foreign dignitaries ensuring they make a pit stop at one of the symbols of India's emerging economy.
But this has only complicated Hyderabad's identity further. The massive influx of dollars during the IT, BPO boom has brought in a new transitory white collar population of foreigners, ex-pats, westernized outsiders with their swank cars, boutiques and fancy mansions right beside the old Irani hotels and crumbling bungalows of my grandparents era. They too are now an integral, inextricable part of Hyderabad's social fabric.
As the center's decision to create a new state of Telangana now focuses on the future of Hyderabad, since the city comes bang in the middle of its districts, the debate ranges from identity to economics. Hyderabad is Telangana's cash cow. The creation of a new state will ensure the wealth it generates is distributed among what are today Andhra Pradesh's poorest districts. But Hyderabad is also organically linked with the rest of Andhra Pradesh, as Andhras from Coastal Districts (like my mother's family) and Rayalseema made the inland capital their home generations ago. Are they now being told they don't belong?
Similarly, for the non-Telugu communities of Hyderabad- are they now being told they don't belong either?
Last Thursday (5th March), when Kaneez and I took an auto to go to Moghalpura near Charminar from Anveshi office, I got my first ‘class’ on Telangana from an auto-driver. In his late 20s he spoke in chaste Dakhani.chaste dakhani? there used to be a time when upper caste hindus would speak only chaste urdu with the lower classes, and also sometimes with their own womenfolk, knowing fully well that they couldn't respond in the same language, just to show them their place. dakhani, or 'unchaste' urdu if you like, evolved out of the collaborative efforts of the lower classes, hindu and muslim, to live upto their masters' standards of purity. but their masters only saw it as another illustration of their impurity. is dakhani mainstream now? you might find an answer at the end of the interrupted conversation:
‘Madam, do you think Telangana will be given?’, he started the conversation.
‘We don’t know. What do you think?’, we asked him in turn.
“What do you think of MIM’s stand on Telangana?” (both of us assuming he is a Muslim, as he was speaking pure Dakhani, wearing surma and referred to Hindus as Telugus)who's 'mainstream'? the people 'tracking telangana', or the poor muslim driver who turned into an obviously 'impure' hindu? people of the second kind seem to be in a majority, broken up into many minorities like maya mirchandani. but they should join the 'mainstream', if they wish to be paid, i guess. such a foul term.
“They say, if we support Telangana, what will happen to Muslims in Andhra area? They should learn the problems of the people, talk to them, and then take a stand. Why do they go on taking the same old stand? May be they will say - give us the city and go!”
“But that will mean that they will lose power, isn’t it? If the city becomes Union territory, they won’t get anything!”
“I don’t know why they are taking that stand, madam. Probably they also don’t speak to the people, like all political parties..I talked too much. I never spoke to any passenger like this”.
Before getting off, we couldn’t resist asking his name. “Rajesh” he replied shyly.