Cities change. No one will dispute that. But no city changes faster than Hyderabad. A three-month absence will throw you out—landmarks will have completely disappeared, new buildings will disorientate you, statues that once lent their names to areas will have been shunted off to some newer place, while the old traffic islands where they once stood are a mere hole in the ground.
My friend who is a gaming fiend, says that this is one of the things you learn from playing some game or the other: that cities have to alter themselves to accommodate more roads, more ways of getting from one place to the other; the places where you stay, in the meanwhile, become more remote, if more easily accessed.
But Hyderabad is more than just a growing city.
If Delhi has Punjabi Baroque, we have Gothic Gult. Wander down any road at random in the Jubilee Hills area and you will see houses that are nothing less than palaces. You might be forgiven for thinking these structures are the product of some lunatic, raving mind on speed. Corinthian columns? Check. Corners of terraces rising up to steep points, with a little window in it for (un)easy viewing? Check. Driveways that sweep upward and lead right up to the front door? Check. Stained glass? You bet. Oh, and electric fences, remote controlled gates, feng shui compatible water bodies, mirrors and champa trees at the entrance. Also fish tanks that circle the house so that if you step out at night without a torch, and you stock your fish tank with piranhas…
One garage for five cars. Miniscule quarters, almost on the road, for the servants, so that on the day the MCH turns up to widen the road, the main house at least will be spared. And before I forget—about five feet worth of space for plants, all carefully chosen by a landscape artist for maximum colour, general unavailability and a corresponding fragility. Most of this is accounted for by planters on the terrace, that leave brown stains on the walls when it rains.
In one corner of Jubilee Hills – and this place is actually at the top of a hill – is a castle that is a replica, one is told, of some castle in Germany. Complete with moat and drawbridge. Would I kid you? (The correct answer to that is ‘No’). Ok, so the moat is the size of an open drain and the drawbridge is down at all times, but if that disappoints you, there’s always the ivy. Masses of it creeping darkly up the walls. Until a year ago, you could see this castle from almost any place in Jubilee Hills; now, it is obscured by another, more ugly building. This new one is – as yet – an undifferentiated mass of cement that is still climbing. It makes me think wistfully of the days when the castle seemed obscene.
There’s a road film here somewhere. I just know it. Now where are my friends with the PD whatzitsname?
*For a more detailed explanation about the term "gult" please go here.