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Old 13th April 2015, 17:06   #1
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Default Mahabubnagar trip with Dad

Mahabubnagar is a small town with barely enough traffic to choke the roads. It is about a hundred kilometers from Hyderabad. I studied here till class tenth so a trip to this town is always an interesting one. Every turn in the road feels like a sharp probe into the vault of my memories. In the last couple of days it had been raining heavily in and around Hyderabad so the drive on NH7 was reminiscent of August or October.

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NH7 exit to get to Mahabubnagar

The highway drive was uneventful and brief. After getting off the highway near Jadcherla the scene changes – the bends in the road are eager to please you, the rising pastoral lands meeting the fat clouds in the horizon.

The road is lined with trees on both sides that rustle as they rub their branches against each other, as if nudging in disbelief. This stretch of fifteen kilometers between Jadcherla and Mahabubnagar is most enjoyed with the windows rolled down, the cars passing through alternating patches of shade and light, the landscape dappled with sheep that occasionally fly into sight right across the road, the village elders huddled under banyan trees, the twitter of birds, and above all, the absence of rush. It is rare to spot a speeding vehicle. A point to be noted here – other roads to Mahabubnagar such as the one towards Boothpur or Raichur are not fringed with trees as this one. The other roads are far too arid, robbed of any traces of chloroplasts…

My dad has had a special relationship with this town. He grew up here, married here, and spent the best part of his career analyzing water table data of this district. So it was natural that he was lecturing me on the diminishing returns we reap from the ground, drilling all over the place in mad frenzy. He said the Jurala Water Project bettered and even fed wings to farmers’ aspirations in the district but was futile in other aspects, so on and so forth… I obliged with silent nods, unwilling to throw him off into other trains of thought as I was quite enjoying this particular one.

As we drove off the new flyover that is painted pink (color of the new government) on both sides there was a huge commotion of cattle, a man with a long stick flailing his arms about, whistling and cussing. A tribeswoman with coin-clad sleeves shod on borrowed sandals to aim her invective at the man with the stick who wore a baffled expression on his face. The man waved his stick at her and the woman charged at him, wedging the cattle between them into a tight crush of wool and flesh. The locals intervened and pacified them, taking them to a side. All this took about five minutes which is not much by Mahabubnagar’s standards. Imagine the hooting and honking if this happened anywhere in Hyderabad. There would have been a beeline of vehicles to greet the altercation in less than two minutes.

My dad put his paper down, adjusted the rim of his glasses, stroking the bridge of his nose in the process. He advised me to drive slowly near the villages. I nodded in agreement.

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In the outskirts of the Mahabubnagar we took a left turn to get to our home. The mud-road was pitted and waterlogged. I wore a worrisome expression on my face as my Swift made soft purring noises under the hood. ‘A road has been sanctioned recently,’ my dad added helpfully. The present tenants of our home were kind enough to let us use the front room for a while. We had packed our lunch from Hyderabad which we laid out in the room as we talked about past and present, how different everything was…

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Fattened clouds outside my home

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Being in the outskirts our home overlooks a yawning space of uneven land flanked on three sides by new houses. An electric pole with a curved spine stands near the compound wall like a wilting tree, its crown of wires frequented by crows and eagles. All the years I spent here during my childhood, the place was wild, farmlands stretching out on all sides. Now of course the land is tamed, tethered to slabs of yellow rocks protruding out of the earth like knobs of a post-apocalyptic warzone.

After lunch I took to shaking the lonely mango tree in our compound. I and my sister sowed two mango seeds about a dozen years ago. Her tree was plagued with germs and had to be axed. Mine survived and it is so healthy you pinch a leaf and the smell of mangoes pours out of it like the frothing sea. Being summer, the tree bore many mangoes and I wanted to pluck some. But the low drooping branches were bare, all the mangoes having climbed higher, like electrons switching orbits of an atom…

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My Mango tree

I stood under the tree assessing the height of it, the volume of it and the pure, un-cunning beauty of it – the way it lanced the sunlight away, the way it held dollops of raindrops on its leaves and dripped, splashing the wet earth under it. I managed to pluck three mangoes, the third one missing my skull by a whisker, as it rolled off its majestic heights. My dad brought a long stick from somewhere, sourced a rake that is used to claw the earth, and proceeded to tie it to one end of the stick before fiercely working it into the mass of overhanging mangoes with a precision that was simply a delight to watch. With this crude instrument we filled two bags of mangoes, all of them so fresh and untouched by the faithful evils of farming, namely pesticides.

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Tenant's cat interested in the fallen mango

Mahabubnagar is like a cancerous woman who applies fake eyelashes, pounds her cheeks with a puff of foundation, pencils her brows and pampers her lips. I say this because as much as the outskirts are spacious and green the interiors are neither. Sandwiched between homes are runnels of open sewage that breeds innumerable colonies of mosquitoes. The old houses receive less and less sunlight, their walls wet and their windows damp to the touch. The narrow roads, the puddles of stranded water, the stray dogs and the phlegmatic pigs…

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Despite all this, the interiors still have that hold on me, to soften the folds of my brain, to convey a string of discordant memories, so urgent and overwhelming that it is akin to a sneeze. I used to know this town like the back of my palm. Now it is all broken and patched up, the fragments thrown asunder – my school is not where it used to be, my auto stand suffocated into nonexistence by an apartment block.

We went to clock tower where some of the oldest theaters of the town are still alive, the fire in their bellies still burning in horizontal fury, casting images of motion on fading screens. I still remember that day when as a child I went to the matinee with my dad and waited for the man in the projector room to splice and stick reels, the audience punching fists in the air. I think it was an action movie – there were no women in the audience and the man in the front seat had a longish head that cast a penumbra of shadow on my viewing pleasure. By the time the projector was turned on I climbed onto my dad’s knee where I sat till the movie lasted, looking up to the ceiling occasionally to marvel at the brilliant aura, the shifting blades of light that were incredibly straight, wafting like wafers, as they splashed colors on the screen.

The market area near clock tower used to be the most crowded and most polluted. It may still be that but I am not so sure of it anymore – you see, more and more parents are sending their children off to Hyderabad for schooling. It may be a demographical shift, the upward movement usually creating vacuum to be filled by others who in turn get a taste of Hyderabad and can’t let go of it.

The town hall in those days was the center of artistic pursuit. I can clearly see myself arriving to the town hall when I was about eight years old. My mom and the neighboring ladies occupied the seats in the back while all the kids found their seats in the front row. The magician wore a black hat rimmed with lace trimming and he kept tossing it up into the air, my eyeballs pinging out and gliding along to see where it landed – it always came back to his hands like a boomerang. I remember he cut a woman in half towards the end who miraculously came alive, her limbs and torso still intact. The girl was a master of pyrotechnics – she blew fire out of her belly. The girls in magic shows wore sequined tops over leotards and almost all of them were malnourished, their atrophied bodies devoid of anxiety, curling up into suitcases, balancing teacups over foreheads, riding unicycles, walking on taut wires, swinging up and down on trapezes. Maybe I am confusing circus with magic show or maybe they were all conducted together in the same place…

As we crossed the bus stand, its walls spat on and its buses stalling in their designated spots like superstitious pigeons, waiting for the gong of god to strike. Armored with an assortment of gadgets, sellers come crowding in so we drove off to a distance and parked near the temple instead. Here, my dad looked a bit pensive as he recalled the day of marriage in a temple such as this one. He said the town was small and everyone knew someone who knew someone who was in some capacity of reform – a Surpanch or an MP or even the local supervisor.

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This was my parents’ marriage

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People used to sit on the floor to dine. Food was served on leaves knit together, fashioned into a lotus frond. These plates are still available in the market but the makers can’t compete with the use-and-throw industry plates. They would soon be out of work, if not already. It is a dispiriting fact.

In those days LIC policy holders were gifted briefcases for subscribing to the policies themselves or for enlisting new members. You knew your agent and he would come home to meet you once a quarter. All sorts of people came home to sell their services or products – the lanky men with wads of saris on a bicycle, covered up in a veil of white linen; the portly men with satchel full of incense sticks; the wise, the not so wise, the talkative, the torpid. One thing was certain – their selling skills were wildly different from the ones today. Now one can collect half a dozen different brochures of glazed print right outside the office – not a single one of them addressing me. They are far too vivid to be honest by any stretch of imagination – buy a 2BHK flat and get another free!

Nostalgia always makes me teary and wistful, my thoughts all astray, anchored only to the lens of my past.

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This is the picture of my grandparents. That’s me, the little one – I don’t recognize myself. Some philosophers have argued that we are a sum of our memories. It is their contention that all the cells in our body are dying and new ones taking their place. Therefore what I was yesterday is not what I am today. All the basic configuration of fundamental particles that I am comprised of is in a constant state of flux. Everything is changing and the only thing constant is the memories that we make. If that is so, then that is not me in the picture. How can it be? I don’t remember being that person. It is a photo of someone who used to be me.

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This is me posing in Indira Park, Hyderabad. It is close to three decades old. The park surely looks more beautiful in the picture, flowers blooming and the lake lapping.
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Old 14th April 2015, 02:35   #2
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Default re: Mahabubnagar trip with Dad

Great travellogue! Its always a pleasure visiting your old towns. To see how things change and also try to improve it for the future.

The open sewage is a problem with every town in this country. No town planning and lack of civic sense and we live this way. I will be thrilled to see a day people stop dying by water borne and mosquito bred diseases.

Hope to see you write more.

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Old 14th April 2015, 03:06   #3
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I enjoyed the play of words. It's refreshingly 'philosophical', almost poetic. I can see the love for the language. Eagerly waiting for next installment about the sojourn.
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Old 14th April 2015, 03:55   #4
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Default re: Mahabubnagar trip with Dad


Thanks for the write-up. Always wanted to know a bit about my childhood crush Aditi Rao Hydari's ancestral land.

I've toured areas like Karimnagar, Adilabad, and Khammam. How exactly does Mahabubnagar vary from these districts in culture ?
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Old 14th April 2015, 15:08   #5
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Thanks for sharing the write-up. Brought back memories of my 3 years stay at Mahabubnagar when in school. Used to stay at New Town then. Memories of clock tower and the market.....how ever can one forget the charm of this place.
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Old 14th April 2015, 15:29   #6
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Default Re: Mahabubnagar trip with Dad

Always loved the vibe of semi urban locations. Just enough infrastructure for comfort, but nothing overwhelming. Thanks a lot for the nostalgia. I've never been to Mahabubnagar myself, but your poetic description has been really visual. You really have a way with words.
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Old 14th April 2015, 19:01   #7
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Another great writeup, SyncNest. You certainly have a way with words. The pictures were an added bonus. Hope to read more about your sojourn(s) in the future!
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