The beautiful ladies of Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills have been a sad lot after the general elections returned the Congress to power. They were pining for the return of Chandrababu Naidu. They think he was good for Hyderabad. The former CM has continued to command a small and dwindling set of loyal followers among the even smaller and perpetually bored section of Hyderabadi middle class. Naidu, in turn, cribbed that he had done so much for Hyderabad, but voters in the city rarely ever voted for him and his party. So compelling is the Naidu mystique that even Rahul Gandhi admitted recently that Naidu did a lot for Hyderabad. I wonder whether the reality justifies the hype. Naidu did encourage the IT sector, but much of his time went in getting photographed with the likes of Bill Gates and Bill Clinton.
Hyderabad now has an airport that, by comparison, makes its counterparts in Delhi and Mumbai resemble glorified cowsheds. It is true that the current regime does not share Naidu’s fondness for organising monster events like the National Games and the Afro-Asian Games. Strobe-lit trees across the city were a permanent feature during Naidu’s rule. But the Congress government can hardly afford such extravagances, what with having pledged free power to farmers. Naidu was opposed to free ‘fawar to the formers’ in 2004, but ended up promising the same in 2009. Hyderabad requires a good public transport system; the fond hope of all Hyderabadis is that the Hyderabad metro project can be disentangled from the Satyam-Maytas mess and revived. With elections to local bodies around the corner, YSR too has promised to make Hyderabad into a world-class city. Hum dekhenge.
I once asked Subbirami Reddy, a man for whom throwing parties is a calling, why he always had his best parties organised in Delhi, Goa or Mumbai. “Hyderabad has no celebrities,” he guffawed. Deeply offended, I started reeling off names of people I though made the grade. He dismissed all of them with an appropriate comment. “I am the only celebrity in Hyderabad,” he concluded modestly. Over the years, I have tended to agree with Reddy’s assessment. The people who inhabit the page three columns of newspapers and magazines in Hyderabad are a lot of crumbs held together by their own dough. They are a terminally unique lot, not always adept at living in style, and often dropping dead in it. But it is the same group—around 25 people—which has remained constant, constituting an ageing cabal of the bores and the bored. Despite this seeming scarcity, the city has had a recent mushrooming of page 3 magazines. No, these are not lifestyle magazines that have a few pages devoted to parties and events. In fact, these are authentic page 3 magazines that have more pictures than words. Photographs in these magazines have captions such as “a lovely pair”, “looking stunning” and “in love”, where the individuals cannot be identified. One magazine outdid the others some months ago: it captioned a photograph of a lady with her “new partner”. The young man in the photograph, in truth, happened to be her 18-year-old son! My favourite, however, is one where a leading national daily once described a well-known diamond-encrusted, chiffon-draped, Chanel-sprayed page 3 fixture as “a leading socialist of the party scene in Hyderabad”.
Gandipet Lake is the one source of drinking water for Hyderabad. And the saying goes that anyone who has imbibed its water never leaves Hyderabad. The magical power of the lake’s water has drawn to the city a whole lot of interesting people over the years, people who might not always make the grade in P3 columns, but are the city’s pride and joy. Meenakshi Mukherjee, literary critic, teacher and writer, has made Hyderabad her home. Over the years, she has brought gravitas, warmth and laughter to all those who know her and has enhanced the literary landscape of the city. Shankar Melkote has run the Little Theatre for years now and has singularly kept the theatre scene in Hyderabad alive. After doing a ‘proper’ 9-5 job for thirty long years while actively promoting theatre, he has now reinvented himself as a film and television actor. Aparajita Sinha is not just the legendary Bimal Roy’s daughter, but also someone who has kept good cinema from becoming extinct. She runs a film club that has given Hyderabad the best world cinema has to offer.
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Vinay Vir is pony-tailed, irreverent, and in the lingo of the young, very ‘cool’. He owns and edits Hindi Milap, a successful Hindi daily in Hyderabad. Hindi Milap headlines are outrageous. They send my blood pressure racing up every morning. But there are ones that bring a smile on one’s face by their sheer directness laced with a dose of corniness. My recent favourite is one that came after the Satyam saga was revealed. The six-column headline screamed: Ram Naam Satyam!