The city is soaked in festival fervour while sparing a thought for those living in the coastal regions of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa
At Monda market in Secunderabad, the day began earlier than usual for vendors who lined up along the streets leading to the market area with baskets of marigolds, jasmines, mango leaves and fresh betel leaves, all sprinkled intermittently with water to retain the freshness.
“Business picks up a few days before Dasara. Many people come to buy flowers for Bathukamma in advance since the prices of flowers go up. For the dasami day, there is a lot of demand for chamanthi poovulu,” says Anjamma, a vendor.
A little ahead, Mallikarjun has up a large basket of jasmines, partly strung together and the rest as loose flowers. “We source the buds from Mehdipatnam flower market and these flowers will stay fresh for two days,” he says. Alongside flowers, colourful twigs and leaves are also being sold for women who make the Bathukamma idols.
The market areas in different parts of the city — Ameerpet, Mehdipatnam, Sultan Bazaar and Secunderabad — wore a busy look over the weekend, but this year, the Seemandhra agitations and then Phailin played spoilsport for college students and working professionals from other districts who’ve made Hyderabad their base.
The prolonged protests in Seemandhra regions crippled road and rail transport in large part of the state and marred chances of professionals from the city heading home in time for the festival. Though the agitations were put on hold in the wake of the cyclone, it was too little and too late for those planning to head home.
Those who had booked train and flight tickets in advance were better placed than the rest that relied on last-minute bookings through private buses.
Take the case of Harsha Adonis, who works as a database developer at a software firm in Ameerpet. To reach his native, Chelluru in Rajahmundry region, he has to rely on both trains and buses. “I was hoping to book tatkal tickets but some of the trains in this region had already been cancelled during the agitations,” he says. Along with his friends, he considered driving down but felt it was unviable in the scenario.
“Sankranti and Dasara are two major festive occasions and those living away from home try their best to get home during these times,” says Hemanth Kumar, editor of a movie portal. “Many trains were cancelled and the few that were plying were all booked. I also considered flying to Vizag but it was way too expensive. Driving down was risky,” he says.
Areas in and around Ameerpet and Kukatpally normally wear a deserted look during Sankranti and Dasara celebrations with students and young professionals travelling out of the city. This time, the student population that lives in hostels in Ameerpet have to make do with celebrating with friends within the city.
As Harsha points out, the situation has been bleak for over two months now. “The protests began towards the end of July and people have been putting off travel plans since then,” he says.
Venkat Raghav, who works with a sports website, is planning to travel to Vijayawada via Chennai. He is keeping his fingers crossed on travelling post Dasara for a friend’s wedding and says, “I made a trip home last month when the APSRTC was on strike. Autos from the railway station made a killing, charging as much as Rs. 300 for a 20 km distance.”
Will things turn for the better before Deepavali? A little dose of hope doesn’t hurt.