If the Charminar could speak out, the deputy chief minister of Telangana, Mahmood Ali, would have probably received a letter of this sort from the centuries-old monument, after his recent remarks about having it razed down if needed.
Dear Mr Deputy CM,
If only I could speak, the way you do, I’d be able to defend myself better. Over the last four centuries and two decades, I’ve seen numerous turns of history in this charming city of ours, uprising of men and furies of nature, several governments come down and go up, the riches of booming trade and the ravages of riots, the transformation of the city from a laid back sleepy big town to the IT hotspot it is today.
Four out of five out-of-towners have my image associated in their minds with the word “Hyderabad”. How many generations of tourists have stood against my majestic minarets to show their friends and posterity that they visited Hyderabad? I make for a great background for selfies too, of late for visitors and locals. But you, Mr Deputy CM, seem impervious to my charms as one of the most iconic monuments of the region, if not the nation, my beautifully designed and painstakingly detailed architecture, those winding steps and niches, the pretty balconies and lovely balustrades. Oh, the number of stories and legends about me are as many and as interesting as the numerous motifs and figurines that adorn me. Legends about hidden passages weaved into my architecture and secret messages in the art.
It’s ironic that I was built as a central landmark around which the city came about, back then and today, after the partition of the state, your government used me as a symbol of pride that features in your new state’s emblem. But looks like, when I’m too old and weak, I may have to be razed down like any other concrete structure in the city, that turns into a liability.
Apparently, Aurangzeb too wanted me demolished so that perhaps his ego could stand taller than my 56-metre tall minarets. But I really wonder how could one man have decided my fate back then and today too, Mr Deputy CM, when I’m told I belong to the people of the city, to the city itself and to its heritage.
It’s saddening to know your recent attitude towards the word “heritage” though. In defence of your move to demolish and rebuild the century-old, Osmania General Hospital, you mentioned that I may have to meet a similar fate if I turn too dilapidated in “200, 400 or 500 years.” I have stood the test of time so far. My makers would be pleased to know that their creation is safe and will be for many more generations of Hyderabadis to see, wonder at, marvel upon, hear stories about and take selfies against, if I live on, that is.
It’s heartening to see the droves of passionate Hyderabadis who are outraged at the remark, and the community of experts crying hoarse that it is conservation and preservation and not demolition that is the solution.
If only I could speak, the way you do, I’d have spoken of Mohammad Quli Qutb Shah who envisioned me and is said to have prayed for the welfare of the people of the new city that would come alive around me as the centerpiece, while laying down the foundation stone. My fate was joined with that of Hyderabad in that moment, perhaps.
Historically yours (for now, certainly,