Two hundred years has changed Secunde-rabad. From Sikandarabad, named after Mir Akbar Ali Khan Sikander Jah (1803-1829), the third Nizam of Asaf Jahi dynasty, it assumed the anglicised name of Secunderabad, the preserve of the Army in the British Raj. The landscape has changed, people's attitudes have changed, names of streets have changed (barring a few) and the environment has gotten worse. Tongas and cycle rickshaws have been replaced by petrol/diesel driven vehicles. May flower trees are gone so are the chirping birds.
A concrete jungle of haphazard constructions, multi-storeyed buildings, and polluted streets replaced the once peaceful, green covered British Cantonment. Founded in the late 18th century as a British cantonment through a pact between the Nizam of Hyderabad and the East India Company, this exclusive cantonment area was named Sikandarabad.
Unlike its immediate neighbour and twin, Hyderabad, Secunderabad had a distinct culture. It was more cosmopolitan, followed the stringent British regime, and senior citizens insist the place once resembled a British County. In true Indian colour, it was dotted by temples, churches, mosques and Parsi fire temples, and nurtured saplings of all the communities, who lived in perfect harmony, barring a few stormy years during the Razakaar movement. Sikandarabad took pride in having its own "Little London," now > Lallaguda, a home to the Anglo-Indian community even today.
Over the years, the landmarks too have changed. Dreamland, the once popular venue for English movies now houses a marriage hall. Plaza, another popular theatre has been turned into a commercial complex. A big part of Tivoli theatre has now been turned into a function hall! "These theatres very popular then. There was utmost discipline, and whistling or screaming for the lead actors was taboo," recalls 83-year-old Mr D.N. Gupta, a resident of Marredpally.
Discipline was a unique characteristic of the city. Says 77-year-old Mr Mekala Srisailam, a grain merchant and resident of Old Ghasmandi, "The British imposed discipline to the hilt. People were fined for urinating at public places, washing of clothes and utensils at public taps and littering the roads. People used to run away on seeing a Dafedar (sanitary inspector). And double sawari (double seat on a bicycle) was banned."
Popular landmarks and street names are lost forever. The Famed King Edward Memorial (KEM), renamed Gandhi Hospital has been shifted to Musheerabad Jail, Kingsway (RP Road), Alexander Road (SP Road), Oxford Street (SD Road) and the Victoria Grain Market (now a slum) are part of a bygone era. Alladin Building in Begumpet has gone into oblivion and the street now showcases multi-storied malls. The old Percy's Hotel, Modern Café and Radio Hotel have been replaced by Garden Hotel, Taj Mahal, Anand Bhavan, Nanking, Basera and the Kamats. DBR Mills is now defunct, while the age-old Praga Tools is struggling for survival.
But some landmarks have withstood the test of time. Secunderabad Club, St Ann's School, Mahabub College, Wesley School, Paropakarini Balika High School, Zoroastrian Club, Clock Tower, Raja Deendayal studio, Chimulgi Studio, YWCA, British Residency, Trimulghery fort, the Trinity Church, Cantonment Garden, Hyderabad Public School (Jagirdar College) to name a few Says P. Anuradha Reddy, environmental activist and a resident of Walker Town now Padma Rao Nagar). "Secunderabad was safe, clean and had a beautiful environment."
Dr Shirley Elias, 65, a resident of AWHO Colony sums up the change:
"During those days Mayflower trees lined the roadsides and a stroll in the mornings and evenings was a pleasant experience. Now, the place is too crowded and polluted. The atmosphere has changed for the worse."
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