Hyderabad: A Walk through Time
I have only been a resident of Hyderabad for the past four years. To me, this city has come to represent many things over the span of these few years. I had visited the city on various occasions throughout my childhood and when I chose to pursue my passion for architecture, it was purely by chance that I landed here. Here, in the city of pearls, the throne of the Qutb Shahi dynasty and of the Nizams, where there is a lingering nostalgia of a bygone era still hanging in the air; here, in the cradle of rich heritage and cultural multiplicity, of an intellectual awakening on the horizon; here, in the ever-active, ever-growing poignant Cyberabad, in the city that never sleeps.
Four hundred years rich, Hyderabad has come of age as cultured as the pearls that are sold in its Old City. The city has lived through many a civilization, sieving from each its own singular ethos. Built originally as a walled city by the Qutb Shahi Dynasty, the city has now grown far beyond its intended limits, encompassing and transcending various cultures, traditions, and styles of art and architecture. The first impression one gets of Hyderabad upon entry is that of its vibrant, throbbing pulse of movement, whether you’re getting off a plane at the Rajiv Gandhi Terminal in Secunderabad, or entering the city from Imlibun Bus Station near the Old City. For some reason, Hyderabad has been branded as the laid-back city, still reminiscing a departed time. In reality, however, the city is a hub of activity, demarcated by its heavy traffic, pedestrian or otherwise, and its active day and nightlife.
Originally designed to be a metropolitan capital city, Hyderabad as a city of age 400+ has long developed into a culture that is unique to itself. The Charminar, which was designed as a monument to commemorate the eradication of plague, became the central square of Hyderabad, as marketplaces and residences alike sprouted from its core. Over time, the Charminar has come to serve as a symbol of Hyderabad. With the advent of urbanization, the walled city, designed to suit another time, has made way to accommodate the new changes that have barged into it, creating an eternally open-ended urban ecological cycle. The old city is still an axis of commerce and commotion, without letting go of its age-old symbolic ties.
Now the Charminar stands at the center of the inner city, surrounded by the smells, sounds, motions and colors that are unique to Hyderabad alone, and that tend to grow on you as you walk through its streets. Unlike the monuments in other cities, the Charminar is a part of the street, a part of the people, a common entity to be shared by all who reside and move around it. The Old City still houses a bustling community, that of dwellers in the deep-rooted houses around the Charminar, and that of shoppers who come from far and wide to forage for trinkets in the Laad Bazar.
But the development impulses of the metropolis have bypassed this historic core, and shifted to create other centers in various areas of the city. In my mind’s eye, the nucleus of the modern Hyderabad is the large artificial lake in between the twin cities, the Hussain Sagar, for Hyderabad is not just a city in itself; it encompasses Secunderabad as well, without which its pulse cannot be described. The changing colors of the lake itself set the mood of the city and its commuters as they travel along it in the morning to their respective places of work. The Hussain Sagar can be white and full of promise, or blue and sparkling, a keeper of many secrets, or dark and gloomy and temperamental. In the center of the lake stands a statue of the Buddha, overlooking the people, sometimes in plain view and sometimes obscured by thick, overhanging fog. A new addition, the Necklace Road, embraces the lake and stretches to meet the Tank Bund from either side. This Road represents the youth culture and fun-loving nature of Hyderabadi’s. The evening sees bikers speeding down the smooth curves of the road, and stopping to grab a bite at various stops along it, like Eat Street and Prasad’s IMAX Theater, which, keeping with the insomniac nature of the city, stay open till the wee hours. The Hyderabadi penchant for food has given rise to many restaurants and eateries throughout the city; however, biryani remains the ultimate favorite, and a person visiting the city will feel overwhelmed with all the variety in delicacies.
Although architecture-wise, Hyderabad’s experimental stage has just arrived, the fusion between the old and the new hints at the immense potential of the future. It is a city where there is more singing than silence.
The contemporary Hyderabad is completely unbrandable. It has its own personality, its own pulse and character; it caters to every need of its varied residents and visitors; no outsider feels more at home anywhere else. But in this city, all you need to do is find an empty bench on Tank Bund to kick back and relax… and take in the various senses that the city provokes. With the zooming of traffic behind and the crashing of waves in front, and the beautiful amalgamation of architecture, offset by the rocky landscape, and presented in a panoramic view around the periphery of the Hussain Sagar, no single day is like another in Hyderabad.