ZEENAB ANEEZ walks through old streets and older stories to re-imagine the Mallepally of an era gone by

Walking along the streets of Mallepally today is not too unique an experience; traffic zips by uneventfully, chaiwallas set up for the evening rush, children amble home after school. The lanes and bylanes of Mallepally, however, have been witness to much more. Mallepally was once home to many of Hyderabad’s finest writers, poets and intellectuals and a meeting place for communist revolutionaries like Makhdoom Mohiuddin and Raj Bahadur Gour who led the rebellion against the Nizam in the late 1940s. It was also in the playing field of Mallepally that many an Olympic footballer scored his first goal. The locality also houses Anwar-ul-Uloom College, which had been instrumental in reconstructing the heritage of the Hyderabadi community following Operation Polo.

In 1941, the City Improvement Board (CIB) or the Mehekma Araish-i-Baldah drew up a plan for city development and chose the suburbs of then Hyderabad City for development. Starting from the Jama Masjid to the periphery of the Afzal Sagar tank, the CIB quarters at Mallepally were part of these plans. “We stayed in a A-class house which had three big bedrooms, a big hall and a courtyard. The rent was Rs. 10. The house still remains and is named after my father Hairat Badayuni,” says Urdu writer Jeelani Bano who grew up in the area. The smaller B-class houses were rented for Rs.5 a month while the one bedroom D-class houses rented for Rs.2.

Ask Jeelani Bano about the company her father kept and you will hear some of the biggest names of Urdu literature and poetry. “My father had a fascination for literature and culture,” she says. “Writers and shayars like Makhdoom Mohiuddin, Sulaiman Areeb, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Chote Nawab, Josh Mahilabadi, Jigar Moradabadi and Syed Akhtar Hassan, editor of Payam Daily would come home for the mushairas he hosted. Many of them were members of the Progressive Writer’s Association.”

Dr. Ram Prasad, son of Rai Janki Pershad, who grew up in the house adjacent to that of Syed Akhtar Hassan, has an interesting story about such a mushaira; when poet and communist Kaifi Azmi came to town to attend one he saw and instantly fell in love with Shaukat Kaifi. “He announced that he wanted to marry her immediately,” recalls the 80 year old, adding, “Shabana Azmi used to cycle around in the lane in front of my house. Sagar Sarhadi’s Bazaar was shot in Mallepally on Shabana’s suggestion.”

Syed Akhtar Hassan’s house, according to Jeelani Bano, was the nucleus of the Communist Party in Hyderabad. She recalls nights when Makhdoom would drop by secretly to leave a note or hold a meeting with a comrade. Dr. Ram Prasad still remembers the day the police were knocking at his door inquiring about Makhdoom, who was in hiding in their neighbour’s quarters. “I was only 16 or 17 then, but I remember it clearly. My father lied to them saying he had no idea where Makhdoom was,” he says.

The CIB’s decision to design the quarters around large open grounds may also have something to do with the number of sports people in the area. Mohammed Zulfiqaruddin, who represented India in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, began his career by kicking around a tennis ball in one of these grounds. He was not the only one;Noor Mohammed, Tulasidas Balaram and Ahmed Hussain were also part of this contingent. Mallepally was also home to former captain of the Indian Volleyball team and Arjuna awardee Abdul Basith.

But what was it about this suburban locality that made it the preferred home of this progressive middle class, predominantly Muslim community? While some people attribute it to mere chance, others say it was the consequence of the time and space.

Conservation architect Anuradha Naik says, “The space was subconsciously designed keeping in mind the community and the result was a well-designed space that was conducive to a more holistic life. Every house had a parapet on which people would come and sit in the evenings, fostering conversation and community.” She also points out the layout of the houses, the open grounds, the absence of high walls or closed spaces added to this atmosphere.

Writer and husband of Jeelani Bano, Anwar Moazzam offers another explanation. “When the quarters came up, not many people from the Old City wanted to move here. So the ones who did move were those who had come to the city from the North on invite from the government,” he explains. “It was the vision of the Nizam to enrich the city with interesting people. Whenever Salar Jung travelled, he kept an eye out for persons that stood out and invited them here. It was those people that ended up in Mallepally.”

As seen in the Leonard Munn survey maps of 1914, before the CIB quarters were made, the area was mainly open space, with a few Dhobi Ghats and the Afzal Sagar Tank. Comparing the map with a present day Google satellite image shows a history of change in the area’s landscape. Today, while the CIB quarters still exist, the open grounds have gotten smaller or disappeared. The Afzal Sagar tank was encroached upon and became home to migrants of a different kind of urbanisation- the Mangars, a community of street performers, beggars and 'thieves' who in contrast to their illustrious neighbours are still not viewed as worthy of State provided housing.

Mallepally moorings

Fani ground in Mallepally gets its name from Urdu Poet Fani Badayuni who moved to Hyderabad upon being appointed in the department of education

Shaukat Kaifi, actor and social activist grew up in the locality

Rai Janki Pershad, served as the Director of Information and was instrumental in setting up the city’s first Cancer Hospital near Niloufer Hospital

Urdu poet Allama Hairat Badayuni’s house still stands and is named after him

Aslam Farshori, the host of ‘Choti Choti Baatein’ which aired on AIR in the late 70’s was also from Mallepally

Baji Jamalunnisa, sister of Syed Akhtar Hassan and communist party member, also founded the Women’s Co-operative Society

Volleyball player Abdul Basith who was awarded the Arjuna award in 1989 was born in the area

Padma Shri awardee Jeelani Bano grew up in Mallepally and has also written about her life there