Lenny Emanuel pays a pictorial ode to rocks by capturing some of the beautiful stone buildings in the city

We found Lenny Emanuel to be an old style Hyderabadi. Unwaveringly courteous, he is a man of few words but formidable charm.

His enthusiasm for the city came across not in words, but, in the photographs that he has shot over the years and was kind enough to share.

In his case a picture is definitely worth a thousand words.

The family business in photography started in 1850s when his grandfather came with French troops from Pondicherry. “My father, who took over from grandfather, was with the Nizam’s government and started with taking photographs of the Nizam-Sagar dam construction. Then my brother and I took over. The city has given us a lot and we have seen it grow.”

Of the changing landscape that has accompanied the city’s growth he says, “I remember the days when it was full of beautiful rocks. My photographer friends from places like Mumbai would come here enthralled, to take photos of the rocks. Now all those rocks are gone. There is nothing to say, except that they are destroying the city, its rocks and heritage. I can only share the photographs of how beautiful the rocks as well as our stone buildings are.”

The photographs speak volumes of a time when respect underwrote our interaction with nature.

Even when the rocks were broken and used, there was craftsmanship, great finesse. Every part of the rock was carefully used. As pillars, slabs, floors, building material, ornamentation etc. “Each stone was cut to the exact dimensions. Now they are just cut anyhow and cement is put in between. The old craft is lost and the craftsmen are lost.” Now we blast/drill/break the rocks and grind them into cement, it is a complete brutalisation.

The ability to develop the city with respect for its physical heritage and ecological allies seems to be lost.

Even now we have stunning rock formations that lend our city a unique character and beauty, that could captivate tourists and residents alike with the breathtaking visuals that they create, that could become fulcrum rock climbing destinations, that could continue to serve the centuries old invaluable ecological role that they have played, continue to be the strongest physical markers of home for Hyderabadis, be the bedrock of our beautiful buildings, provide lung space to our growing city in the form of rock parks...

Any reasonable reckoning with all this would include the rocks as inalienably valuable in the planning of the city.

(Uma Magal is a documentary filmmaker, writer and teacher. This is the 24th in a series of articles based on research for a documentary on the rocks of Hyderabad.)