Ellendula Venkat Raj interned at Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, Hyderabad Chapter and shares an interesting tale of rediscovering monuments of his own city-Hyderabad. Venkat is a student at Symbiosis School of Economics. Read on to discover his adventurous story.
Whatever you say, forced work is never fun. One of the courses in Flame was Development Activity Programme. It was quite puzzling at first, but the basic aim of this course was to pull the students out of their comfort zones. I had done IBDP. I have done a number of things during my course including community service and so this course sounded very dull to me as well as to other friends of mine who had the same background. The classes for this course felt useless. Most of the times we were all sleepy. Once in a while, Tarun, Myna and I passed our time by playing games on the phone. To pass this course we had to do an internship with an NGO of our choice in out place of residence, though a few were given the option not to do so.
Holidays started and we all went back to our places. We were expected to call our moderator as soon early as possible so that we could complete the working time and then write a report on it. Family, friends, cousins, and fun took over everything in my life at that moment and I did not want to join the NGO right away.
Looking at my mother, I always wanted to work for Make-a-wish. An NGO that grants wishes for people who are terminally ill. Somehow, making people happy makes me happy. Giving and receiving gifts, especially well thought out ones, also makes me happy. However, there were some administrative issues and FLAME could not place in my desired place of work. I didn’t know what else I wanted to do. Tarun and I were searching for ‘crazy’ NGO for a ‘crazy’ experience. We stumbled across one. An NGO concerned for the environment. The work involved saving turtles, mapping their breeding grounds, mapping their migratory tracks and scuba diving. Obviously, we both were excited and decided to work for this internship; which meant staying in Andamans for a month. Would’ve been worth it I suppose. To our dismay, this turned out to be an NGO that never existed. Sometime later, Chirag told me about an NGO – INTACH – and I just decided to go for it because I didn’t want to go back to Hyderabad without being placed in an NGO.
P. Anuradha Reddy, the Convener of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Hyderabad Chapter, also my moderator, called me very unexpectedly. I cursed Chirag for this cause of whom Ma’am got my number. Anyway, I couldn’t say no to her request for me to start working and so, after looking at my portfolio, she gave me my first project. At first, it sounded like a lot of work. In the end, it actually was a lot of work.
I was asked to photograph the monuments of Hyderabad district that came under the A. P Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (VII of 1960). She had told me that there were some odd 30 monuments. I just didn’t feel like doing it. When I searched on the internet for the list, I only found 2. I was very happy. I truly believed that she had made a mistake. This didn’t last for long as when I told her about this she sent me the list herself which actually consisted around 27 monuments. There wasn’t any office. There wasn’t any meeting. There wasn’t any face to face interaction. And yet I started working for her. It felt damn weird.
Macca Masjid, Badeshahi Ashurkhana, Old Gate of Dabirpura, Musheerabad Mosque, Toli Masjid, Gun Foundry, Khazana Building, Shamsheerkota, Qutub Shahi Tombs, Tara Mati’s Baradari, Hakim’s Tomb, Shaikpet Mosque and Sarai, Mia Miskh’s Mosque, Kairat Khan’s Tomb, Kairati Begum’s Tomb & Mosque, Mir Alam Tank Cairns, Megalithic Burials, Sculptures at Tilak Road, Darga Hazarat Syed Shah Raziuddin, Armanian Cemetry, Puranapul Ancient Gate, Kulsum Begum Mosque, Old Idgah, Dargah Hazaratha Saidani-Ma-Saheba, Sir Ronald Ross Building, British Residency Koti Womens College, Sri Chennakesava Swamy Temple
Phew! These were all the buildings that I had to cover. Long list, right? Yes. I was asked to go and meet Mr. Raju at the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) Hyderabad who would give me addresses of all of these places. It wasn’t hard to find him. Everyone seemed to know him. I went to him and showed him my internship letter. Without any delay he asked me for the list and then wrote down the locations of all the places. It was funny to see that Megalithic Burials and the Sculptures at Tilak Road did not exist anymore yet they were on the protected monuments list.
I could write about every monument that I had visited. Instead I will keep it to the most remembered ones. Gun Foundry – this was the closet monument to where I was and so I decided to go there. I did not carry my camera because I thought that it would take a lot of time at the ASI. Luckily, my phone camera was good enough to do the job. I walked into the lane and kept walking straight. Only after a while did I sense that I had lost my way. I saw an old building and I thought that it was the monument. Haha! :p It wasn’t. A person then guided me to the monument. Nothing majestic about it. It was covered by all sorts of buildings. Taken care of poorly. The importance of it – the last standing canon production factory of the Nizams.
Majority of the monuments were in the Old City. One of them is the Macca Masjid. No offence to any reader, but I was a bit apprehensive about going into the place and taking photographs for a number of reasons. But I had to go. The mosque was in the list. My driver came along with me – emotional support I needed. :p I went to the office first to take permission. It took me quite sometime but finally got in and the person in-charge gave me the permission to take picture. 3168 Sq Mts. Capacity to have 10, 000 people at once under its roof. 1000s of people pray there everyday. 5 times a day there is prayer at the Mosque. 1 police personnel to guide me and assure to people that I am authorised. And, 15 mins was what I had to cover all of this. This was the first time I went there. The place was bigger than I imagined it to be. The mat hadn’t been changed since it was laid down. It was clean and fresh as new. There were around 10 chandeliers, covered with cloth, opened only during Id and Ramazan. It was an experience that was far different from what I had imagined.
The Khairat Khan’s Tomb was supposed to be located somewhere near the Charminar. The first time I went was on my own. I searched a lot but couldn’t find it. But I had to, somehow. I dragged Anwar (our driver) along with me to help me out. We went front one lane to another. Deeper and deeper into the maze. We, for sure, did not know our way out. We asked a lot of people regarding the whereabouts of the mosque. “Meine mera poora zindagi idhar guzara. Ye naam toh mein pehali baar sunroon (I spent all my life here and this is the first time I’m hearing this name)”. This was the answer we got from one person, who could’ve easily been around 70 years old. I was heart broken. We were out in the sun for more than 3 hours just searching for one monument. Right before my internship ended, Ma’am said that she would take me to that place. However, even she couldn’t find it. We called up a person in the ASI and he said he would accompany us to this monument. I was shocked when I saw the mosque. I had been to that mosque that day. There wasn’t any board that told us about the place. People who lived right beside the mosque did not have any clue about this mosque.
Shaikpet Mosque and Sarai was huge. Tremendously huge. And not at all popular. People who came to meet the then rulers were to stay here till they got clearance from the then government. My cousin and I went to this place together. The sarai was ungaurded. We explored the place very slowly and carefully. There was a small stair case that ran from the side of the sarai to the roof. We were scared at first but who cares? It took a moment but we finally went up. No special view. Nothing great about the place. But just the excitement of being there was something I enjoyed.
Armanian Cemetery was another monument that I couldn’t find. I went with Ma’am towards the end. This was the burial ground of the Armanians who had come during the Nizam’s time for trade. There were more than 50 grave stones. When I had visited the cemetery, it was being renovated. Sadly, the contractor did not know what he was doing. They were planning to lift the graves pour cement into it and then place the grave stone above it. This would totally destroy the essence of the grave. Well, Ma’am then explained the whole thing to him and then there were necessary changes that were done in order to keep the monument safe. The gravestones were filled with Armanian writings. I took pictures of it which were later sent to a few universities in Armania for translation. However, no one had replied to this.
Out of all, there was one building that I fell in love with. British Residency Koti Womens College. The place was beautiful. Carpet still intact. Scarred mirrors still shining. Photos still lingering. The entrance was grand with lions on either side. The entrant is greeted by 4 large columns. There were two huge portraits of the people who had lived there. There was one part of the roof that had collapsed. With beams of sunlight cutting through the room, the place was lit in a heart warming way. Shivers ran down my spine as my fingers swept over the hand rail of the stair case that led to the first floor. The rooms were huge and the roof was high. The way to the terrace was through a small and shady door. The staircase was made with iron. Perfectly constructed and perfectly safe. This was made when the building was constructed. This is, I think, the only monument with which I have a picture.
Apart from all of these, I was even a part of the INTACH Heritage Awards. A number of buildings were recognised for the value they hold and the heritage they carry. I covered more monuments that I thought I would. I went to the A. P State Assembly, State museums, the upcoming Telangana State Museum, Assembly Library, and Moula Ali.
After a point, Vedya joined me on the internship. Ahh, the fun you get working with friends doing something you both love.
This internship was totally different from what I had done before. This involved so much more of my energy than the previous one. During the internship I realised many issues with the protection of monuments. It was more or less like they were protected only on the paper. There were no information boards near the monuments because of which not many people knew about the monuments or the importance of them. There were no direction maps that led to these monuments in particular because of which I had so much trouble finding them. The way the monument is named in the list and the way people call it sometimes differed and this led to a lot of confusion. Few of the monuments were misused by the people for playing cards, drinking and smoking. A group of people even broke the door of a tomb in one of their fights.
For a long time I was planning to do a photography project: Close ups. This internship gave me quite a number of pictures for the start. The amount of riding I had done on my Bullet was truly spectacular. I dont think it was used so much in it’s whole life time in such a short period. I visited places which I never did. I visited places to which general public was not allowed. I visited places where only a select few are allowed. Mostly importantly, I visited places that I never knew existed.
Hyderabad Meri Jaan, I thought I knew it all.
PS- All my internship pictures are in my Flickr page (https://www.flickr.com/photos/venkudada/with/9438784120/)
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