Monday, March 4, 2024

Going to Charminar was like a picnic during the 60’s

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Indian anti-child labour activist and Padma Shri awardee Shantha Sinha takes The Pioneer through her association with Hyderabad, the city back in the 60’s, and more for our weekly column of Hyderabond over this exclusive chat.
SHIKHA DUGGAL
Hyderabadi activist Shantha Sinha, who had also been awarded the civilian honor of Padma Shri, recounts to us the days of glory of the city, for our weekly segment of Hyderabond.
From enjoying local festivals to seeing the magic revive, she’s seen it all. “My father has been a part of Hyderabad since 1946. A man who was a chartered accountant and eventually became a Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) for two consecutive terms-you see, I got it from my father. Until I was five years old, we were residing in the Tarnaka area. The wilderness of Tarnaka is unforgettable. In fact, the RTC bus rides to school have been my favorite! Later on, we shifted to Maredpally. I remember very clearly how the Rashtrapathi Road was known to be the Kingsway, and the very popular MG Road was called James Street. In fact, the east side of Maredpally was full of natural rocks. It’s no longer the same for me. I even remember cycling to that area very frequently. Back in my day, the cycling in the neighborhood was a high because there was hardly any traffic on the roads. Hopping from one neighbour’s house to another and playing out door games brought us together.”
Precisely, the anti-child labour activist who we are in conversation with is one of those interviewees on board who had enjoyed the real tranquil side of the city. She elaborates further: “Twice a year, we definitely used to visit the Charminar and go on a picnic at the Gandipet Lake. Double decker buses used to run in those days-with a bell that we could ring to stop the bus. With buses like these, nothing seemed far away. In current times, I have to think repeatedly about traveling to the financial district. Most importantly, no divisive politics were played during the time I was growing up in Hyderabad.” Also the founder of the Mamidipudi Venkatarangaiya Foundation, she could remember with us those times when the city wasn’t overcrowded at all. Massive banyan trees on either side of the road covered the streets of the city. I can visualize crows sitting and cawling as we speak because today I hardly see any crows or sparrows in Hyderabad. The birds have disappeared.”
To give our readers a little more background about her interviewee, here was she when she headed the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights for two consecutive terms. So she is Shantha Sinha, who, with her consistent efforts, promoted so many good reforms. In conversation with the Ramon Magsaysay Award awardee too, she lamented, “Now we only have flyovers being built across the city; where are the canopy of trees that adorned Secunderabad? For me, Hyderabad has memories; it has nostalgia, including the fragrance of the food I eat here. Some of the best times I have spent were at Osmania University, the most beautiful campus of all time. My friendships have strengthened there, and I have developed new ideas. It was in the late 1960s when the youth began questioning the injustices of poverty, inequality, and unemployment. I was inducted into a larger view of reality around me.”
Following up on the same, we inquired a little further and heard the academician say, “Every generation has a youth force not accepting everything and anything from the city. They want their rights; they want freedom. They have the energy to question and work towards transformation of the social and political environment.”
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