Noughties have been a delight. My life began; I might be tempted to say-just as any other city’s did. But the fact is that my life began when angry gentlemen threw spades at each other. In sixteenth century, my rulers at Golconda founded me. Musi, my artery ran through me fresh and clear embellishing me for years. When plague besieged me portentously, my rulers wove one of the most beautiful monuments in India-Charminar, adorned me with the crown. But before the incumbent rulers at Golconda could flourish in the shadows of the great crown and meadows of the fecund land, Nizams defeated them in a battle.
What was to come next, I would not have contemplated at that time, but looking back, I realise that the Nizams watered those shrubs of culture that sporadically rose in the rule of my previous rulers. What was to be quoted by Dr. Ambedkar after my inclusion in the united India – as home to all the riches and culture, so good to take upon the capital city status for a united India – grew up during the rule of Nizams. Large canvasses of gold were spread against my forehead around Charminar; my saree, strung with pearls from Pathergatti glittered in the night sky with a hem that was embroidered with fluorescent thread that ran from Chowmahalla Palace through Purani Haveli to Falaknuma Palace.
Prior to this period, I was a precocious girl hiding in an attic, for I was naked and was developing bosoms. During the Nizams’ rule, I was fully robed and my heart throbbed in ecstasy. Rested on my bosom, all the palaces drenched in waters of culture rose up in air ever single time I breathed air. Dripped wet in the incessant rains of richness, I frolicked in the waters of culture and danced through the streets of tumult. The tempest, as the British referred to me, I was gorgeous as the silent night sky filled with stars that twinkled as if to blind the viewer of their nudity.
Bangles fascinated me, I wore them aplenty. Biryani’s smell mesmerised me. I was voluptuous, my hips swayed behind me; was seductive, many a men lowered their hunched shoulders in expectancy of betrothal; I wet my lips with waters from Hussain sagar, ah! The men thought I pouted my lips. When the white men of colonial appetites fancied me as they did the rest of India, I puckered. They persisted, but I was impervious.
My men lived in harmony; they sang songs of life suspended from my hair. Women changed clothes in the dark shade of the back of my neck- covered with thick hair; even sun could not slip through my sifting hair strands that lolloped as waves undulated on the seven seas. I draped all the people at home with my embroidered sari; shielded them from sun and rain.
But in the cold winter of 1948, government of India raged a war against my people. And the Nizam acceded after resisting for what appeared to me as a lifetime of misery. Operation polo, as the episode was to be called henceforth, left me battered and my people bereaved. My sari was torn and my navel exposed. I was semi naked, covered myself with what was left of the glorious past. Exposed to the alien powers, my men abandoned their homes. My pelvis was fractured with incessant shattering of missiles, I shrunk into myself as a flower does at dusk. I no longer breathed; my bosom was pale and my hair filthy. Sari torn and hem broken, embroidered material confiscated. I stood with just the crown-Charminar- on my head.
I was forcibly betrothed to the alien man Secunderabad. He wore a feudal cap-cantonement- his cheeks were red, eyes prominent and back bent. His sword, it shone brilliantly, but unlike my men, it shone of British steel and did not smell of corrosive metal.
With British steel in his heart, he married me in the waters of Hussain Sagar that was constructed as an indication of my maiden culture. To one side of the lake was the corrosive air that smelt of incense (Hyderabad) and to the other was gun powder (Secunderabad). He was of a kinder disposition but lacked the virgin humour of my men; was progressive and appealing but his hair, it was curly. On his chest, he tattooed the vast parade grounds.
My husband’s parents, men of united India repaired the torn hem of my sari. They opened my prized possessions for public to access in Salarjung museum. Alien men and women constricted my hip movement- raised an Assembly hall around my belly- tethered me to a man that conspicuously patronised me. My ear rings, necklace, beautiful jewels on the handles of my nizam men swords, all were exposed to the common public. Around my belly, they danced, pierced my nose with High court, so close to my crown Charminar! I wept for days in silent agony of a past that was irrecoverable.
Standing on my shoulders, new consecration-Birla mandir, lustful men and hideous women gaped at me with their mouths wide open. Panoramic view of my body, as they called it, was about to become one of the most spectacular spots on me. At night when my husband and I made love, it resulted in strange assimilation of peoples from either regions. British steel of Secunderabad caressed the nubile cultural beauty of Hyderabad and I won him over.
The British steel melted under the hot corrosive breath that I exhaled. Later I rouged my cheeks with the liquid metal, what was left of him, and the world called me, Greater Hyderabad.
Today, after six decades of my marriage to alien powers, I am being sought for. Once again, air is filled with lustful glances, indicative poses and intimidating forces. How can I? Qubani ka meetha, my people prepared on the banks of musi when I was a young girl. Irani chai, my people drank; Haleem they gulped voraciously. Today, my people-ones that are the product of assimilation following my marriage and the consequent erosion of my husband’s name in popular culture – are hopelessly clinging to my sari’s loose ends, hiding between the pleats of my sari and ducking in my midriff as I drape my sari over them, crouching on my nape. Some are thumping their chests standing on my shoulder while others are abandoning me. History is repeating itself. I am being subjected to the same agonising battering that the stuttering of machine guns did six decades earlier.