‘Scurrying through’ has also become a part of life in this part of the city
Change is imperative and everything changes from time to time, with the old city of Hyderabad being no exception.
The once-walled city with a hoary past has changed quite a bit over the years but the nostalgia for the times gone by is hard to dissipate. It survives well and continues to linger. The last few decades have redefined the contours, physical as well as that of life here, particularly the latter, for living in this part of the city was a peerless experience.
For outsiders, life in the old city is usually described as laid-back or leisurely. But then this reflects an attitude that sought to savour every moment as it came, rather than ‘scurrying through’.
Even if there were no formal greetings of ‘aadab’, ‘salaam alaikum’ or ‘namaste’ there would at least be a few minutes of enquiry about each other, usually starting with the all-encompassing ‘khairiyat’ with the gentle nod of the head and exchange of details about families. But there is hardly anything of this sort these days, as the hurried pace has also ‘invaded’ the purana shehar where people today have little time for exchanging pleasantries.
Each street-corner had small groups indulging in small talk and the traditional ‘chabutra’, small raised platform in front of the house alongside the entrance, would have children sitting and recounting anecdotes. Hardly any more, for at most places, the ‘chabutras’ have begun disappearing and children are more indoors, thanks to the idiot box and computers.
For youth, the ubiquitous Irani restaurants were the favoured rendezvous. The one-by-two ‘chai’ in a way was not really meant to save money but mirrored a spirit of sharing.
Dipping the crispy and sweet-salty biscuits in the half cup of tea and relishing the taste over a chat about friends, college and films was an experience none wanted to miss each day.
Picking up a movie ticket at Suraj theatre and sitting back in old Zehra café after the movie to dissect the story, actors and actress was a common sight. And it was the same whether it was Kamal or Tirumala theatre. But most of these cinemas that bustled with good crowds for four shows a day have shut down and given way to facilities such as function halls or hospitals.
There were fewer wide roads and the city was then a maze of serpentine lanes and narrower by-lanes through which cycles, rickshaws and the occasional scooter would squeeze though. When it rained heavily, children would rush to the nearest ‘nala’ that criss-crossed the city to catch a sight of gushing water.