Life & Style

Stories of love and loss

Quli Qutb Shahi tombs basking in the sunset

Quli Qutb Shahi tombs basking in the sunset   | Photo Credit: K.V.S. GIRI

Shehr-e-ishq is a nostalgic trip to the times of eternal love stories

When was the last time you heard a love story of royals that touched your hearts? Listen to the story of a prince to understand why he was considered a celebrated lover and ‘dilon ka shehzaada’ (prince of hearts), or the reasons why a charming lawyer and his British wife made Hyderabad their home, only to leave it after a slander. This February, Shehr-e-ishq (meaning ‘City of love’), an event organised by Hyderabad Trails brings a gamut of stories dealing with love and loss. Fittingly, these events are at heritage venues, for just the right ambience.

In its third edition, the magical stories are narrated over three weekends. When the annual festival first started two Februarys ago, the team realised the existence of many love stories that are neither popular nor celebrated. “We started in February and it sort of coincided with Valentine’s Day and what better way than to remember these historic love stories,” says AB Gopalakrishna of Hyderabad Trails. The iconic Irrum Manzil is a place to know about nawabs in love, Sardar Mahal near Charminar transforms into a significant zone to unearth the secrets of ‘Once Upon a Time’ in Hyderabad. The reasons for choosing iconic places as venues are many and one of them is its natural setting. “Imagine a beautiful sunset and soaking in lawns around Quli Qutb Shah Tombs or its staircase and listening to a kahaani of Quli; He was considered the prince of hearts because he was an accomplished poet, celebrated lover, father of Hyderabad who set the city’s culture with a ganga jamuna tehzeeb,” he says adding the staircase of Qutb Shahi Tombs forms a natural amphitheatre.

The curtain raiser this weekend gives space for poetry and Gopalakrishna observes how members understand its relevance. He says, “Poetry transcends time, just like these stories also do; What happened back then, especially the love story of Quli Qutb Shah, has a lot of relevance today. He was a sultan patronising local culture, married a Hindu woman, respected religious differences and these qualities are respected. Getting youngsters interested in these events is not an issue any more.” While team had invited experts like city historian Sajjad Shahid and Anuradha Reddy, convenor of Intach to share stories in the past, this year most of the stories are shared by Gopalakrishna.

For Pratik Reddy, a law student, these stories evoke nostalgia. He feels such sessions bring about a different side of the royalty. “Held during a Valentine’s week, this idea to dig out eternal love stories and introduce us to this side of personality is unique. We read about them in books but it is amusing to know that royals too did things which commoners do.”

A file photo of BA Gopalakrishna during a session

A file photo of BA Gopalakrishna during a session   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Another segment, titled The ‘188 Love Stories and scandals’, to be held at Chowmahalla Palace is based on a book An Appeal to the Ladies of Hyderabad: Scandal in the Raj by Benjamin B Cohen. Gopalakrishna chanced upon the book online and says, “The book talks about a lawyer Mehdi Hasan who came to Hyderabad from Lucknow in 1888. Because of his British wife Ellen Donnelly, he was invited to parties and gatherings. He was a charming person too and eventually became a minister in the court.” The couple faced envy and a scandal in the form of pamphlets. “Nearly 2000 pamphlets were circulated with an appeal to the ladies of Hyderabad that the wife (Ellen) is a prostitute and this guy (Mehdi) has been using her to rise to prominent positions. Mehdi tries to identify the people behind this slander but could only know about the printing press where these pamphlets were printed. The disheartened couple eventually left Hyderabad.”

Sessions on Abul Hasan Taneshah and Aurangzeb bring out their characteristics and their own stories of love. “Taneshah was in love with Taramati. Aurangzeb too fell in love with courtesans in his youth, but the story of his lost love led him to become the kind of person he eventually was. We share the epic battle, grand story and the characters involved while also sharing the background love of these two people.”

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 6:51:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/stories-of-love-and-loss/article30840781.ece

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