By T S Sudhir
I have lived in Secunderabad since 1998 and so no wonder, I was curious to read Narendra Luther’s `Lashkar – The story of Secunderabad’. Unlike most of my classmates, history was my favourite subject in school and ever since I moved to Hyderabad, I have found tales of the Nizam’s rule, very fascinating.
But Secunderabad is not the story of the Nizam. It is the story of a twin city that is half the age of Hyderabad (which came into existence in 1591). Luther gives numerous instances of how while Hyderabad grew up as a medieval Muslim city, Secunderabad grew into a replica of an English town, with a cosmopolitan character. And while the Nizam ruled over the city of the Charminar, the British Resident called the shots in Secunderabad.
The Secunderabad cantonment was the first settled `home’ for the army in the south and by 1870, had become the largest in India. Luther tells us about Winston Churchill when he stayed in Bolarum as a second lieutenant in 1896. He was one of the earliest members of what is called Secunderabad Club now and “he played polo in the Parade Ground and flirted with the Resident’s daughter. She however turned him down because he did not have enough money. He noted with his usual hyperbole that at least 12,000 men were based at the station keeping guard on a city which contained `all the scoundrels of Asia’.”
A Secunderabadi does not know where his boundaries are as there is no clear demarcation between Hyderabad and Secunderabad. The railway line on the north side and the end of the southern tip of the Hussainsagar lake on the south side are generally considered the boundary
Luther tells us interesting stories about how the names of places in Secunderabad originated. Like Lal Bazaar got its name because it was the red light area for the red uniform clad British soldiers. How Vicar-ul-Umrah in exchange for the land he gave to lay the railway line between Secunderabad and Hyderabad, got a railway station constructed for his exclusive use. That was named Begumpet station.
Interestingly, it was not until 1946 that Secunderabad was officially born as a municipality. And it was only when the municipality was upgraded to a municipal corporation in 1951, that the term `twin city’ was used for the first time for Secunderabad. Luther points out that the old-timers in Alwal still refer to Bolarum as Chinna (small) Lashkar and to Secunderabad as Pedda (big) Lashkar.
A significant portion of this book is devoted to the individuals who made Secunderabad their home. Like Sir Ronald Ross who worked out of a ramshackle building near the Begumpet airport, where he would tempt his patients to be bitten by mosquitoes infected by malaria by paying them one rupee each. It was here that Ross established that the parasite was sucked in by the female anopheles when it bit an infected person and this led to the control of malaria worldwide.
Narendra Luther’s `Lashkar’ constantly makes comparisons with Hyderabad, quoting for instance Shyam Benegal who stayed in Trimulgherry but cycled everyday to Nizam College in Hyderabad. Benegal says “To cycle five miles was to make a transition from colonialism to feudalism”.
Interesting titbits include explaining the prowess of Secunderabad in sports (thanks mainly to its roots in the cantonment and huge grounds), its more British culture, English movies at Sangeet theatre and sartorial preferences.
This book, published by Kalakriti Art Gallery, will compel you with sepia pictures in plenty. It will make you feel proud to be a resident of Secunderabad. But a touch sad too, given that the apartment culture has destroyed much of the old-time Secunderabad. And perhaps today, the two cities do look a bit like twins. Alas.
(Lashkar : The story of Secunderabad by Narendra Luther, Published by Kalakriti Art Gallery, Hyderabad)
You can also find T S Sudhir’s blogs at http://www.thesouthreports.com