It was an eye-opener to realise how Hyderabad seems to have got some of its key basics right; these can easily serve as informative pointers, if our civic gods are willing to blink
Representational Image. Pic/iStock
It was an embarrassment for our own standards as a heritage nerd that I hadn’t visited Hyderabad until recently. And, when it happened, it was more of a dash and less of a relaxed sojourn that would have given us adequate time to soak in the sights and sounds of the historic city. Since it was a personal visit that was squeezed into less than 48 hours, I grabbed the opportunity to explore whatever came my way.
But even before the mini Hyderabad darshan began, I found myself marvelling at the miles of lush, well-manicured green-topped vistas that formed a part of the airport’s landscaping project. Mind you, there were no eyesores (read: ghastly, expensive and poorly-lit installations and Middle Eastern-type faux flora). I loved that there were no posters of netas welcoming me into ‘their city’.
As I made my way through its new and old parts, I was particularly curious about their metro service; I heard good things about it and naturally, wanted to see what the hype was all about. Since it was elevated on most roads that we travelled, I could fully gauge its impact on the existing infrastructure. It was well-planned; thought had gone to ensure establishments immediately below the metro stations were visible. I could see the sky above, and there was no sense of feeling claustrophobic or caved in, despite moving right below these routes, a far cry from what happens when one uses the road that runs right below the Marol-Saki Naka stretch of the metro line. Clearly, there was minimum disruption to the identity of the original city. I noticed this throughout my time there—be it how the elevated metro ran seamlessly near Secunderabad railway station or around busy parts like Nampally. It was aesthetic to the eye; logic and citizens’ convenience seemed to have been taken into consideration in the execution of these plans. Let’s not even get into citizen woes and the pressure on existing infrastructure that continue to plague our multiple metro lines even before they begin operations here. The aftermath of July’s rainfall gave all us a chilling teaser.
When our hosts took us for a bit of the real-deal touristy things, I was equally curious to see what the locals refer to as the “Necklace”—the section that lines the Hussain Sagar Lake, The second factor that won my vote was the noticeably clean footpaths despite massive Sunday crowds. We walked past Eat Street, which is a cluster of water-fronting cafés and restaurants. I was immediately reminded of the lack of good eating out spaces [not the five-star variety] at our promenades. Another section that caught the eye was a line of stores that sold locally sourced products, from wild honey and jaggery, to regional savouries like aapalu and rice chaklis. There was intent to empower small-scale entrepreneurs and start-ups. What better place than here to showcase the state’s specialties! These stores were doing roaring business; smart pricing did the trick, not to mention the taste.
We might have covered only half of the lake’s circumference but all of it was spotless; the roads and footpaths were well-lit, and security patrols kept whizzing past to ensure safety was maintained. A few lake-facing parts were created for walkers and joggers; it reminded me of all that’s gone wrong with Powai Lake’s similarly planned manmade waterfront. As nightfall descended, the ‘Necklace’ looked resplendent in its many hues, luring one and all in its direction. I could see why it’s the go-to for its citizens, pretty much like Marine Drive, Bandstand or Carter Road promenades.
The Hussain Sagar experience was another lesson: The waterfront, with all due respect to my Hyderabadi friends, is not half as spectacular as Marine Drive, if you blend its legacy, architecture and history. However, the civic authorities have done everything in their power to ensure it remains its true jewel. There is a synergy between the powers-that-be and its people to highlight this showpiece. On the contrary, in our glorious city, we find citizens’ groups of Marine Drive facing endless battles, as they play watchdog to ensure their beloved [and globally celebrated] neighbourhood’s identity is salvaged from ghastly street furniture to unplanned public loos and tasteless road dividers, they’ve had to combat all kinds of aberrations.
Another observation was the absence of over-the-top banners and hoardings across the city by political parties—in power or in the opposition. It reminded me of how little our authorities here have done to stop these emboldened acts that continue to deface the city. Civic sense in general was commendable in most parts that I crossed; a startling reminder of a key factor that ails most of our city: apart from a tiny population, do the rest really care?
Hyderabad seems to have got these basics right. It wouldn’t hurt for our city’s lawmakers to step down from their high pedestals, and look at what is working well in other metros. Solutions are there to be adapted and executed. How we wish that they look at the larger picture—where all that matters is the overall welfare of the city at its core!
mid-day’s Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city’s sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana
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