Paani aaya bhago—The rumour that rocked Hyderabad in 1970

Dasu Kesava Rao

September is the month of sorrow and misery. Exactly this day in 1908, unprecedented rain and floods devastated Hyderabad and exactly 50 years ago, unrelenting downpour claimed hundred lives. A wild rumour a few days later, September 24, scared the city out of its wits.

Ironically this very rumour abruptly ended the career of a senior journalist and as quickly opened the doors for a golden future for another, much younger. Well. This is the story…

Rumour spread quickly that the Musi and the Gandipet Lake (Osman Sagar Lake) had breached and the waters were rushing menacingly to submerge the capital. People ran just anywhere, just anywhere for cover. Bedlam broke out. News agency wires buzzed constantly putting out updates, but The Hindu office in Madras found nothing coming from its Hyderabad office. There was no contact either. How come, they wondered, PTI located within a kilometer of its office managed to provide updates.

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The Madras office contacted the Bureau Chief on the phone at his residence. He explained that he had ordered the office closed to save the lives of the staff. He was reprimanded for being highly unprofessional. Since The Hindu did not believe in axing people, it stripped him of the CoB post and consigned him to the loop line.

At the same time, The Hindu correspondent at Vijayawada received a call from the News Editor saying the Editor wanted him at Hyderabad. The young man of 30 murmured he could not fancy working under the CoB at Hyderabad. ‘Who said you will be working under him? You are going to be the Chief.’

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The young man jumped with joy and was hastily put in The Hindu’s own aircraft to report at Hyderabad the following day.

The young man was R. J. Rajendra Prasad who went on to head the Bureau with distinction for 32 long years before handing over the baton to me in July 2002. The other person was H. Venkanna.

Dasu Kesava Rao is a seasoned journalist who has worked, among several newspapers, with The Hindu and served as its Bureau Chief in Hyderabad.

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