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Current Affairs ( 14 Dec 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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The Cultural Plurality Of Hyderabad Is Rooted In Telangana: VIJAY KARAN

Hyderabadi way is rooted in Telangana

By Vijay Karan

13 December 2009


Hyderabad is bang in the middle of Telangana, it should go to Telangana. The people of Hyderabad are either from Telangana or migrated here from elsewhere. My family, for example, came here 400 years ago from the north.

Hyderabadi culture is certainly unique, but a lot of that culture is evident in most districts of Telangana - the people speak a kind of local Urdu, which I speak too. Exposure has meant that many non-Telangana inhabitants of the region have also started speaking a bit of this Urdu. And then there is the kind of Telugu we speak, or the Telugu songs we learned as children - a mix of Telugu and Urdu - so there is much Telangana influence too.

Of course, all cities, countries, and states are dynamic; they keep changing and growing. Still, I would prefer to see Hyderabad rediscover its original personality. There was hardly any history of communal violence in the city (except in the days just before Independence) because there were conscious attempts by the Nizams to create a composite culture, and even earlier under the Golconda dynasty.

The plural character of the place dates back to its founder Quli Qutb Shah, who ruled from the fort-city of Golconda. When Golconda got too crowded, it was hit so badly by a plague that the king had no choice but to move to the plains. So he came down from the hill and built Hyderabad city. It was here that he married Bhagmati, a local woman who was basically a courtesan. As a prince, he would cross the river even when it was in full spate to meet her. His father didn't protest that he was meeting a Hindu courtesan. Instead, he built a bridge to help him cross the river safely!

Quli Qutb Shah named Hyderabad ‘Bhagyanagar' for her. When he made her his queen, she was named Hyder Mahal, from where the city got its name. So, it's a very composite culture: Quli Qutb Shah himself was a scholar of Urdu, Persian and Telugu. Both his poet laureates, Peddana and Errana, wrote in Telugu. He too wrote in Telugu. Even later, till the reign of the last Nizam, various groups of people had a lot of say in Hyderabad. The Muslims predominated, but there was also the north Indian nobility, Telugu nobility, Parsi Nawabs, Maharashtrian Rajas.

We, for example, my father and his children, used to wear the sherwani and fez all the time. My family, my ancestor as far back as we can go was Raja Raghunath, Aurangzeb's wazir-e-azam (grand wazir, or prime minister). When he died, one of his two sons travelled south with Nizam-ul-Mulk, the first of the Asaf Jahi dynasty, who was appointed governor of the Deccan. So, our ancestor became part of the Nizam's nobility.

Besides ruling three districts of the Nizam's territory, our family was also in charge of revenue collection, maal guzari; as a result, our estate was called the Malwala Estate.

I have always spoken more Urdu than Hindi. Even today, I am more comfortable with the Arabic script than Devnagiri. Even today we don't greet our elders with namaste, we say adaab. This culture is so much a part of us that when I first met my wife Pratibha, she asked me: "Are you Muslim?" I said, "Well, you can tell from my name!"

The cultural plurality was such that this kind of ambiguity was possible. This ambiguity still exists in old Hyderabadi families; even the Andhra people who have settled in the region have absorbed some of this culture.

I would hope that once Telangana state is created, this plurality will be restored. Post-Independence, the people of Andhra have dominated the economy; they have prospered while the people of Telangana continue to be backward. One reason could be that the people of Telangana were more laidback, possibly because of our culture - after all it was a princely state! Many Telangana districts have Muslim names (Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Mahbubnagar). This too reflects its plural culture. You don't find that in the Andhra area.

Statehood for Telangana would hopefully restore the old plural culture. But God knows if this will come to pass.

* Vijay Karan retired as Director of the CBI and also served as Commissioner of Police, Delhi. He belongs to one of Hyderabad's oldest families. He spoke to Parvati Sharma

Source: The Times of India

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