Rockscape: City’s unique natural heritage

Aparajita Roy Sinha laments the changing environs of Hyderabad since the time she moved here

August 28, 2014 07:19 pm | Updated November 17, 2021 12:13 pm IST

A file photo of view from Aparajita's residence

A file photo of view from Aparajita's residence

When Aparajita Roy Sinha moved to Hyderabad, her home was in the Jubilee Hills of yore. Still undeveloped, it was rich with beautiful rock formations. “I was entranced. On stormy days one could see the storm clouds coming in over the rocks. Coming home from school, my children would get rid of their bags and shoes and run onto the rocks. They learned to live with snakes, wild rabbits etc. It was a magical childhood.”

Ask her where she thinks her love for nature and animals comes from and she says she and her siblings inherited it from their parents. The question also led to a crisp analysis by her of nature in her father Bimal Roy’s films. “My father left East Bengal just after college, moving from the village to the city, leaving behind a pastoral background. You’ll see that reflected in his films.” Do Bigha Zameen is in Kolkata and she points out that Calcutta Cruel City has been a self-explanatory English translation of the film’s title.

“Naukri is about young men coming from small towns to make a living in the city. The city is featured as hostile and inimical. In Bandini a story about women prison inmates, the heroine lives in a small town and comes to the city jail. Allegorically the city is the jail. Devdas features the river. When Devdas visits, after Paro weds away from the village, he wanders by the river and mango grove where they played as children looking for a lost love.”

While there is no idealising of rural life in these films, a clear rootedness in the beauty of nature juxtaposed against the city as a site of pain and struggle underlies narratives of human behaviour and human responsibility. Nature features as something which sustains you.

This respect for the sustaining power of nature, love for the city’s natural rock heritage and belief in its aesthetic and ecological value, led her to work with the Society to Save Rocks. Currently she serves as its Vice-President. “This is the only state where rocks are protected by law, you have to take permission to cut rocks. All branches of government came together and agreed to do this and heritage status was given to certain rock precincts of our area.”

“Despite this achievement by the Society, we see privatisation of beautiful public rock spaces like Fakhruddingutta. It is completely anti-environment and a loss to the public. I have seen the pleasant weather that Hyderabad has been famous for, change from the time that I first came here. The destruction of our natural environment is a direct cause of this change.”

There is a major reservoir project at Venkateshwaragutta where the stunning sheet rock has been blasted. The Society found out about it too late to do anything. Currently a sewage pipe is planned around the Durgam Cheruvu lake, destroying the centuries old rocks that grace one of the most beautiful spaces in the world.

“These areas are all notified heritage rock precincts, identified after a lot of work and declared so by the government itself. How has this been allowed to happen?”

She declares bleakly “So much work has gone to waste. Environment is not an election issue so it does not get raised. Officials do not care and we do not have an active young generation thinking, living and planning for the city.” The bleakness is understandable in the face of the uphill task that awaits any effort to save what is left of the city’s natural heritage.

Development of the city today is a resolute fact. But how we develop can surely be calibrated?

Valuing our stunning natural heritage and achieving appropriate course correction in our current growth into a vibrant modern city should be non-negotiable. Unfortunately, looking around at the violated landscape of our city, it becomes hard to imagine that we can develop in such a way that not only are we are known as the city with the uniquely beautiful landscape identity, but also admired as the city that had the good sense to realise, respect and retain it.

This is the 29th in a series of articles based on research for a documentary on the rocks of Hyderabad

( The writer Uma Magal is a documentary film maker, writer and teacher.)

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