HYDERABAD: An arabesque vermillion edifice with a towering entrance — which opens to kaleidoscopic hallways adorned with ornate chandeliers and immersive windows that illuminate paintings on the walls — stands near the Musi river in the Old City. The majestic Government City College was established on September 4, 1921, and turned 100 last week.
To meet the demands of modern education in the 20th century, the Hyderabad City Improvement Board, which had the wealth of the world due to the last Nizam, commissioned British Architect Vincent Esch to construct this building. It was initially made into a school, called the Dar-ul-Uloom, and was converted into a college in 1929.
Over the years, the building lost its institutional galore as it was battered by the weather and negligence. “City College is soon becoming the least preferred option among students,” says Mohammed Shafiullah, a city-based historian. “Until the 1950s, a degree from the City College was considered as the most prestigious, even more than Osmania University, under which the college functioned,” he adds.
City College has produced some of the greatest sportsmen for India and particularly Hyderabad such as football Olympians Yousuf Khan and the legendary coach SA Raheem. Students currently enrolled in the institution take pride in studying here. “It is more than a college, it is a palace. I was waiting for the college to reopen so that I can come back and study here,” says Basha, a final-year Commerce student.
The college has a vast library on the first floor that offers a wide collection of books and there are a lot of scenic spots where one can be seated to indulge in academic activities. In his book Examples of Modern Indian Architecture, Mainly in Hyderabad, 1942, Esch writes, “There is a great central hall, which goes up to the main-floor level, with a gallery around three sides at the second-floor level for the younger boys.”
Esch calls the building to be styled in ‘Perpendicular Mogul Saracenic’, describes further as, “There is an arched plinth 11 feet high of roughly dressed granite. The two floors above are built of stone, and faced in chunam shell plaster. On the north, facing the river, is the central entrance for senior boys. On the south side, there is a similar entrance for the junior boys. On either side are separate tiffin, or refreshment rooms. The first floor for senior students contains 24 classrooms, record rooms and offices.”
According to Anuradha Reddy, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage convenor for the Hyderabad chapter, City College was among many other institutions such as the Osmania General Hospital and State Central Library, which were affordable for even the rural population of the Hyderabad State. “Architect and Hyderabad’s town planner Mohammed Fayazuddin studied in the college, who designed the 1944 Master Plan of Greater Hyderabad, now GHMC.”
Timeworn, weather-beaten, gorgeously otherworldy looking, the building stands dilapidated. “The granite basement (ground floor) is still strong and holds the building together. The top floors, however, are showing signs of decay,” adds Anuradha Reddy.
The paint is worn off, the walls and ceiling are flaking and there is some overgrowth of plants inside the building. According to Shafiullah, it would not require much to renovate the building.; with just the regular maintenance, the building can serve us for another few hundred years. For it was commissioned to Vincent Esch, who was the most popular architect in the world in the 1920s.
City College alumni
Yousuf Khan: An Arjuna awardee footballer, who represented the Indian national team at the 1960 Summer Olympics, was one of only two Indians to have been included in the 1965 Asian All Stars XI. He was also a part of the team that won the 1962 Asian Games.
Syed Abdul Rahim: He was manager of the Indian national football team from 1950 until his death in 1963 and was a former player. He is regarded as the architect of modern Indian football. He led the India national team to its win in the Asian games of 1951 and 1962.
Mohammed Fayazuddin: Architect and town planner, Fayazuddin designed the Ravindra Bharati Auditorium and the SBI Bank Building in Abids, besides many other iconic structures in the city. He was known for creating town plans and affordable housing structures.