Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Hyderabad I knew....


It’s been almost 5 years since I left USA
For 23 years I had been away
And then we decided to come back to stay
In this city of culture and history and pearls
The city where I'd spent a good many years
But it seems to have lost all its beauty and charm
The crowds and pollution are cause for alarm
At every street corner that I can recall
Now stands a beast of a new shopping mall
Wide open spaces that were commonly seen
Have been transformed by developers hungry for green
Into hodge podge apartments packed like sardines
It was a city of Nawabs and the Salarjung
Of raven haired damsels and heroes unsung
The Moguls, Nizams, the Qutb Shahis
Charminar, Golkonda and the Baradari
Where you could almost hear the dancing girl
Taramati in her devilish dervish whirl
But these magnificent signs of a once glorious past
Have turned into eyesores and are decaying fast
Now spoilt and ruined beyond repair
The paint is peeling the walls are threadbare
Except for graffiti etched in so deep
By some loutish bloke or senseless creep
(I love you Saroja marry me your Sandeep)
Tenacious climbers spreading their branches
On the seven old tombs and their seven arches
And smoke and fumes of this modern city
Blacken the sandstone of antiquity
There’s litter now, the beauty is lost
Frito Lay chips and Kit Kat wrappers tossed
By people with money who vacation out west
Who clearly don’t know how to protect their best!
The signs of progress are all around
And all day you hear construction sound
Pounding and hammering well after hours
We’ve argued and pleaded with all of our neighbors
Laborers sweating, living mouth to hand
The women work, children play in the sand
The sun beats down on their sari covered heads
Their bodies are tired, oh to sleep on the bed!
80 rupees they earn as their daily wage
While their owners browse the Page 3 page
Hoping the photographer captured them at the party
Hosted by Mrs. Glam Socialite Lady
Ornate homes with pillars and portals
Vastu compliant for the wealthiest mortals
(“Is the master bedroom on the Southwest
The Italian cooking range facing east?
I’ll have to start planning my house warming feast”)
And high rise apartments of concrete and glass
Beckoning the NRI’s who moved back en masse
With  cutting edge names like Mantri Celestia
And Aliens Space station and Rainbow Vista
(Mildew Apartments is luxurious too
but realizing their folly, it got changed to Mild Dew)
Promising you all your Bay Area comforts
Like centralized gas and smooth tennis courts
And telecom systems and 24/7 security
You won’t need to leave, it’s a self contained city
And on the 27th floor the air is clean 
No mosquitoes, all you’ll see is manicured green
But they forget to mention that in half of a year
The plaster may crack, little lines will appear
And the windows will warp and the toilets may leak
The fans will start humming and the faucets will squeak
You call up the plumber, the painter, the mason
He says “we’ll be there” and you say “hurry, hasten”
And the clock keeps on ticking and the seepage gets worse
And you rant and you rave and you swear and you curse
Cos no one ever said when you left the USA
That in this glorious city nothing moves before midday!
Then finally just as the sun starts to set
The painters appear with white paint and bucket
After sanding and scraping they repaint the plaster
You pay them, they leave, they have fixed the disaster
But then suddenly your eye falls on the windowsill
The white of the paint is now on the black grille
So the painters come back saying “Sir don’t you worry,
a little touch up, we’ll be done in a jiffy”
And just as you feared by the time they are done
The wall now has traces of ob-si-di-an
(You wish you could lay your hands on a gun!)
There are Internet problems and telephone glitches
Power outages and exploding switches
Online cash transactions that stop in mid air
So you stop and you wonder – did you pay that airfare?
Price stickers that stay on and refuse to peel
Snack packets where you have to blast open the seal
Juice and milk cartons sealed with a tab
Which breaks off in the middle so you give it a stab
Paper towels that will disintegrate when wet
Its maddening and it gets me terribly upset
Faulty appliances, rusty nails
A sorely lacking attention to detail
But by now you have learned not to take any chances
And you learn to “adjust” to these annoyances
42 degrees Celsius 30 in the night
That’s 107 and 86 Fahrenheit
Summer in Hyderabad is March April May June
Don’t even dare to step out after 12 noon
Leaves curl and shrivel your skin starts to dry
Nothing to stop the sun blazing the sky
Even sugar cane juice, lemon flavored cold water
Will not quench your thirst or make you less hotter
The AC’s get turned on, desert coolers get filled
Mango and Pineapple juices get chilled
You don’t want to eat your appetite is killed
The streets become bare from noon until six
Except for the stray dogs swarming with ticks
Circling the trash cans hungry for picks
And then they fill the night air with their barks
Cruising the street like the Jets and the Sharks
The only creatures that seem to survive
Are lizards and roaches, they breed and they thrive
And barefoot children not a care in the world
The streets are their playground they swing from the tree
The ice cream man goes by they look wistfully
The dust swirls around and comes in thru the doors
It settles on counters, your skin and your pores
It clogs the air filters and coats the glass table
You pull out your duster with the US Swiffer label
Each disposable cloth lasts a week the box boasts
But one day of dusting turns it to dark toast
Cos the Hyderabad dust so black and so grimy
Turns the cloth into shreds in one single day
As the evening approaches and you think to step outside
The temperature has lessened you’ll no longer be fried
Then you hear the familiar sound of the DDT truck
Spewing white spray for mosquitoes run amok
So you run back inside you beat a hasty retreat
Cos you know when it comes hurtling down the street
That the fumes meant to kill those annoying gnats
Will kill you instead, yes it is a known fact
And as if the city is not polluted enough
The Municipal workers who fill up the troughs
With debris, yard waste and other trash items
Set the whole pile on fire it’s an easier system
(Why bother with compost, recycling and reuse
when this is so quick? Its an easy excuse)
And the smoke fills the air and spreads into our home
It chokes me and gags my reflexes and then some
While the authorities in charge have so careless become
The traffic situation is equally treacherous
Civic sense is lacking, the driving atrocious
Buses, then vans, then cars and then scooters
Autos then pedestrians, that’s the pecking order
Red light is stop, green light is go
That’s what they told us and that’s what we know
But here in this city, the rules are all twisted
As green turns to red they rev up their speed
Before red turns to green they’ve zoomed off ahead
The cops are too lazy they turn a blind eye
They’re too busy sipping on Irani chai
And people like us who follow the rules
Are left waiting at lights, looking like fools
If you slow down your car to let someone go
You’ll disturb his rhythm and upset his flow
He is so used to dodging and avoiding traffic
You’ll just throw him off by being altruistic
Then there are speed bumps that crop up overnight
Built almost like Mount Everest in height
If by chance you happen to zip over them, Pouf!
It’s likely you could be tossed right thru the roof
The concept of sidewalk just does not exist
And if there is one it’s full of cyclists
Crossing the road is a hot potato
And sometimes, you’ll laugh now, I have used an auto
To get from one side of the street to the other
I did this one time along with my mother
Then there are times you are in a hurry
To get to your meeting or airport, you scurry
Only to find out the cars have been halted
Lorries diverted, pedestrians stopped
So that one of the many corrupt politicians
Can cruise thru the streets in his armed Suburban
And if you ever get sick and are in an ambulance
God help you cos you don’t stand a chance
No one will move, no one will behave
You’ll be stuck in the traffic and go straight to your grave
The new six lane freeways are pretty snazzy
The Outer Ring Road and the PVR highway
to the Rajiv Gandhi airport at Shamshahbad
(Rated 5th best  in the world I might add)
You fly over the city in the pre-paid cab
But the view below you is awfully drab
Houses and tenements in sad disrepair
So close to each other there’s no room to spare
Shops sharing walls to sell liquor and beer
The same walls that say “do not pass urine here”
Electricity power and TV cable cords
Dangerously bunched up power hazards
Children on rooftops with no parapets
Flying their kites and white paper jets
Each trying to win with glass coated maanja
(All the shops have it now, its imported from China)
Cafes crowded with people shelling out money
To sample the famous Hyderabadi biryani
Above all this squalor are hoardings and billboards
Distractions meant to take your mind off the roads
For new shopping meccas and jewellery sales
Kalaniketan wedding mall, exhibitions and melas
NRI villas and gated communities
With golf course sized gardens and other amenities
And far away in the hazy distance
You see the majesty and grandeur that once was
Mosques and minarets dotting the skyline
Now dulled and decayed in sorry decline
And in the midst of all this sorry ruin
You’ll still hear the call of the muezzin
But you leave this behind as you get to your flight
The airport is new all gleaming and white
Attendants to help you and porters to spoil you
Security will scan you and frisk you and stamp you
Landmark, McDonalds and Café Barista
Pizzas and croissants the food choice will tease you
The city gets forgotten, you head to your bay
As you get on your flight and go far away.

Poetry by me, pics by Lakshmi

19 comments:

Anpu said...

Very Poignant! Beautiful poetry of words! So true of Hyderabad, and other Metro cities -Mumbai, Bangalore and Madras. All in the name of progress! I miss the city, I grew up in!

Shanthi said...

YES a bizzare reality we wake upto, every day dealing with the things u mentioned Kamini. My son made an interesting observation - he said Mamma when u r India u complain about the things there , but when in Norway you complain about the things here too. So I guess each coin has both sides. I would like the best of the both worlds at one go , but the truth us That is not really possible. YES India has a long long way to go in terms of the quality of services. It is in transformation from doodh walla's to milk Cartons, movie entertaiment to Pubbing etc etc in almost every sphere of life. But majority of India is in the villages and is busy catering to their day to day needs where quality is second on their mind. So YES for us it is frustrating to experience these things and hurts when development progresses without direction and vision and especially when we know how good things can be for everyone with little more planning and little more social responsibility .
But on the same token I leave India everytime with a heart filled with the warmth and hospitality extended - that is so legendary and unparalleled anywhere in the world, the flexibility of the people, the genuine affection they extend - the most special and endearing aspect of our culture, already makes me long for my next trip. The aroma of the dosa and sambhar, palak paneer, will anyday veto the Mcdonalds and Pizzahuts :-).
Home is where the Heart is right.

Shalini said...

What an expressive post. I loved how you put it all together so cohesively and such a great flow.

I know the feeling....it was like this for me too when we moved back to India from the States.....on the surface everything is marketed as being "just like in the US", but in reality it's so different and really not up to the mark.

Oh, those price stickers drive me mad too. I once asked the salesperson at a bookstore to remove it completely for me and only then would I buy the book...and of course he couldn't!

GB said...

This post was wonderful K! straight from the heart!The story can apply to any city in India, really. I think it's just too many people to a tiny triangle of land. it breaks my heart to see what the pursuit of "progress" entails...



Okay for price stickers that stick---blast them with the hairdryer(on high) for a upto a minute...that should help pry them loose.

Sreelu said...

Kamini, What can I say I am stumped, what a beautiful poem, though I have seen HYD in the last few years your poem makes me want relive hyd like old times. WOuld it be ok if I shared this post with my readers ?

Kamini said...

Sreelu...feel free to share, now that its all "cleaned up" and PC! :-)

Srimanasa said...

Hi Kamini,am a delurker here. Stopped myself half way through the poem to tell u what a beautiful way to put across the hitches and glitches about the city I ve lived all my life in. I am going back now to read the rest of it. Love this post of yours absolutely.

Sound Horn Please said...

Beautiful Poetry K!

GB said...

Came back to re-read it. So much written and so much left unsaid. This is untapped talent we have here.

Deepa Raman said...

aww..iam adding here again..

nothing starts before midday
and
horrible to tolerate KCR who eyes for the golden goose Hyderabad
and
the pure vegetarians like me confused as to Am I in South India or should we rename it as Central India?

I can go on...

people might not like it..but i can go on....

Vinita said...

Kamini has it really been five years since you moved? For some reason I thought you have moved just recently. You have adjusted really well if its been that long. Because most people initially love it, but when the novelty dies down some of them feel they made a mistake by letting go of the lifestyle they were used to for so long. And by life style I do not mean, everything that money can buy type but just the cleanliness, civic sense, honesty and integrity etc etc.

Honestly how has your experience been so far? Do you ever have regrets and miss the days in US even though you moved to be closer to your loved ones.

One of my friend says that our generation is like a "trishanku". We could not do full justice to our parents by being with them in India nor to our kids (who may be all grown up and in US as in your case)

Kamini said...

Vinita, I'll be honest. I miss the US every day, esp when people here do idiotic things like throw garbage on the streets, burn leaves, hammer away after 9pm and so on. But when I remember the reason we moved back - to take care of my in-laws - it sort of makes it easier to deal with and look at the larger picture. And I'll also admit that we do discuss the chances of us going back...at some point...maybe! I've learned that there is a lot of truth in "never say never".

Kamini said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shalini said...

Gagan, thanks for the tip on the sticky stickers...will remember that!

Sharon said...

Great post Kamini! Your feeling frustration with the city - echoes in the hearts of thousands of Indians, across the length and breath of this country! We need to do something!

PreeOccupied said...

Beautiful tour to your Hyderabad. The pictures and the words you weaved around them are breathtaking.

Anu@My Dream Canvas said...

Wow, Kamini, just finished reading this post. I must say its brilliant:-)

charu said...

Touching poetry kamini.. It is been one year since i came to Hyderabad. Though I can't relate everything, ya.. it is sadly true..I must say. Sometime i really miss silence and peace..

Nannushka said...

Hi Kamini!
I left Hyderabd as a student and somehow never went back until a couple of years back. I was aghast...My city had become a "Metro" and totally lost its character. Your post brought tears...I am also a returning Indian, came back 5 years ago. But we settled in Mumbai and so didn'r expect anything. But Hyderabad was devastating...
I love your blog.
Sunita