Meet Pasha bhai, your typical old city guy who uses the words ‘baigan’, ‘kaiku’ and ‘aisich’ in every sentence, wakes up at 11 every morning, doesn’t sleep before 1 in the night, knows the name of every single person in his area from Rafiq bhai to Ramesh anna, loves his chai, chabutra and biriyani and is proud to be a Hyderabadi. Pasha bhai is 55 years old and is a good friend of my dad. He has three sons and two daughters. The daughters live in the Gulf region with their husbands. The youngest son is searching for a job in Australia. The eldest is working in a software company and lives in Kondapur and the other helps him run his kirana store.
It is not quite often that I get to meet Pasha bhai but whenever I do, it’s always a delightful conversation. Although one would wonder what a 21 year old can have to talk with a 55 year old guy. But trust me, there’s something in his style of talking that make you listen for hours together. The most recent that I visited his place was on a weekend along with my dad.
“Saleem bhai” Pasha bhai said lowering his cup of chai “My eldest son wants me to leave Dabeerpura and stay in Kondapur with him. “There’s nothing left in old city dad” he says over the phone”. “That’s 100% true uncle!” I added “The roads there are smooth and wide, there are good restaurants, a lot of well employed and educated people live there and one can really enjoy life” I added. ”Your son too gets a good pay.You won’t have any problems living there” said my dad. Pasha bhai paused for a moment, took another sip of chai and said something that I will remember for a long time.
“You see saleem bhai, My family has been living in Dabeerpura for the last 2 generations. I know everyone here since childhood. We all grew up together” he says with a nostalgic smile on his face. “My shop is hardly 5 minutes away from here but when I walk upto there every morning I greet and get greeted by at least thirty people. My neighbours are like family to me and I know t almost everyone here. On Dussehra they send us pooris and bagara khana with chicken curry. And during ramzan there is iftaari everyday. My son has been living in Kondapur for the last 1 year and the only people he knows in his 7 storied apartment is the family that lives next to their flat” I felt a chilling sense of truth in these words. “Whenever I go to visit him, the only person I see greeting us is the watchman while he opens the gate” he said.
“The new generation thinks a better life is living in localities where the roads are wide and fancy places to hangout with friends. All we have in Old city is narrow lanes and crowded roads. But sitting on our chabutras and inside our crammed cafes I have a better time than at any of those fancy coffee shops he took me to. The people here, although earn less, seem happier to me than the busy workers of New city who earn a lot for their kids’ future but have barely any time to play with them. There’s more love and compassion here” he said.
“People in that part of the city are always running. There is very little time for family and friends. They want to get ahead in their career. I don’t say that’s bad but for some reason the people here seem more caring and connected to me” Pasha Bhai said. “So I take it you aren’t moving then?” my dad added. “NO! Not as long as there is life in these bones!” he said. “Besides, who says life is more convenient in new city?” he asked looking towards me “What you can buy in begum bazar for 50 rupees is sold in the new city for 150!” and we all burst out laughing.
The discussion came to an end soon afterwards as Pasha Bhai had to go visit the doctor. He had mentioned earlier that he’s having a tough time controlling his blood sugar levels. “He forgot to tell you that there’s a big park near his sons’ apartment. Perhaps if he took a walk there every morning, it would do him some good” my dad said on our way back home.
This is an interesting paradox in the city of Hyderabad and perhaps every other city in the world. There’s one part that lives in poverty but is happy and has a well connected community. And there’s another part where all the rich and posh people live but barely does anyone know anyone else. Well, that’s all I had to say. Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!