Wednesday, December 6, 2006


By Narendra Luther

I SHOULD STOP HERE. The 1st of November 1956 is a good terminus. It constitutes an important landmark in my life. After that day I became the capital city of anew, bigger state. But life stories do not end abruptly on a single day. Events do not come to a close in such a neat fashion. There would still remain three decades of my life left but they cover a period too close for me to write easily about. Events do not become apart of history untill people who shaped them are all, or almost all, gone. The people responsible for making and braking things during these three decades are still around. I have hence decided not to talk about them.

I can, however, talk about myself. Now that I have crossed the 400th year of my life, I muse a great deal. I think of the stresses and strains I have suffered over these last few decades. I look at my present state of health and wonder hew long I will last. I had said earlier that cities are like human beings. In one important respect they are not. They do not all have to die. There is no natural, average life-span for them as there is for humans. Some prosper, some linger on, some explode with a natural catastrophe like an earth quake or are washed away by a delnge. Some are devastated by war of civil strife and some wither away. But then, mostly, they renew themselves. They shift their center of gravity, like Delhi has done so many times but they go no for a long, long time, I am rather young from that standpoint.

But I feel old. It is a feeling of not being cared for, of being taken for granted. And that is not all. There are positives strains and humiliations to which I am subjected day out. My sheer growth and external and seeming-prosperity eating at my vitals. I cannot sustain myself. I am over- stretched, overstressed, exhausted.

I have grown in stages. There have been distinct phases through which I have passed. The first phase started when I came into being in 1591. I lasted almost a century till 1687, when Aurangzeb sacked me. The second was when I was revived after a gap of 76 years during which period I had ceased to be a capital city. That was in 1763, when the second Nizam shifted his capital from Aurangabad and I became the capital of whatever was left to the then Deccan province. The next phase began when the same Nizam signed the Subsidiary Treaty with the British in 1798 and six years later the British Residency was built here. The fourth stage came when I the railway were brought to the state and I was connected to bombay and Madras in 1876. The fifth phase occurred in 1908 when I suffered the worst-ever floods in my life, and for the first time- and the last -my systematic renewal was taken up. The sixth phase marked my integration with independent India in 1948, and the last was when I became capital of the expanded state of Andhra Pradesh, as it came to be called, in 1956. Of these only the second phase was negative and destructive. All other developments were positive. The most significant development was the last phase which changed my basic character.

So much growth occurred at this stage in a short time, so much change came over y features that at times even I found it difficult to recognize myself, I have already referred to the spurt of immigration from the Andhra areas. That was not all. There was immigration from outside the state and even from abroad. My general rate of growth has been on of he highest in the country in the last few decades.

I started as a city of 3.23 square kilometers surrounded by gardens seven times larger in extent. Today my area is 217 square kilometers. In 1991 my population stood at 4.3 millions). The increase is 67% Consequently, vast areas which were covered by greenery have been invaded by concrete. In my heart, multistoried buildings have risen in a crude imitation of Bombay and Calcutta.

Even the rocks of Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills have not been spared. They have been blown up like bunkers to make way for structures suited to plans. My natural wealth has been plundered, my features spoiled.

There was been no systematic, planned catering to the needs of my citizens. Incremental, ad hoc, additions have been made, but they have no relationship to needs. In summer when my people most need it, the water supply is officially restricted. It is staggered n any case but in acute summer it is admitted openly and officially and every thing is blamed on the rains as if we were living in the reign of Sultan Abdullah Qutb Shah and not at the close of the 20th century. Power supply is erratic, one gust of wind or a mild shower and the lights go off. Power cuts are imposed in two hours but in practice for a good part of the day there is no power supply. And there is no predictability about when it will go.

When it rains the roads are flooded; water accumulates and stagnates in every locality because of inadequate drainage and faulty cambering and sloping of roads. In many parts there are no metalled roads. Where they do exist, they are full of potholes. The condition of my roads proves that I am 400 years old. Every day newspapers carry pictures and stories of the thorough inadequacy of civic amenities. People blame the Municipal Corporation and call it names. The traffic is chaotic.

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