Anand Raj Varma’s book is a good read for those who are curious about the history of the city’s old localities

Did you know how the area Petlaburj got its name; a combination of the words 'petla' and 'burj' or the story behind Donga Mallana Temple in Vattapally? Do you know the way to Kadve Saheb ka Galli or Koka ki Tatti, or the story of the person from whom Malakpet got its name? Or that Gulzar Houz was earlier called Char –Su-Ka-Huaz and then Sukha Houz?

“These names bring out the linguistic oneness of Hyderabad. Localities here are named in four languages: Urdu, Telugu, Hindi and Marathi,” says Anand Raj Varma, whose new book on the city, Hyderabad: Mohalle, Gali aur Kooche has interesting information like this and more.

The book is a trove of history, facts and anecdotes from over 30 localities of the city – starting from Keshavgiri in Chandrayangutta and travelling down to Puranapool, just south of the Musi.

In the past decade, Hyderabad has been a favoured subject for historians, journalists and writers and many books have been written. But Hyderabad: Mohalle, Gali aur Kooche is special for two reasons. Not only does it have oral accounts and stories from the city including, the history and legends behind places of worship but it is also the first book about the city to be written in Hindi. “I started out by writing a column for Swatantra Vaartha, a Hindi daily in July 2004. It was like a biography of the city, starting from the Qutub Shahi dynasty to the day the last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan died; February 24, 1967,” he explains. The articles, all 166 of them contained several comprehensive interviews with Hyderabad’s nobility and contains stories you will not get to read in any other publication. The responses he received for these columns provided the necessary motivation to set out on his next project, this book about the different localities of Hyderabad, the communities that lived there, their festivals and celebrations and lastly, the temples, mosques, churches and other places of worship.

A conversation with Varma is akin to watching a lively documentary on the city. “Did you know that ‘Damri’ Masjid in Toli Chowki was named so because it was made using a sum of money collected by Musa Khan, one coin (damri) at a time?” he asks before telling us the story of how the mosque was constructed. The book is filled with plenty of such details. It took Varma two years to complete. He recalls days when he would set out at 8:00 a.m. with a friend and return only at 8:00 p.m.; the entire day would be spent talking to shopkeepers, priests and residents of the area. “I have covered even the tiny lanes and bylanes of these places and every where I went, I was lucky enough to be greeted with great enthusiasm and openness,” reveals the writer.

Anand Raj Varma is already well known in the city for his knowledge in Hyderabadi history and the work he has done to promote the Urdu language. Having grown up in Hyderabad, he holds the language very “close to his heart” and considers himself a crusader for it. He was also the principal of Anwar-ul-Uloom College before he retired in 1995.