For Hyderabadi women of the twilight generation, the city of their origin lives, but in their vision. The quaintness of a club only for women built nearly a century ago, which over hundred of them reminisce, would seem surreal today.
It was a club that once attracted eminent women including those from the Nizam's family, Europe and Persia. What now stands in place of the historical Lady Hydari Club is a structure with broken windows and dismantled doors, choked behind giant barricades. A remnant of Osmanian architecture, it is today left to perish behind an enormous trench dug to erect yet another multi-storey.
A group of over 120 women are still members of the Lady Hydari Club which today runs in a modest 3,600 sq ft rubbing shoulders with the original structure strewn over three acres of land. The club today retains its character, albeit the mammoth loss of its original structure. Several social and recreational activities for women are held in the new premises of the club, which is also associated with the All India Women's Conference.
Decades ago, the club was the quintessential location for a Hyderabadi wedding. It was also the most sought after place for women to learn badminton, cooking and tailoring or play a game of cards or tambola. Women of the club even ran a school for the poor within its premises.
“We were forcefully thrown out of the old building in 1985 because a minister felt that women ‘didn't need such a big building' and decided to use it for the Gandhi Medical College” said Mrs. Anees Mehamood, President of the club for 15 years now.
The building today yearns for sepia tones of the yesteryears. With a zenana entrance for women to park their cars, they could enter the building through double walls, unseen. “The club defined the culture of a time where women could meet when the pardah was still prevalent. That entrance has been broken down mercilessly,” said Anuradha Reddy, Chairman, Hyderabad Chapter of INTACH.
With the best stock of Urdu, Telugu and English books adorning its library, the club once attracted women with several interests. Ghazals and dance programs were also conducted in the central hall of the old structure. “Today in the new structure we are unable organize many such activities because there is no space,” said Mrs. Anees.