This is a series I propose to write in honour of Hyderabad - then and now.
The Way(s) of the Hyderabadi
It is time. We Hyderabadis must proclaim to the world that we shall no longer be ignored, be denied our rightful place. Let the world wake up to the fact that we are not only the epicenter for all the biggest scams on the face of the earth, some sporting icons, biryanis and stuff like that, but we have a unique way about us that demands special mention. We are governed by a complex culture that governs us from our eating habits to our ethics, from picking our teeth to picking fights and from the sweet words we use to the gaalis that drip out in anger. I propose to lay bare all these ways in future weeks and how we have evolved as well.
In fact, there is a raging debate going on that the famous phrase “when in Hyderabad, be like a Hyderabadi if you value your life” was coined much before the other shortened one about Rome; but what is more pertinent to the reader is how to manage oneself in the complex set of laws that guide Hyderabadi lives. Here is where this new series of mine, the ‘Hyderabadi Way’ or ‘The Way of the Hyderabadi’ comes into play and one can refer to these writings of mine week after week and find an easy and stress-free way to navigate the Hyderabadi waters (so apt in these days don’t you agree, with the monsoon’s arrival?)
The beginning is always the tough part whether in love or in writing articles like these. But for me the starting theme on ‘The Way of the Hyderabadi’ was never too difficult because like all great philosophical questions, it contains the answer within itself! What is the way of the Hyderabadi one may ask and scratch one’s brains forever. But all one needs to do is look closely at the question and one finds the way. I have decided to write about the ways in Hyderabad - the roads of Hyderabad specifically.
The old times
There was a time when we could enjoy the sights, talk to one another and smile while driving through the traffic. We could even see the size, colour and shape of the road then and we could see the goings on around. But not anymore. Now all we see is dust and smoke, millions of people, the backsides of buses and large vehicles. Decidedly things have changed and we must change too!
Arguably the Hyderabadi roads are a rather frightening prospect – both at peak hour and the middle of the night. When I was young I put Hyderabadi roads third in the order of things that scared me – my Principal, Omen the movie and Hyderabad – in that order. (In fact so scared of the Hyderabadi roads was I that I put it third instead of first.) The reason why it is so scary is that the roads meander, dip and roll, fall and rise as if it were a live reptile in some deep, dramatic symphony, where one knows not when the next twist arrives. To make it worse we have a bunch of suicidal and homicidal drivers who rush through red lights as if they had an invitation to a red light area, come to a sudden stop at a green light as if they ran into a concrete wall, turn left or right at their whim and fancy, fall off or get on to taxies, buses, autos, scooters, cars and do whatever they please with only a prayer on their lips and divine grace to save them. My advise for anyone trying to figure out this traffic – none. Perhaps join a religious or spiritual group and hope for the best. Even as I write about the roads I can feel my breath becoming shorter already, my chest becoming tighter and I shall now veer away from the traffic to the road, on which there is much to be said.
Good and bad things
But this is not about the traffic – it’s about the roads. The good and bad thing about the Hyderabadi roads is that they are always under repair. The god thing about it is that there seems to be some intent to keep the roads in good shape. But the bad thing is that they are always under repair which makes one wonder about that very intent. I don’t know why, but save the new Outer Ring Road, which is normally in good shape, all other roads in the city are constantly under repair, keeping a whole bunch of people busy and employed for years and years. (Most of those employed in this ‘Department of Constant Repairs’ later make it to the wealthiest people lists in the world, become corporators, ministers and such I believe. But my informants could be wrong.)
Department of Constant Repairs
The downside of this ‘Department of Constant Repairs’ is that people keep falling into new ditches and holes every other day. The upside is that we are all much more alert and agile because our very lives depend on it. And that makes us Hyderabadis far more vigilant than anyone else in the world. We are constantly on the lookout for ditches, falling objects, falling two wheelers, drama by the side of the road, traffic cops, stopping vehicles, vehicles that might ram us from behind and so on and so forth.
Department of Laying Dividers
As if the man-made and God-made ditches and pot holes are not enough, the other ‘Department of Laying Dividers’ (a rather large sized department if you ask me) goes about adding a few more unseen and unheralded obstacles to increase the degree of difficulty for the traffic. Dividers sway from left to right as if they were kite strings stressing against a forceful breeze, dividers that start and stop suddenly in the middle of the road as if they were angry and uncompromising spouses, missing sign boards, missing traffic lights (but omni present cameras that catch you and your innocent traffic crimes) are all set to keep you ever vigilant. And safe - if all these departments are to be believed. In fact all these Departments seem to be working overtime to keep us safe and secure. Sometimes I wonder if we’d do better without all these departments around.
Things to learn
For those who are stepping anew into Hyderabad we now have the Metro guys digging up the roads, the Electricity board guys normally dig up roads as soon as the monsoon hits the city and on and on. With all these activities going on around you, a million vehicles spewing fumes, dirty looks and stares and threatening to run you over in their road rage, you have hardly any time to enjoy the sights. But what is the fun if you take the easy route and land up home without any trouble? The way of the Hyderabadi is decidedly not easy. But the remedy is simple. All you need is faith in the one above, a prayer on your lips and courage in your heart. A bit of madness also helps! If nothing else you will learn to be fully aware, totally vigilant and highly courageous. You will develop sharp eyesight and lightning reflexes. Have a safe week until next time when I shall pick another issue about the Hyderabadi Way to discuss.