(c) Times of India, Hyderabad edition on 05-Oct-2013
On the other side of Tank Bund
P. ANURADHA REDDY
In Hyderabad State, Secunderabad thrived as a cosmopolitan city — a far cry from the non-descript twin of Hyderabad that it’s grown into today. Anuradha Reddy reminisces about growing up in a Secunderabad which was almost European. Her life, she recollects, was shaped by her Italian teachers, French and Jewish friends of her mother, apart from a whole lot of Parsi, Marathi, Anglo Indian, Telugu and Tamil ‘uncles’ and ‘aunties’. Now, how’s that for cosmopolitan!
Having lived most of my life in Walker Town (now Padma Rao Nagar), people brand me as a ‘Secunderabadi’. Funnily enough, until I was nine, our address ended with ‘Hyderabad, Deccan’ and, in my mind I was always a Hyderabadi. When Hyderabad State was divided and the Telangana was merged into Andhra Pradesh in 1956, I couldn’t fathom why my address changed to Andhra Pradesh.
My maternal grandfather, B Ranga Reddy (the first Hindu officer in Hyderabad Civil Services), belonged to an agricultural family with land holdings in Bholakpur (below Tank Bund). His decision to send his daughters to St Ann’s School brought in this enormous Europeanisation into our upbringing. However, my paternal grandfather, C Ramlinga Reddy, hailing from the royal family of erstwhile Sirinapally Samasthan, lived in a gadhi (Telangana for palace) near Moazzamjahi Market road, where all the big houses sprang up, with the northward expansion of the city after the old walled city. My father, C Sreeram Bhoopal was also a post 1948 HCS officer.
My maternal grandmother, Vasudevamma’s home was always teeming with family visitors from the districts. At any point in time, there were 50 women folk in the household. The family oil baths on Sundays were a cultural reverie. While we oiled and washed our hair and lay on grass mats, drying our hair with sambrani smoke, listening in to women folk exchanging stories on infidelity, famine etc., in the districts, was eye-opening. Vasudevamma’s best friends were Mudaliar ladies who lived in Walker Town. I picked up Telugu, Tamil, Urdu, Marathi and Kannada just by interacting with these neighbours and friends.
My ammamma was a movie buff and took us to watch many Telugu movies at Rahat Mahal, Minerva, Manohar, Paradise (which was the first air-conditioned theatre). Hindu households in Hyderabad state followed the prevalent purdah system. The ladies’ cars had a purdah separating the driver from the backseat. Theatres had separate entrances for the ladies and the balcony had a screen which was drawn back only when the movie was running. We also had three English movie theatres — Tivoli, Dream Land and Plaza.
Back then, all of Walker Town had about 18 houses and everyone knew everyone. My mother, Snehalatha Bhoopal had a lot of European, Anglo Indian and Jewish school friends. Rebecca Samson (Jewish), whose father distributed English movies, lived in Marredpally, as did another childhood friend, Violet Primacoff (whose father was a Russian decorator, who came to Hyderabad pre-World War II). With a sizeable Anglo Indian community in Walker Town, Christmas celebrations were an integral part of winters. We served wine and cake to carol singers who visited our house during their rounds of the colony... Oh! it used to be so much fun.
The Parsi and Anglo Indian communities in Secunderabad contributed hugely to the development of modern Hyderabad, serving in aviation, railways, teaching, journalism, and any field that demanded a command over English. Who can forget their contribution to the local cuisine with their bakeries and hotels? My schooling exposed me to Christianity. While both my grandmothers were devout Hindus, they celebrated all festivals. After my father’s HCS training at Pune, we returned to Secunderabad where I was enrolled into Mrs Roshiers’ Froebel School. Mrs Roshier was an Anglo Indian who helped us gain a strong foundation in English. Subsequently, St Ann’s Convent, exposed me to Roman Catholicism. Sister Adriana, an Italian nun (my mother’s math teacher and my principal) came to Secunderabad as a 16-year-old, dedicated her entire life, (like many others) to educating the girls of the twin cities.
My dad had a lot of Muslim and Kayasth friends and colleagues whom we called mamu, chichha, etc., and everybody loved socialising. No revelry was complete without music and poetry session. Pandit Ravi Shankar (guru of Sudha Ghanshyam Girji) composed a piece for me on one of his regular visits to the city. It was another time, another place, never to be forgotten, always treasured.
(The writer is an aviation historian and
convener INTACH Hyderabad) Once upon a time...
The Resident, who had just moved into the Hyderabad state, desired to visit the Garrison Club, which later came to be known as the United Services Club, where most of Hyderabad’s European gentry socialised. Back then, the club was situated in a non-descript little building. When Salar Jung I, the then Prime Minister of Hyderabad, got to know of the Resident’s wish to spend his evenings at the club, he immediately offered his hunting lodge as premises for the club. He felt that the Resident deserved to spend his evenings in a building which befitted his stature and rank. And thus, in 1903, the elite Secunderabad Club was born. To honour Salar Jung, it was decided that his lineal descendants will be made members of Secunderabad Club without ballot or admission fee. It’s another matter that not many among Hyderabad’s gentry was allowed into the Club in the years that followed, thus prompting Mahbub Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VI, to set up the Nizam Club, a gentlemen’s club exclusively for Hyderabadis.
Secunderabad Club, which was set up on Salar Jung’s jagir, in Tokatta Village
A children’s fancy dress party at Mr Hankim’s house, Secunderabad, January 23, 1905
A scene outside Paradise in 1959
A 1912 picture of the first automobile showroom in Secunderabad
James Street, Secunderabad, 1890