Zoo in the Public Gardens



I first visited Hyderabad when I was a toddler. My visits were frequent. I grew up loving the city. Every trip from my native Narasapuram to Hyderabad was an exciting experience. I have seen the city grow and transform. Things have changed so much that some of the contrasts are striking.

I spent most of my childhood in what then was ‘New MLA Quarters’ near what was then called Shapoorwadi. From its lawns you could see the only luxury hotel in the city, Ritz, close to Naubat Pahad. We as kids used to go down the hill to reach Public Gardens. Public Gardens was very attractive for us. Many people today may not now know that the city’s zoo park was there those days. We used to have camel rides, see tigers and lions roar, and monkeys make faces at us. Birla Mandir was coming up those days. It was our daily routine to go and watch the sculptors at work. ‘Rock Villa’ which stands even today on a rock in the lane next to MLA Quarters was an architectural marvel those days.

I have seen the days when minimum charge of the auto-rickshaw was 5 paise. Yes, just 5 paise! Almost everyone in Hyderabad went to Abid Circle or Koti to do shopping. Sultan Bazar was the middleclass shoppers’ paradise. It was fun getting on to No 42,  a double-decker bus from Basheerbagh and get off at Koti for as little as 10 paise. It was thrilling to sit on the top floor or hang out on the broad foot-board of a double-decker.

I fondly remember the days I spent in what used to be ‘Koti Taj’, a beautiful old bungalow that was a traditional lodge. ‘Abids Taj’, in contrast, was in a more modern looking building. When I returned to Hyderabad from London in the ‘90s, I went looking for Koti Taj. It wasn’t there anymore. Most of my childhood photos were taken by Regal Studio in Koti. It also vanished.

In the late seventies and early eighties when my father served the state as a Minister we lived in Ananda Nilayam. It was a huge 20 bedroom house originally built for Chief Minister’s residence. Today a Yatri Bhavan stands there like a huge carbuncle. There was no Begumpet flyover. My father used to have a spare car kept ready on the other side of the railway track whenever he wanted to catch a train from Secunderabad station. In case the gate was closed, he used to walk across and take the other car to reach the station on time.

Punjagutta junction was a quiet place. There used to be an old Bungalow with a trellised façade standing on where an inelegant giant mall stands now. I had seen the land where Model House stands today under plough and in full crop. Sometime in’79 or ’80 when a traffic light was installed at the junction, we all wondered why. There was hardly any traffic there.

Whenever I came to Hyderabad during vacation, I used to spend a lot of time in the State Central Library in Afzalgunj. From Andnda Nilayam in Begumpet to Afzalgunj the ride in that small Hyderabadi rickshaw cost just one rupee. Imagine the joy of a long ride on the roads of Hyderabad squatting in a rickshaw. The city used to have a lot of Black and Yellow (Kaala-Peela) taxis. Both these lovely modes of transport disappeared.

All this was not very long ago. But still, it was in the last century. We have leapt into the 21st, haven’t we?

(An insensitively edited version of this appeared in The Deccan Chronicle of 9 December 2012)

2 Responses to “Zoo in the Public Gardens”

  1. December 10, 2012 at 5:32 pm #

    Even I enjoyed serenity of H Hyderabad a lot.! In 59-60 Hyderabad was a dream for me My father whenever he came on a court work use to get me Aurangabad Saries ,Mica print Langa cloths for me from Koti and good colorful bangles .II was so exited to her about the broad roads ,Shopping centers of koti and Abids, and other historical Monuments like Museum and Charminar. In 1962 after marriage First time I came to Hyderabad and we stayed in New MLA quarters only There use to be a Hotel which use to seve Idlies with excellent ALLAMPACHHADI AND MLAPESARET which was novel thing to Hyderabadies.In January there is allways Exhibition which is a trae for every body The Mirchi Bajji’s of AGRAWALA, kWALITY iCE CREAM, PICHUMITHAI WHICH THEY CALL WITH A FUNNY NAME SUGERCANDY. Being a lady always fascinated by Kashmir shawls and saries and fancy ornaments. In those Days Virginai Tobaco use to Make big model of Charminar or Tajmal which was gorgeously decorated with lights use to be specil attraction.As My husband was fond of Telugu Movies which were available only in NarayanaGuda Deepak and Kachiguda Basant we use to travel all the way by two wheeler. Coming By King koti lane whcih was compkletelt deserted was a night mare for me Even in 1980’Trvelling by Panjagutta Junction toMasabtnk by two wheeler was a risky fact. We were offered a piece of land in 1975 where now Nagarjuna circle is there now for just Rs six but we did nit have money so widid’ntget itt

  2. December 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    Its really refreshing sir after reading your article ………………. gone those days where people never knew about pollution and traffic jams. enjoyed it 🙂

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