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Believe it or not “Hyderabad Garden City Renaissance” a review

Hyderabad: It is always the human endeavor to visualize one’s own living environment, be it the home, neighborhood, urban center or a city. It should always be functional and comfortable to provide all aspirations to live in a peaceful, safe and aesthetically well designed urban commune.

Since the time immemorial, the rulers and ruled coordinated their efforts to plan how best they can have well designed and developed cities portraying the characteristics befitting their lifestyle and beliefs. All the historical world capitals are still surviving in their original glories due to the type of concepts adopted by various designers, rulers and the ruled.

The Hyderabad city originally was created and developed by Golkonda’s Qutub Shahi dynasty after consolidating their reign of power while in peace with the neighboring rulers. Eventually after some time the Moghul army over-run the Golkonda regions to make it part of the Moghul Empire.

The history repeated itself once again for Hyderabad city. After the disintegration of the Moghul Empire, the governor of the Deccan region AsifJahi rulers crowned themselves as sovereign Nizams of the Deccan plateau with Hyderabad as capital. They signed with all their neighbors big or small for the coexistent peaceful treaties.

During the process the British East-India Company of Calcutta after dislodging the Moghuls, solidified its rule in most parts of the Indian sub-continent as British Empire except for few states that retained their independence maneuvering well enough to become allies. One such ally was AsifJahi dynasty rulers the Nizam of Deccan region.

The British Empire governorate relocated its capital base to Delhi from Calcutta and designed and built a new capital New Delhi befitting its power, wealth and pomp. The inauguration of the New Delhi city and coronation of the British King took place few years of each other. All the Indian princely rulers and allies were invited for the occasion.

The Nizam of Hyderabad, an independent land-locked state and favorite ally of the British Empire was also there for the coronation. The gathering to mark the coronation took place near the newly inaugurated city of New Delhi planned and designed by Sir Edward Lutyen and Sir Baker.

The Nizam’s train load of entourage was also accompanied by team of experts from the city development board. After the coronation the Nizam and his team took a tour of the newly laid city of New Delhi to get an idea about the garden city planning synthesis and architectures.

The incumbent Nizam proved to be a great learner, manager and administrator. His vision to integrate his diverse masses proved successful when he coined the idea that the majority and minority communities are very dear to him like his own eyes. Once that message was well accepted by all, he embarked to develop Hyderabad city in service of his people with much wider perspective to imprint his personal mark of unity in diversity.

Upon his return back to Hyderabad from New Delhi, the Nizam went into closed-door meetings with the Hyd’s city development board CDB. The technical team from New Delhi also was invited for the briefing. The CDB, later laid its strategy to develop a garden city capital complex for Hyderabad.

However, prior to embarking on a new capital complex, the Hyderabad govt accomplished many projects for medieval Hyderabad in terms of public health, urban centers, judiciary, Police Hq., education, cultural centers, public works (roadways, bridges, reservoirs, water-supply, sewerage, electricity) etc.

The Nizam’s human resource management concept was equally productive, that world experts were acquired in search for Hyderabad urban solutions. The Hyderabad emissaries were everywhere around the world capitals and industries in search to set up Hyderabad standards conducive with the Nizam’s vision of development. The Nizam himself never went outside the shores of India, but his world knowledge in close proximity with his team of sincere experts was instrumental in shaping of Hyderabad policy of urban development.

The Hyderabad garden city master plan was fully classified and only during the construction stages it was assumed that Hyderabad was slated for something new on its north-western regions. But no new word of name was added to Hyd conurbation unlike the British adding ‘New’ to existing ‘Delhi’ city.

There was sustained political stability thru secular ethos as practiced by the Nizam transforming Hyd urban architecture integral with landscape design. The additional icing coupled with preservation and conservation of Qutubshahi vernaculars transcended Osmanshahi architecture to take roots in all sphere of Hyderabad new development.

As first part of the development the KingKothi and its north-western wooded region stretching up to the waterfront of Hussainsagar Lake were acquired not very far from the old city. All the effected property owners were duly compensated on special farman of the Nizam.

The Nizam moved out from the old city areas to the new locations. Later to follow were his senior ruling elites around KingKothi or not too far, which later to become Hyderguda, Bashirbagh, Himayathnagar stretching up-to Begumpet and beyond.

The urban strategy as envisioned by Nizam’s team of experts was to have a capital complex composed of land use which allow Hyderabad govt facilities to function without having to get entwined with the other functions. The inclusion to have new capital complex in the medieval Hyderabad walled city was not possible due to high density mixed land-uses thus minimizing any scope of expansion.

The Hyderabad garden city master plan concept attempted controlled land-use composition complimentary to the secular nature of Hyderabad govt socio-cultural functions. The new capital complex envisaged a unique blend of green causeway as vista in parallel to the Naubat Pahad range of mountains footings. As the city’s highest peak observatory the Naubat Pahad graced the city with an iconic canopy at its summit seen from all parts of the city eulogizing the Hydi cultural identity as its main focus.

The vista boulevard unified through its end nodes the cultural center (now Ravindra Bharathi Theater) on a hillock in the West and with that of the ceremonial pavilion (Fathe Maidan) in the East, thus both ends converging into ‘Y’ shape nodes of roadways linking western and eastern suburbs and beyond.

The other important core functions like Legislative assembly, public garden, club-house, broadcasting center, Police HQ, secretarial, etc., flanking the vista boulevard as capital zone well connected by roadways, streets and railways.

The vista boulevard (BagheAam road) formed a perpendicular axis with far of Golcunda fort to a stretch piece of land in between Fateh-Maidan and King-kothi for educational land use (Nizam College and high schools like Alia High, Mahboobia, All Saints, St, Georges, Rosary Convent, Methodist etc), keeping in tandem with the Nizam’s policy of modern education. However, major public facilities like general hospitals, education, judiciary, police and other community functions remains in the old city to serve the diverse communities.

With the advent of Osmanshahi architecture laced with a tint of modernism brought in certain sense of identity and classicism. In other words, imitation and idealization of nature was ingrained with future industrial culture on which the state was pedestaled. Every other govt building was designed with high standards down to the police stations, public toilets, boundary walls and gates. All had Osmanshahi architectural characteristics conveying the secular statement of togetherness it stood for.

The Osmanshahi architecture was so admixed that it did not supersede or rescind the Qutubshahi architecture in the medieval Hyderabad walled city. Rather, it moderated to compliment co-exultingly to eco-balance the symmetry with harmony.

The Baroque architecture of New Delhi was built to express the power, pomp and wealth of the imposing British Empire to subjugate the masses, however, in contrary Osmanshahi architecture remains manifested with secular humility and popular piety as personally espoused by Nizam, in service of his subjects.

The trajectory of history is never peaceful; the Nizam govt after having served profusely in all services of the contended Hyderabad people, were humbled. Its British ally, were driven out by the non-violent movement of the Mahatma Gandhi and his followers from India. In rebound the Mahatma was assassinated by its lackeys in cold blooded murder. The Hyderabad borders could not sustain the political fall-outs, although the Nizam tried his best but finally abdicated to protect Hyd erabad and his people from going to dogs of wars.

The changed Hyd political spectrum brought in many cadres of leaderships in form of so-called democracy through numbers games. The emergence of rural political forces could not rebound Hyd back to its original pedestal of stability. Rather the rural leadership got rich by importing bureaucrats from other states with knowledge of Urdu/Hindi and English replacing Hyderabad’s experienced HCS bureaucracy. With such oiled bureaucracy the politicians made hay while sunshine.

The corruption got manifested into the system of the so-called Hyderabad democratic govts and the city took the major brunt and lost its luster and the blight took hold to replace Osmanshahi shine of Hyderabad. As days goes by the Democratic Govts reaped the benefits provided by the Osmanshahi designed-build facilities and its infra-structures serving the city for decades with little additions. The latter Govts developments did not match the bygone era quality and soon became inconsistent giving the city a slum-like appearance.

There among the ruling bureaucrats few were fascinated by the Hyderabad socio-cultural history, Osmanshahi architectures, and Nizam secular system of governance that they adopted a middle course to loop in the bygone Hyderabadi style. The political leadership loathed anything of the Nizam while its few die-hard bureaucrats insisted on continuing and upgrading the Hyd glory as was achieved during the Nizam times.

The only way left for that silent minority of bureaucrats was to involve NGO’s and befriend the city’s young professional planners, architects, engineers, social-scientists and academics to influence the political leadership. One such bright bureaucrat was Dr. V K Bawa, who was Phd in urban policy and development from USA University and IAS, originally from Bombay’s elite family.

Dr. Bawa, IAS, among many came in contact with the ‘Society for Clean Cities’ SCC, which was making waves in many parts of India influencing people and politicians to adopt urban cleanliness and urban design solutions in their functions. In terms of population Hyderabad was among the top four cities of India and could not be ignored by any standards.

Dr. Bawa, IAS, who was Secretary of Health in AP Govt. invited the SCC to brief its aims and objectives. Further he was also seen scouting for various professionals who could provide think-tank solutions to what he was thinking could reinvigorate the Hyderabad master plan progress which got stopped during the end of Nizam reign.

The search for young and bright professionals brought in many and I found myself also in close association with Dr. Bawa. Dr. Bawa was impressed by some of my lectures on Hyderabad master plan and architecture which I presented on AIR – Hyderabad, and various seminars for a planned urban development.

Many GO’s were issued for the govt meetings and was well attended by many high ranking bureaucrats and practicing professionals. With full backing of Dr Bawa, I, as the youngest participant spared energetically with all in support of Hyderabad master plan, propagating vehemently with my new training picked up at SPA, New Delhi. Although it intrigued many but also was scorned by senior bureaucrats for interference in Govt policies.

After preliminary meetings only few left to form the required think-tank. One such adversary included was my own mentor Prof. K A Siddique, who was backed up by Ms Roda Mistry, Minister for urban development in AP Govt. Many other professionals could not survive and exited early including Architect Chawla, Reddy etc. Prof. K A Siddique, spoke a lot for Hyd beautification schemes and presented many proposals in association with Ms. Roda Mistry and her teams.

Dr Bawa’s persuasiveness and patient maneuvers prevailed and his Hyderabad master plan project started bearing fruits, but my career graph pushed me out of India for better prospects. Prior to my departure, I met Dr Bawa for the last time to inform him about my leaving India for good, at first he could not understand the rationale that he will be losing a young architect/planner next to him but later he hugged and wished me continued success.

As days to follow, the Hyderabad master plan was adopted and approved for the first time after the bygone Nizam reign by AP Govt and Dr V K Bawa, IAS, was made as the first Vice Chairman of the ‘Hyderabad Urban Development Authority HUDA.

Although the HUDA master plan adoption news brought certain satisfaction about my participation, but to know the demolishing of the Naubat Pahad summit canopy left little to expect on what pitfalls may lie for Hyderabad city to face in future….

It is hoped that the new TS govt should continue Hyderabad developmental continuity as done by the Nizam OAK following the threads left over by the earlier Quli rulers, as the city organic orgasms are the never ending phenomena. The more energy is injected in its urbanity the more urban-ism it reflects to serve and identify with all its inhabitants for decades to come…

With no prejudice to anybody dead or alive.