Caring for heritage
A walk through the heritage sites instils among the walkers a sense of concern and desire to protect them.
RUINS BECKON: Heritage lovers admiring the Fateh Darwaza at Golconda. Photos: P.V. Sivakumar
AS THE number of walkers increase with each Heritage Walk (held on the last Sunday of the month), it seems that people have caught up with the walk `fever.'
The past two months saw around 200 people - professionals, students, lovers of history, couples generally interested in knowing their city, representatives of the local NGO, COVA and some foreign tourists.
The Khilwat Walk, the third in the series and was conducted by the Department of Tourism, was interesting as one got to see the otherwise forbidden Chowmohalla Palace.
A beautiful, ornate piece of architecture, the palace is owned by Princess Ezra. The four palaces in one compound, -- the Tehniyat Mahal, Bhojat Mahal, Aftab Mahal and the Mehtab Mahal and the lovely marble sculpture of two Greek god-like men wrestling at the entrance made for a pretty picture.
The walk was also symbolic of the contradictions in heritage conservation as proved by the Shahi Khazana, the wonderful, but dilapidated and ill-maintained royal treasury of the past, which acted as the Pension office until recently.
Does the increasing number of walkers suggest that people care about heritage and really desire to learn about the history of the city they live in?
Says the first-time walker Kiran Keswani, an architect, who has recently moved to Hyderabad from Mumbai, "I have come to know the city I will live in better. What better way to do it than this? Even as an architect, I see the importance of these kinds of walks - students of architecture will especially improve their designing skills, and perhaps stop getting westernised in terms of building styles.''
Echoing the last statement, a young student of architecture from JNTU, Sharanya says, "I come especially for the story bits - it is easier to relate to the past when you hear these interesting stories the guides tell you. You also relate to the building better when you visualise what happened there through these stories."
Students of the Church of South India Institute of Technology (CSIIT) have been regulars at the walks too. They have their enthusiastic teacher, Ali Farid to thank for that.
He says, "Students must know the history of architecture and heritage. I encourage them to sketch all the old monuments they see. They learn much more this way than through classroom teaching and texts."
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Mohammad Anwarullah, Sanitary Supervisor for the MCH in the old city who is also a regular says the walks give the new generation "knowledge of antiquity."
However, Fatima Ali Khan, a geographer (who also does not miss a single walk) says, "besides the walk every month we all need to form a group with one voice, to put pressure on the government to conserve old heritage structures. There are many who tell me they are not informed in time about the walks. Greater awareness needs to be created in localities and neighbourhoods, with smaller groups formed at local levels to co-ordinate with the Tourism Department. We see great buildings but by the time we get to know about them, they are demolished. Civil society has to be involved in larger numbers for conservation, if these walks are to have a true meaning."
Assistant Director, Tourism, Balasubramaniyam Reddy says, "We are looking forward to such suggestions and people's active involvement to help the Tourism Department do a better job. It is the people's response that motivates us."
Vijay and Kusum Gupta point out; "we have no idea if people are sensitive enough to learn about conservation. The idea of the heritage walks is indeed good. We would not know of these hidden monuments that we get to see during the walks. The Shahi Khazana, for instance, should be made into a museum. We will bring our daughter - a lecturer in Fashion Design- here next time."
With every walk, there are numerous `shoulds' and `should nots' voiced by people and their enthusiasm needs to be seen to be believed. The point remains, however, do their suggestions matter at the levels where they can?
R. UMA MAHESHWARI
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