By Archana Balachandran
Nanakramguda is a village in Hyderabad, neatly tucked into the folds of the Financial District that houses big corporate offices of companies like Amazon, Google, Wipro and Accenture. While the Financial District comprises clean paved roads, buildings with glass windows, thousands of workers wearing ID cards and buses and vehicles that cater to this large working population, Nanakramguda offers a contrasting view. Nanakramguda has houses painted blue with wedding announcements written across its walls, it has roads that are still muddy and unpaved, it has religious structures like a small banyan tree with a Hindu deity resting at its roots and there are small one-stop shops. There are houses within houses and cattle being sheltered inside these houses. Several houses had big verandahs where they dry clothes and the space also acts as a place for social gatherings. These houses are closely knit together and several of them have yellow paint on their door frames, a practice followed by native residents of Telangana.
While the Financial District flourishes with more companies coming in to set up their offices in Hyderabad, most of the workers here are dependent on Nanakramguda for their daily needs. It is dotted with small shops that sell food and tea and cigarettes. The same shops sell different meals at different times of the day, like idli and dosa in the morning, snacks like punugulu, Mysore bhajji and Osmania biscuits in the evening, and bread omelet in the night. At all times of the day, workers from these companies are seen walking to these shops to get a cup of tea or to have a smoke. A Sunday Shandy, of which a large number of the residents of this village are part, provides the basic utility requirements of the working population of the Financial District. As the staff working at these corporate houses come from all around India, the village seems to be reflecting that diversity with shops and homeopathy clinics advertising themselves in different regional languages. There are several dhabas also in sight. Within the village, there are houses that have boards advertising rooms for rent and there are houses being built solely for the purpose of rental income.
While a dependence of the workers from the offices on the village of Nanakramguda is clearly visible, it is quite surprising to see that with all the infrastructural transformation that has happened in the Financial District, a similar change is not clearly reflected in the village. Several advertisements for bore wells indicated that there is a water shortage issue being faced by the residents of the village. Waste was also seen accumulating on the roadside which meant that none of the government bodies seem to be taking responsibility for the solid waste management of the village. This is not at all the case when you walk outside the village and towards the roads that run next to the big corporate offices. Further, the high rise buildings have blocked sunlight from falling on the courtyard of several houses in this village. Secondary sources reveal that the village lacks a primary health centre, a community hall or an underground drainage system. While a few underground pipelines were laid out, the work hasn’t been completed due to lack of funds. Several of the damaged street lines remain in a state of disrepair, again, due to the lack of funds. The demand for a community hall has been a long standing one since the residents are unable to afford to conduct weddings and other social gatherings outside in the city.
This co-existence of a village within a city that seems to be ever growing raises questions about the transition of a place from a formal to an informal space, and whether or not it necessarily leads to improved quality in different aspects of the lives of the people involved in it. The loss of the space owned by a temple, which until last year hosted an annual mela, comes as a disappointment to the residents of Nanakramguda who used to visit the mela. Until the IT boom, this 400 year old temple, Sri Ranganatha Swami temple, used to be the only claim to fame for Nanakramguda. A baobab tree that is easily over 500 years old stands tall near the temple. However, the careless dumping of construction material has wounded its trunk. Is this an erasure of the cultural history of Nanakramguda or is it merely part of the cultural transformation that is characteristic of all kinds of change? While answers to this may require time and patience, I think the larger question to think about here is: While the village works through day and night, sustaining the big corporations, what are these big corporations giving back to Nanakramguda?