J. Vishnu Shankar:
I need to give a bit of a background to anyone reading this piece to understand where I am coming from. Though I stayed within the confines of AP for only 6 years in my life, I studied in a Telugu medium school in Orissa and was brought up in a Telugu neighbourhood. So by default, Hyderabad being AP’s capital was always a dear city though I stepped into Hyderabad only a little later in life, at the age of 22.
When I landed in Hyderabad in 1988, it was a place which you could not really call a city. It looked more like a blown up town and the people too looked more like rustic urbanites. The roads were dirty and cramped, the city was unkempt and it hardly had any industries or job opportunities. It was no match to Chennai in any respect and it was even blasphemous to speak of Hyderabad and Bangalore in the same sentence. Bangalore was a veritable paradise and Chennai was the commercial hub of south India. Telugu film industry too operated out of Chennai. Hyderabad had only one industry those days, pharma. While presence of institutions like IICT and CCMB fostered pharma start ups, the more valid reason for pharma sector to come up in Hyderabad was that other cities avoided giving sanctions for pharma plants due to pollution concerns. Areas like Miyapur and IDA-Bolarum where the initial bunch of pharma factories came up were cess pools of toxic wastes arbitrarily thrown on the roads.
In such times, it was difficult to feel proud of Hyderabad. My friends from other south Indian states used to speak highly of their cities and I used to nod in acceptance, though a bit uneasily. This just went on till I moved out of Hyderabad as my job took me to other places. But the die-hard Hyderabadi in me was still popping up and was hopeful of a day when I too could speak highly of my city and others would nod their heads. But that was not to happen in a hurry and I lost all hope when NTR was thrown out by his son-in-law Chandrababu Naidu in 1995.
Those days Naidu was competing with the other son-in-law D. Venkateswara Rao and for many people DVR was more acceptable due to his suave and sophisticated looks. Naidu optically looked ominous those days and had already garnered reputation as a scheming politician. His ascendance to CM-giri too was riddled with controversy. But my opinion about him was quick to change. In less than a year or two, he was all over the media and even national media had only good things to speak about him. He quickly went on a new bold path and by 1999, was re-elected with a good majority.
My job took me to Vijayawada and then to Chennai and then to Bangalore by 1998. But all through these times I was keenly following the developments in Hyderabad and was getting more and more fascinated by what was happening.
By 2001 the IT revolution was beginning to brew and the media was flush with Bangalore vs Hyderabad stories. SM Krishna, the CM of Karnataka during 1999-2004 was an educated man with a global outlook and was a right competitor to Naidu who was very much on the offensive. Having been in Bangalore for a few years by then and having already been bitten by its charms, it was a bit of a complicated time for me. I was very much aware of the developments taking place in Bangalore. Bangalore born companies like Infosys and Wipro were the new bellwethers of Indian corporate sector and were being very highly spoken of, not just for the business they were creating but for the level of ethics they followed. Can Babu, even with all his marketing chutzpah, ever dream of doing better than Bangalore ??
It was in this background that I visited Hyderabad on a day in 2002. It was an official trip with a very different agenda but I also wanted to go around Hyderabad to get a first hand feel about this Bangalore vs Hyderabad battle and assess where Hyderabad actually stood.
And that day is ever etched in my memory and turned out to be a very special day !!
Continued….. The five fabulous years of unmatched vision