‘The Untold Charminar’ – tribute to soul of Nizam’s city


New Delhi : Hyderabad is a city where the old and the new stubbornly coexist. The distinct identities that come together and often merge are brought out beautifully in the book “The Untold Charminar: Writings on Hyderabad”.

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The historic Charminar vies for space with the corporate offices of cyber companies and media magnate Ramoji Rao’s sprawling film city in a cosmopolitan landscape that has three distinct identities: the past, modern and the new wave.

The diverse identities of Hyderabad are symbolised by its icons – the ruling Nizams, Marxist revolutionary poet Gadar, actor-politician N.T. Rama Rao, dream merchant Ramoji Rao, former chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, who shaped the city’s future, the asthma-curing wonder fish and the ‘biryani’ (spicy rice pilaf).

Edited by Syeda Imam, “The Untold Charminar” was released by Penguin Books India at a star-studded function at the Taj Mahal Hotel here Monday evening. It captures the dualities of the city of the Nizams in a series of essays and personal recollections.

The anthology was unveiled by Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, along with Karan Singh, head of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.

The minister, a Tamilian born in Lahore with a flair for Urdu, recited poetry by Hyderabadi poet Makhdoom Mohiuddin from the book and the lyrics of three ghazals by Sufi poet Amjad Hyderabadi. The English translations were recited in a ‘jugalbandi’ by editor Syeda Imam.

Karan Singh read “Their Vision Lives On”, a chapter dedicated to the “the brave daughter of Hyderabad, Sarojini Naidu”, one of the presidents of the erstwhile Indian National Congress.

Hyderabad, says editor Syeda, has changed drastically, barring its historical testimonies to the past.

“I knew it was going to be a penguin World Book, so I thought people had to know what Hyderabad actually is. It had to be Rafael Nadal’s seasoned play and Roger Federer’s still-not-figured-out,” she said at the launch.

According to Syeda, Hyderabad abounds in recurrent images, phrases and stories that are less myths and more truths – all of which tend to give the city a quaint image.

There is something drone-like about the clichés; the state long presided over by the world’s richest man, the Nizam, home to the Salar Jung Museum, the Charminar and the Golconda diamonds and most likely to the Kohinoor and the Jacob diamond, writes Syeda. But the oddity about Hyderabad is perhaps that its core is not a staid, immovable fixture.

The city, the editor says, strides anew from time-to-time without losing itself. And this may take a while to discover.

Karan Singh also explained his personal connect with the city and its royalty.

“The current Nizam of Hyderabad, Mukarram Jah Bahadur was with me in Doon School,” Singh reminisced.

For journalist-cum-writer Renuka Narayanan, who contributed a chapter “Sight Unseen”, the experience of the city unfolded through the life of her erstwhile landlady in Mumbai.

“She was a khandani (traditional) Hyderabadi lady who observed all the customs of her state at home. She had porcelain skin and applied henna on her toes.

“She had a huge drawing room which was half western and half Hyderabadi. And her biryani was brilliant,” Narayanan recalled.