Heritage, travel, photography and conservationist, Anuradha Reddy offers a rare glimpse into the world of Hyderabad and Secunderabad at the turn of last century.
Listening to Anuradha Reddy in her colonial era bungalow in Padmaraonagar as she talks about Hyderabad (Patnam) and Secunderabad (Lashkar) as two distinct enclaves one can easily get lost in time. A time that's as still as her house, with a shimmering sunbird having the nectar from the pomegranate flowers surrounded by frenetic building activity that is going all around it. She starts right away: “We don't offer half a cup of tea. That's not the culture. We will offer the tea in a smaller cup,” she says remembering her grandmother's saying.
Born amidst the turmoil of Razakar trouble in 1947, in a family that traced its lineage to two samasthanams and intimately connected to nobility, Anuradha Reddy, who calls herself a mulki Hyderabadi, offers a vantage point view of what was Hyderabadi geography, culture, heritage and ethos.
“I was born in this house in No. 12, Walker Town at 8.30 p.m. as the doctor had his clinic in Kachiguda and could not reach here in the night. My maternal grandparents were worried so they packed us off to Bangalore in a Deccan Airways DC-3 aircraft,” she says. Anuradha marks out the geography of the place where she was born to etch out the threat of Razakars. “Walker Town or what is now called Padmaraonagar marked the southern extremity of Secunderabad which was a British Cantonment and was in a state flux while Hyderabad was relatively quiet after 1947. So, my grandparents who lived in Jambagh, which was in Hyderabad, were worried about our safety. My love of aviation is perhaps a memory of the time when an aircraft took me to safety within one month of my birth,” says Anuradha walking through her garden.
Her book Aviation in The Hyderabad Dominions is a landmark in chronicling aviation history that begins with the Nizam starting the first state airways Deccan Airways which played a no mean role in India's battle for Kashmir.
Key to the past
It is not just her links with the key people associated with Deccan Airways that set the book soaring but also the fact that she clicked most of the photographs.
“I was gifted a Kodak Brownie when I was six. It was bought at Abdul Kadeer in Secunderabad and which was the place to buy anything interesting. And I have been clicking from that age,” she says talking to the photographer about the lens he is using.
How did the association with Intach begin?
“I was born and grew up in the most beautiful city in the world which remained so till the 70s. But then real estate became more important than human beings and our collective heritage started disappearing. Every time a piece of heritage disappeared I felt as if a piece of me has been destroyed and I suffer. It started with destruction of lakes and we know that lakes are the only source of water in landlocked Telangana and I was worried. Heritage is our emotional connect to the place and our past. Remove the heritage, then what are we?” asks Anuradha rhetorically who joined Intach a few years after the inception of Hyderabad chapter and stuck to the awards committee where she would photograph a monument or place and describe it in loving detail.
If she went to Telugu movies in purdah piling into the Wolvesly or the black Buick with her grandparents to Minerva, Rajeswari and to Paradise AC (not for a biryani but for a cinema), it had to be Tivoli, Dreamland and Plaza for English movies. “For Hindi movies we had to go to Hyderabad,” says the lady from Telangana who recently threatened a realtor who came knocking on the door with: “Bidda, nee pallu peeiki chetilo pedta.”
Nurturing the heritage strain has been Anuradha's love for travel.
“I used to go to St Ann's on a cycle while the driver would follow in the car. Then when I came back to study at Women's College, Koti after St Hilda's in Ooty, I chose to travel by RTC bus,” she says. Now, she's a part of Hyderabad Travel Group where a bunch of women bring their own money and travel together. “The moment you get on to the plane till you get off it. You are you,” says Anuradha describing the exhilaration of travel to Argentina or more recently to Sri Lanka.
Anuradha Reddy always had an eye for the cultural nuances linked to her family's Samasthanam.
At her home, bronzes from another era lay scattered. Arranged in no particular order, but dusted and preserved. In the courtyard of the house, the colonial era house got a Parsi touch in the verandah when Faridoon Chenoy owned the house before the present residents moved in. Arranged in the verandah are blocks of black stone with carvings that at one time formed part of the family temple in Wanaparthy which Anuradha rescued.
Done with her role as an aviation history consultant for Hyderabad Airport, Anuradha is now working on a project to put together the aviation history of Bombay.
“The world is a global village now. Travel is no longer an issue. I want to know the heritage of others so that I gain understanding of my heritage. Every bit of heritage that is chronicled and preserved gives me satisfaction,” says Anuradha summing up her perspective of history.