Happy consumers are not the only ones that look forward to Numaish. For some Hyderabadis it is less a shopper’s paradise and more a place of vocation; Zeenab Annez speaks to the groups of people who make Numaish safe and enjoyable to the visitors
It is hard to miss the police officers at Numaish; speaking into their walkie-talkies and walking purposefully from here to there, on break grabbing a quick bite at the nearest chat bhandar, huddled up together at police check-points, or simply sitting on a bench and taking in the crowd and activity. While for young police officers, it is just another day on the job, old-timers like Syed Yaqutabi enjoy the 45 days when he can be a part of one of the oldest exhibitions in the country, now a major calendar event in the Hyderabadi year.
Kiran Kumar K.M, Station House Office, Begum Bazaar Police station who is in-charge of the police personnel at Numaish says that there are a total of 400 police officers and constables on the grounds at any given point in time. Out of the 400 police personnel at the venue, only 25 are women officers. “This is mainly because of the lack of availability of lady officers. In fact it is with great difficulty we have got these many women,” he says throwing light on the severe lack of women in the state’s police force.
The policemen are divided into two major teams – Law and order maintenance and Crime observation. The officers you spot at the entrances and near the rides belong to the first of the two and are responsible for crowd control and for preventing any scuffles that may arise from petty disagreements. “Crowd control is essential especially on holidays. On Republic Day, we had a record 1,05,000 people coming in,” says Kiran Kumar. The latter is mainly to prevent thefts, pick-pocketing and eve-teasing. The 24 CCTV cameras installed at the space aids them in this. “We have a police control room where visitors can file complaints. So far we have received many for loss of cell phones, bags and eve teasing. We have made a few arrests too,” informs Kiran Kumar.
The wheels of the bus…
Getting around the 23-acres of sprawling shops and eateries can get tiring; even more so with all those shopping bags to carry.
It is no surprise, then, that the tram that takes visitors around the exhibition ground is always full. This tram, only three years old, is a recent addition.
“Earlier we had one that would run on rails but it became too dangerous as the tram risked going out of the track at bends.
This one is driven on the road,” says Najam Khan, the tram driver. Ask him and he will tell you this too is no easy task. “You need to be trained specially for driving the vehicle. Besides, manoeuvring through crowds of people, especially children require a lot of concentration,” he explains. Najam Khan actually works as the manager at Sudhakar Car Museum in Bahardurpura, the manufacturers of the tram. Keeping safety in mind, he has taken up the task of riding the tram and has been doing so for the past three years.
Khaled, a mechanic who met Najam when he came to do some repairs in the tram was promptly recruited and trained to ride the tram; the two of them now take turns in driving the passengers around.
Security checking is no longer a novelty in the city. Whether you are entering shopping malls, restaurants or five star hotels, we have gotten used to opening our bags and stepping into kiosks to be examined with a metal detector; Numaish is no different. The entrances are meticulously guarded by the personnel of Excel Security forces, a private company that has been entrusted with the task.
The men and women hired to do the job are given a month’s training in the company’s training ground in Uppal where they are taught how to handle situations from a bomb scare to a fire breakout to difficult customers. Having to work closely with people, they area also taught how to handle people in the most cordial way possible. Pankaj Sinha, of Excel Securities says that they have over 120 personnel manning the four entrances of the exhibition.
To the women who work at the gate, Numaish is a much looked forward to time of the year. Sunayana who otherwise checks bags at Big Bazaar says, “Working here is much better as we get to see so many more people. Everyone listens to us and follows our instructions.” To M. Santosh, who holds a job as a salesperson in a jewellery store, this is only the beginning. “I have worn this coat,” she says referring to her blue blazer, “now I want to wear a police coat.”
Humming an old tune
Whether in fashion, food, home décor or electronics, Numaish has always been up to date with the latest trends in the market but there is one thing that stubbornly refuses to change according to consumer taste: the music.
As radio announcer Rashid aptly puts in “You will not hear any ‘Munni badnaam hui’ here,” and he is right. As one walks through the stalls, shopkeepers and sales boys lip-sync involuntarily to the catchy tunes they have been hearing for the past few weeks. Spend enough time there and you will find yourself doing the same.
The man in charge, Ajay Jaswal of Ajay Sounds boasts of a large collection of old Hindi classics. According to Rashid, whose voice has, since 1985, guided many a missing child back to anxious parents, “there are people who attend the exhibition, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. just to listen to the music played, because you will not hear these songs anywhere else.” The main purpose of starting the radio station for announcements was to help parents find their children who get lost in the crowd, informs Rashid. “On republic day, we had so many such cases that I was announcing in my sleep,” he says. Announcements are made in English, Telugu and Urdu. The music came afterwards but became an indispensable part of the exhibition’s charm. The station was soon recognised for its commercial value and advertisement slots began to be sold, as shown in the ledger maintained by Ajay, to popular brands and stores. It now operates as a combination of all three.
Rashid, who has been announcing for the past 28 years, is carrying forward a family legacy. “My father used to make announcements here; you could say I grew up with these exhibitions. One day in 1984 the Convener asked me to make the English announcements. I tried it and have been doing it ever since,” says the veteran. Rashid also lends his voice professionally for advertisements and dubbing. In the remaining 320 days of the year, Rashid works in the construction business.
Drive by Najam Khan, Khaled and Thakur Singh, a committee member
Sound garden Ajay Jaswal (right) with his colleague at the radio station