“Uncle, East Marredpally?”
“Amma, idhar nakko. Baaju se left lena”
The man with a thick mop of white hair, a peculiar protruding nose, wrinkled face marred with vestiges of chicken pox scarring and probably a septuagenarian left me dumbfounded with his words. I was in that transitory phase of life when teenage tottered at the very precipice of adulthood. With my dense straight dark brown hair, a flawless even-toned skin and appearance perfectly resonating with my actual age, I failed to comprehend as to why and how an old man, almost of my grandfather’s age, could refer to me as ‘Amma’!!! That was my first and fondest experience in the city of pearls.
Hyderabad, the city of Nizams, the alcove of Pearls and a conurbation famous for its bazaars and baaghs enfolds a peculiar power to sculpt unerasable reminiscences in one’s life. Three years of my bachelor’s degree in Osmania University, a year of research in India’s famous CSIR laboratory, CCMB and my occasional personal tours to Hyderabad have left a nearly indelible mark in my memoirs. After a gap of almost four years, I fostered an indissoluble bond with Reviste, a Hyderabad-based magazine. I felt a familiar rush of feelings down the memory lane. From the succulent Biriyani to the city’s spangled illumination, from the silky touch of pearls to the mind-boggling Hyderabadi Urdu, from the traditions of Gadwal and Pochampalli to the glitters of Gharara, from the snobbish ambience of Banjara Hills to the modest souls bellowing at the streets of Sultan bazaar; every cog of Hyderabad has carved a niche for itself within me. The perennial pages of my Deccan Diary are sequinned with hues of Hyderabad.
The story starts some twelve years back, in the first quarter of 2004. India was beaming with the Biotechnology boom. Pursuing Biology for higher studies diverged from “becoming a doctor”, for the first time. There was an uproar for genetic engineering and an upheaval for graduating with Biotechnology of course. To quench this impulsive thirst, three metropolitan cities of South India, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai came forward to cater to a wide array of options for pursuing Biological sciences, at affordable rates nonetheless. Amongst the three, my fate was to be tied to the city of Nizams. The genuine parental concern of my father hesitated to send me off to a land which bore the big baggage of cultural and linguistic disparities.
We remain students throughout our lives. Just the milieu changes time to time. School days nourish our soul with loads of fond memories but nothing can ever replace the ecstasy of the years of college life. We lick the sweet nectar of social independence for the first time. We perceive the true feeling of growing up in life. We plow innumerable plans for our career. And most importantly, we cherish the freedom of being no longer confined to a school uniform. Believe me; I too treasured all of it like many others. The added icing on the cake was staying in a hostel.
It was my first day in the new hostel. I queued up with other girls for taking my share of dosa. It was a small private hostel for young women. Some college students, along with very few working women stayed there. “Nee per enti?” A rotund dark old lady asked my name while serving me two crispy brown dosas. I was alien to the language. My mind was befuddled with her tongue twisting utterance. Solace came in the form of another girl in the line who translated her question for me. And thus, my journey began in this new land with a few unknown, yet good souls. Few girls were fluent in Hindi and English but remaining were tongue-tied. Hyderabad was a hub of knowledge and job acquisition. Many from small villages came there to quench their thirst for knowledge. Telugu was the only language they knew to communicate in. “Oh My God! Where was I? How will I survive without talking to my roommates? Am I going to spend my three years without any friends?” I was confused, petrified and of course saddened. True I was different from them but we all had a commonality. We all were pining for home. Instead of chalking out the differences, we all converged at the point of making this hostel our home for the next three years. Love can stitch any gap. An incessant desire to learn is the best teacher in life. The same happened to me as well. I was bitten by the bug of learning Telugu. My learning started with words like “Osthunna aunty”, “ardamainda?” and a few more. Gradually, apart from devoting time to learn the usual curriculum, Telugu too became an integral course which did not have the hassle of examination. Days passed by without me realizing that my feet tapped along to Tollywood songs. A Ante Amalapuram twirled on my tongue and film stars like Venkatesh and Nagarjuna became familiar to me.
Sharing my experiences only with Telugu will be an utter injustice to the dialect for which Hyderabad is famous for, HYDERABADI HINDI. The omnipresence of potti, kaiku, nakku, mereku hona, chicha-mama and many more acronyms was hilarious. Linguists say the tone is crucial for any language. Believe me, Hyderabadi Hindi or Urdu whatever you wish to name, that dialect is enthralling for its tone. Hindi or Urdu was seldom to be found in their authentic orthodox form. I could never retrieve the poise of Ghalib’s Urdu in a place which was a sliced appendage of Mughals. Hindi never harboured any sort of austerity. It neither had the suppleness of Urdu nor the mellowness of Hindi but Hyderabadi Hindi/Urdu has its own charm what no ears can scorn upon.
I came to this land with a preconceived notion about the language, the food, the people and their culture. I came harbouring a feeling of being disregarded. I came unsure of how long I would be able to stand high in this foreign land. However, today when I fondle my memories with Hyderabad, I second Mark Twain’s thought over Travel.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.”
I travelled to a foreign land with an approach to trade with the differences. However, when my eyes screened the glorious Indo-Islamic architecture of the Nizams, I could see only an enthusing creation of mankind. When I saw a loving couple holding hands in the baaghs of Hyderabad, I couldn’t detect how different their physical appearance was from me. All I found flourishing was love, a promise of togetherness and utmost happiness of being in love. No thought of religious differences cropped up in my mind when I queued up for relishing Hyderabadi Haleem and Biriyani. The gaucheness of traditional differences held no water before the glibness of half sarees, Gadwals and the other traditional attires of Hyderabad. While the soft soothing sheen of pearls stole my attention, the glittery evenings in Charminar chiseled an irreplaceable rumination.
When something called ‘rocket dosa’ was served to me with an assortment of colourful chutneys, I forgot all about the gastronomic differences. It was just pure love amalgamated with both visual and toothsome delight.
My Deccan Diary is not only crammed with beautiful memories but also clasps a colossal comprehension. No land is foreign until and unless we categorize the contrasts. No language is unknown if the language of love is known. No unlikeliness remains if there is an urge to find the likeliness. Whether the city remains in Andhra Pradesh or Telangana or stands alone, Hyderabad will remain the place of my intrinsic growth as a civilized human being. The hues of Hyderabad are interminable, immortal and inimitable.