There are only two ways you can be a Hyderabadi. Either you are born one or you grow into one. I am as Hyderabadi as you can get without being born one.
Everything from my adolescence, my schooling, my coming of age, my relationships, my discovery of my skills and talent, even my exploration of myself have strong Hyderabadi roots. Sure I have lived around the country and travelled around the world but Hyderabad has always been home.
What makes it so? Its warmth. Its people. It was the most welcoming habitat in the past. That is its unique feature even now. And I am convinced that this aspect of the city and its people is destined to be its signature.
Where else can you see the kind of cosmopolitan profile that takes on Hyderabadi shades effortlessly and with a special charm? Dilli walle become ‘dil’ walle in a jiffy. Bangali Babus become Hyderabadi ‘cheleys’ without hesitation. Even the traditional ‘rasam’ eating Tam Brahm converts to ‘saalan’.
But what infused the true Hyderabadi into me was not so much my Grammar School and Hyderabad Public School education but the magic of Tehran Cafe, Olympia, Zam Zam, Bombay Bakery that nurtured in me the chai biskoot culture of Hyderabad. Shehran in the old city and Bade Miya on Tank Bund introduced me to kebabs. Of course Shaadab and Niagra played havoc with my taste buds.
What I loved was that Hyderabad also gave me South Indian options like Taj Mahal, Kamat, Gayatri Bhavan, Minerva and so on. And made us fall in love with a Havmor as easily as it did with a Nanking.
Today the names of the restaurants have changed, but the spirit remains. At least I frequent only places that can talk of old world charm and hospitality in the same breath.
Another thing endearing about Hyderabad is its perception of time. I call it the Hyderabadi ‘ichch’. Abhi (now) becomes Abhichch and a whole new sense of urgency is discovered. Parson becomes Parsonichch and you know that this is a language that favours the use of words with attitude and savoir faire. But then the Hyderabadi lingo is world famous. And speaking it is cathartic at times. Nothing like a burst of choice Hyderabadi gaalis to defuse a steamy situation. And lastly, even if it has a vain kind of feeling... my relationship with Hyderabad has been cemented solidly because for nearly 35 years I have been the voice of Hyderabad for the whole world.
For tourism, I invited visitors to come and explore my city. For the Government I pitched Hyderabad as a brilliant opportunity. For many real estate companies, it is my voice that brought in the customers. For many companies that approached the public for funds, it was my voice that spelt out the irresistible invitation.My children always tease me, saying that they are more Hyderabadi than I am...because they were both born here. But I only laugh it off.
The Hyderabadi blood that they are so proud of is mine.