History & Culture

Where time stands still

HYDERABAD, TELANGANA, 02/03/2017: Renovation work under-way at Charminar. This historical place is a popular destination with tourists at all times of the year. Photo: K.V.S. Giri   | Photo Credit: K.V.S. GIRI

No one is wrong all the time. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Who knows it better than tourists visiting Hyderabad. As they set out on a sightseeing trip they discover to their surprise time standing still at many places. Clocks at several busy intersections have stopped functioning even as the city is racing against time.

London’s Big Ben has fallen silent recently but in Hyderabad the clocks atop towers are either not working or simply broken down for quite some time. No one can turn the clock back but at least something can be done to wind them up. But there is no concern, much less efforts to revive them. The city of domes boasts of eight public clock towers but sadly none of them are in working mode now, except for the clocks on Charminar.

Clocks in the iconic monument keep ticking on all the four sides as it happens to be the city’s pride. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which maintains Charminar, ensures that the clocks function properly. But that is not the case with other clocks taken care of by the GHMC. In 2006 Secunderabad saw celebration of its 200 years of formation. The historic clock tower, now a heritage structure, built by then Resident, Sir Trevor John Chichele Plowden, became the centrepiece of the bicentenary bash. But today if you want to set your watch by the 110 year old clock you will be way off the mark.

Time doesn’t exist, clocks do. But in Hyderabad the opposite is true. Clocks which are meant to indicate the passing of time have broken down or simply missing. The graceful tower rising above the Moazzam Jahi Market cries for attention. Built by the City Improvement Board in 1935, the granite structure is listed as a grade II heritage building. But shockingly one sees gaping holes where clocks used to exist. “Parts of the clock keep falling at regular intervals but authorities are simply not bothered to repair,” rue shopkeepers.

The clock towers at Secunderabad, Monda Market, James Street, Sultan Bazar, Fateh Maidan, M J Market, Mahboob Chowk, Shyamlal Devdi and Chowmahalla Palace are historic in nature and reminiscent of a time when few could afford a wrist watch. Even home clocks were rare. These heritage clocks are mechanical and need regular servicing. Till a few years ago the Ramesh Watch Company used to maintain them for the civic body. But due to non payment of its bills, the company has pulled out of contract with the result the clocks are now stuck in a time warp.

“e are planning to call tenders for maintenance of the clocks since the rate quoted by the Ramesh Watch Company are too high,” says Srinivas Rao, Additional Chief City Planner, GHMC.

The erstwhile rulers built turret clocks as public amenity. The idea was to instil a sense of punctuality. Some individuals also built clocks atop their houses. The Shaymlal devdi on the Charminar-Shalibanda road is a case in point. Even the Afzal darwaza at the entrance of Nayapul had a clock on it. This gate was pulled down by the civic body in 1954 for smooth flow of traffic. But today the clock towers are reduced to being mere landmarks devoid of their specific purpose.

“It is a pity that the authorities are not able to maintain the historical clocks when so much is being spent for the development of the city,” says M A Qaiyum, noted historian.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 9:08:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/where-time-stands-still/article19631921.ece

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