It is five am; still dark outside. The road to the main road is closed on account of repairs. I assure the agitated pick-up car driver that I can meet him on the main road. There is yet no sign of life. As I am still early, I decide to take a walk. A lone Irani café is open on the main road. But even there, the activity is almost nil.
Just as the horizon turns crimson, there is a dramatic change. Suddenly there is a burst of activity. Five luxury coaches arriving from various cities follow each other and dislodge tired passengers. A dozen autorickshaws converge from nowhere. A few school buses carrying sleepy college students pass by. A group of daily wages workers come and take their position near the bus stop. Their contractor reaches immediately after. A new day has begun. The benign Sun takes no time in turning into a blazing ball of fire.
The oasis of Serenity is rudely replaced by swarming flies, rising dust and high decibel cacophony!
I am glad to get into the comfort of the air-conditioning in the car. Suddenly , in a corner, I notice a small boy helping his father, a blacksmith, in his work. The tiny hands, which should hold pencil and notebook are holding a chisel and a hammer. I can see his tender hand bruised. It seems cruel. I am not a part of the cocktail NGOs demanding an end to child labour. It is a very complex issue requiring a very deep thinking. It is easy to pontificate. But what does the family eat if we take away their earning members. It can be argued that it is not the child’s responsibility to feed the family. Try telling that to seven or eight empty stomachs.
Life is never easy, more so if it is a big city like Hyderabad. My driver tells me that he gets up at four everyday in the morning irrespective of what time he sleeps.
I cross a van parked on the street each day. A lone kid, not more than thirteen, supervises the pollution testing. He stands on the road in the hot sun soliciting cars. None of them stop. He does that day after day, week after week. I have been watching him daily.
One day I ask the driver to do the testing from the kid. He points at the wind shield, the proof of the testing. I order him to get it done once more.
The driver looks at me as if I have lost my mind. Undeterred, I offer the boy money. He smiles and refuses. I like his self respect. I ask him if he doesn’t get frustrated. He simply shrugs. My next question, whether he goes to school, draws a sardonic glance saying if I had the money would I be standing here?
There are many immigrants in the city. The hospitality industry has provided hospitality to many from Orissa while the security business, which has suddenly grown manifold, has given livelihood to many Bihari workers. The software boom has brought people from all states. Then there are the IITS, BITS, ISB and other reputed institutions. They make Hyderabad a great cauldron for melting different cultures. No wonder the Hyderabadis enjoy dandia as enthusiastically as Ganesh puja and Eid. Thank God, this city has still not seen someone like Raj Thackeray.
I have always been footloose. Many cities have charmed me as much as Hyderabad. Yet Hyderabad will always remain special.
I came here one day with nothing more than hope and found everything. One day I left Hyderabad with nothing and not even a slender hope. Thank You Hyderabad for the roller coaster ride. I have finally found my equilibrium.
May be someday, even these young souls will find their mojo here.