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Old 15th April 2015, 17:15   #1
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Default In & around the Hyderabad Central University

Hyderabad is like a curious crystal ball that beguiles the witch, to deposit itself behind her eyelids, seeing itself reflect infinitely, images locked inside one another so that the edges dissolve and the lines blur. The city is both the lover and the loved.

On an evening like any other we were returning from Beeramguda where my sister lives. To get to DLF we took the Hyderabad Central University (HCU) road for its serene atmosphere. And as it so happened, we had time on our hands and we decided to check it out. We have driven past the university so many times and always wondered what was beyond those walls. It was time to find out. We Parked outside and walked into the security room where we met a gentleman with greying beard. He combed his hair without a parting so it gave him the appearance of solidity, as though he were a stage artist who forgot his lines and didn’t know what to say. We greeted him and explained the nature of our visit, which quite honestly was just to take a tour of the place. Obviously, the government had far too much on its plate to entertain visits of this nature – they just want to enjoy the nature! Of course he had to nod in sincere disagreement. It took us a while to convince that we had to see the university for ourselves, for enrolling into a course of distance learning, the irony of which he failed to see. After depositing our ID proofs we were let inside.

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The road runs like a maze, labelled inadequately here and there, the signboards reading like the catalogue of amusements awaiting you on the other side. It doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes to realise your ears have finally given up, stopped working for good. It feels like your ears are stuffed with cotton, the kind that admits only birdsong and stir of leaves.

We rolled the windows down and shifted to third gear, the tread of tires the only thing audible, shocking some shy occupants to jump out of their hiding to witness the invasion. A peacock came out of nowhere, crossing the road, the bright colours of its tail painting the pupils of my eyes long after it had disappeared. The tail was utterly long and the feathers so visibly soft, it evoked a feeling of amour so intense I wanted to squat there in the tall grass through rain and sun, dusk and dawn, until the bird returned, drowning me in its plume of feathers.

There are many speed breakers but I doubt if they are needed. No one is in a rush to go anywhere. It is as if the people inhabiting the place had lost their ability for confrontation – the few cars I saw were not honking although no explicit plea to that regard was made in signage. The buildings were ambushed by trees from all sides as if the forest was trying to reclaim what was its to begin with; the cycles parked neatly in rows as if aligned to magnetic north… A tree was sitting plump in the middle of a wide road, as if contemplating the nature of will – should I grow my branches beyond the gulf of tarmac? My roots are wading through concrete, it would be years for reunion with my siblings; perhaps life is always like this, kindred spirit pulling invisible strings.

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Our first stop was for sugarcane juice. The lady with her jagged line of teeth was performing the required acrobatics to press sticks of cane into the rotating teeth with one hand, fishing with her other hand for the crushed pulp, the wheel whirling before her small face. Through the slats of the wheel she looked like she was vanishing, held together by the sheer force of her will. The sound of the spinning wheel always amuses me, bringing back a hoard of memories from my childhood. A lot of sounds used to have an effect on me – the sharp clipping of nails; the dull thudding of cricket ball against the wall; the suppressed echoes in new houses; the stinging chitter of spoons as they fall from a height; the swinging arc of rusted seesaws; the periodic dripping of water from a leaking tap; the volley of birds on high wires, all aflutter, necking and pecking; the sandpaper’s rubbing; the pencil’s sketching… The juice itself was very sweet, sluicing down the gullet like gold into ingots, transforming my insides.

We drove around without aim or purpose and stopped at one place to admire the suffusing green that cast a veil of aquatic charm on my eyes. The quietude of the place was impenetrable save for the shrilling cry of peacocks and tinny sounds of cycles – all too distant so much so that it felt as if I was walking underwater, seeing the sunlight bouncing off the surface as it fed enough light to get by.

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The bus shelter was vacant. The ones that were parked seemed like they had been put on snooze, their internal clocks ticking in mysterious synchronicities, to go rearing up any minute now. As I stepped into the compound my feet sang a chorus of dry leaves crunching under me. The smell of eucalyptus emanating from beyond the walls… A stray dog was peeing, its leg lifted in midair and the arc of its urine darkening the faded struts of a ladder. The gravel lining the walls was loose and in places had pits deep enough for a rabbit to burrow into. Across the road was an abandoned hall with its roof crumbling and the walls covered in plagiarised graffiti. As it so happened it reminded me I had to drain my bladder which I did promptly as I picked my way through prickly bushes and squelchy mud. Perhaps the dog’s action of peeing stimulated my brain the way yawning does, contagiously affecting the ones who are exposed to it visually, audibly, or even cerebrally (such as reading about yawning). Are you yawning!

All the buildings and guesthouses are hidden from sight, needing one to take a turn into the woods, leaving the only big road that runs like a river from end to end, throwing itself into the ocean of unruly traffic outside the gates of the university. The whole thing reminds me of the picture of human blood circulatory system from class seventh. The teacher who taught us biology was shy and timid, a man of few words - his phrases cleverly guarded as if he was unsure of their effect on the listeners . When it came to the centrespread of our textbook, the one that had male and female reproductive systems side by side, he had very little to say about either of them. So the subject of sex was a mystery to me for many years until I found myself in the laps of uncaring friendship. And the rest is a thing of the past. Presently, the ringing phone brought me back from my reverie, my mind tumbling past the web of memories, landing with a thud into the present.

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The auditorium was a thing of beauty, its architecture a concert of geometries, wings gliding up and down into sharp interstices, planted firmly on otherwise conventional roofing that was flat and basic. I don’t think it was built to mesmerise, I think it was a project of proportions – of how much you can beautify without losing the utility of the thing…

The buildings behind the auditorium overlooked the lake that seemed to attract a lot of students. I found several of them sitting on rocks all by themselves, treasuring the present moment before it went kaput. Keeping with the tradition of all colleges in India, some students were playing cricket, bowlers and fielders running tyrannically here and there. It somehow reminded me of the birds I saw on national geographic channel, building beautiful nests and developing a complex routine of sing and dance, attracting females for mating. Is it really that simple – can all human endeavours be reduced to the crude fact of mating? Do we do what we do so we can find mates? If it is true, what it means is the wiring in my head is permanent, writ in large by genes that want to find themselves in next generation. So, what are we - material for temporary housing inhabited by the microscopic puppets that run our lives…?

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There was a family in the park – a man, a woman, three children and a dog. One of them was playing with the dog that wagged its tail and went all over the park, huffing and puffing, until it came round to the girl who gently stroked behind its ears. I saw how happy the dog was and I could not fathom its motives – pure joy can’t be reduced to the script of evolution. May be we can always track the progress of such playfulness in dogs. But it would be like tracing a figure on thin film of paper, the three dimensional indentations rendered as mere strokes of pencil in two dimensions. Something of great value would have been lost. And again I catch myself thinking – that is the sceptic speaking, where is the trust?

Trust is not my favourite word. It lays far too much importance on the emotional. I like it when I can apply my five senses to ascertain the situation. Even here, I am sometimes in a deep well of sorrow. This happened when I started reading about brain and its inner workings. I wanted to know more about the organ that looks a bit like intestines but does something very different. Around this time I met a boy who was studying in class seventh. He was a small one with handsome face and eyes that were both plaintive and thoughtful at the same time. I approached him with caution because on all previous occasions, meeting schoolchildren of today has revealed the shortcomings of my own education to me. Anyway, he was telling me something about his Hindi teacher when I asked him what his favourite subject was. He said 'Science.' Before I could ask him something for which I knew the answer, he jumped the gun. He asked me if I knew how the brain worked. I told him it instructed the rest of the body. And, that was it. The boy waited for more. I had nothing more to offer. He looked about for a while and left it at that. We sat next to each other like mummified mannequins, disinterested and deeply resentful of each other. I felt overcome by grief – my knowledge of my own brain was so shallow and unconvincing. Later, we did chat for a long time about other things and I came out with fewer bruises than the other times.

After that meeting I researched a little bit more and found some books about free will and that led me to the following: all the colours we see around us are unreal, they are mere representations of photons created for us by our brain; all the sounds we hear are unreal, they are representations of pressure and so forth. What it means is, the objects such as the keyboard I am typing on, don’t really have a colour. Colour happens to be a fictional concept invented inside our head just to make it easy for us to navigate the world. None of the objects have colour, none of the mikes have any sound… So, all my life is a lie fed to me everyday, moment to moment, by the fiend in my head.

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HCU is one of those rare places in Hyderabad. Standing in it, through a clearing in the trees I was able to see the construction sites beyond the rim of the wall, the long arm of cranes twirling, their tall legs cradling high-rise apartments between them. It made me sad to see the erosion of green - concretised labyrinths of gated communities, corpses of trees framing the windows and balconies, people sticking their necks out like birds that return to cages by their own conscious choice.

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Near the administrative building we stopped to take a quick look. Here I found a squirrel escaping into the trees, its little feet padding along the rough terrain of tree branches. The sound of traffic was audible as if through a wet cloth, muffled and distant. The scooter parking shed had the look of an oil painting, damp in the edges and labelled more out of devotion than need. The roof rode on four pillars of rusted stilts and the bed was broken here and there by the intrusion of green that was spilling from all sides, the grassy-tops swaying gently to the evening breeze.

Outside, I took one long look before joining Hyderabad’s insane traffic that bedevils the sane and cherishes the insane.

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Last edited by SyncNest : 15th April 2015 at 17:29. Reason: grammar mistake
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Old 16th April 2015, 08:13   #2
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Default re: In & around the Hyderabad Central University

Nice review of the University. While commuting to office everyday, I pass this place. But never thought the place was so huge. Thanks for sharing it with us. Now, I guess, I should plan a TRIP to the University.
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Old 16th April 2015, 11:38   #3
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Default re: In & around the Hyderabad Central University

Another great travelogue, SyncNest.

I actually lived on the HCU campus from the early '80s into the new millennium as my father was a faculty member there and only left after his retirement.

I have many fond memories of the place, and watched it grow (as I grew too). It has become unrecognizable from what I remember seeing your pictures.
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