Saturday, 12 October 2019

My one-sided love affair with Hyderabad

Dear Hyderabad,

This comes a little too late, and I wonder if it would make you question the sincerity of it. I left without stopping to say a heartfelt goodbye. Today, however, sitting thousands of miles away from you in this foreign city, I miss you a little too much, a little too deeply. And, when I miss people and places, I do the only thing I feel I do well…I bleed words. 

Five years ago, when I came to Hyderabad, little did I know that you would become home. Before I realized, you started feeling more like home than Allahabad ever did. I know it makes me sounds like a traitor of my native place. What sort of a person loves another city more than their native place? But, hear me, will you? I think Allahabad confined me and never really let me be myself. I felt trapped by considerations of the length of my skirt, of secluded roads that need to be avoided post 9 PM, of having a guy friend drop me back home, of being decorous being more important than being happy. And then, when I came to you, I felt for the first time what being truly liberated feels like. I could for the first time care more about the colour of my dress than its appropriate length, about the parties and not who would drop me back home, and when I had to bike back home at 12:30 in the night after rehearsals, I knew I would be fine. You empowered me with independence, and I felt like I finally found myself there. 

You welcomed me with open arms and introduced me to people, places and activities that became a part of my being. I found people who didn't push me away for not knowing Telegu or for my Hindi being too far from ‘Hyderabadi Hindi'. They loved, deeply and fondly.  As I was falling in love with the people, you introduced me to theatre. Theatre, that opened arms to amateurs. Theatre, that was not elitist and did not sit on a high horse turning away people who did not start acting when they were 3. Theatre, that understood, almost always, that a different job may put the bread on your table while theatre may be the jam you spread on it occasionally. You introduced me to art and gave me something to feed my soul with every time I felt empty. How can I ever thank you enough for making theatre such an endearing part of my life!

Thank you for the ‘Biryani', Hyderabad. The Biryani, Haleem, the Irani chai and the Osmania biscuits. Why are Osmania biscuits orgasmic and how do they make it perfectly porous to let just the right amount of tea soak into them? 

Did I ever tell you that you are paced extremely well, Hyderabad? You never made me feel like I was lagging, even when everyone seemed to run past me. You always had space to let me stop for a while and breathe, and tell you that I have had enough and I cannot run anymore. I could lose myself on one of your rocks beside the magnificent lakes and just stare into eternity. And, when I wanted to get back to the grind, I could get back to the crowd again!

And your forts, how can one not get smitten by them? Standing tall and strong, telling stories lost in History books. Would it be too much if I told you that I miss your roads? But I do…the roads, the pathways, the cafes, the clubs. I feel like I have left pieces of my self there…on the stalls, at the signals, at the cafes, on the dance floor, at the theatres, and dare I say, on the stage? Pieces of my liberated, complete self. 

Today, as I sit here, yearning too deeply to be around you, I fear only one thing. I wonder, if you ever, at all, loved me back Hyderabad? Will you, ever, if I choose to come back to you, be as delighted to have me back as delighted as I would be to be back? Or would you smugly tell me that you were never mine to love? Would you tell me that I was pretentious to have claimed to love you without knowing you in your entirety? I never asked you, if ‘outsiders' were allowed to love you deeply and what qualifies one to be a ‘Hyderabadi'. It scares me, but then I tell myself that maybe, just maybe you would be able to see my love beyond my disappointing ‘Hyderabadi Hindi' and also understand that love does not necessarily need to be a function of time. 

I love you, Hyderabad. Not in a colloquial way, but the way when you love someone who touches your life so profoundly that you are never, ever the same. And I hope someday, you would love me back!