Friday, November 8, 2013

Dedicated to Heritage and Poetry

What does a person do when history calls to him from the corners of the city? He becomes a mystic of History and uncovers tales from the regal ruins for posterity to read. Meet Sajjad Shahid, a heritage activist of Hyderabad and an aficionado of Art and Poetry par excellence. 

“If you as yet fail to comprehend, you will be annihilated O’ countrymen!
Your very mention will be erased from the chronicles of the world,” croons Sajjad Shahid on the condition of dilapidating heritage buildings.

Born in a noble family of Hyderabad Sufis, Shahid had his origins firmly rooted in the Deccan soil. Sufi literature left indelible imprints on his mind, more so because his father was researching on ancient Sufis of Deccan – especially Bijapur. And the voice of History would call to Shahid from the book his father wrote. The bridge to ancient past made him fall in love with ruins of architecture. “We would go to dargahs at least once a year. Seeing the dilapidated condition of beautiful old dargahs made me sad! What troubled me more was how the relics of history were being changed in the name of maintenance,” laments the heritage activist.

A lover of history

His interest changed into passion. A civil engineer in construction that he is by profession his technical background opened up the macrocosmic world of ancient architecture to him. In 1995 he joined INTACH, Hyderabad Chapter. He had to document the details of Dutch monuments at Bheemunipatnam. 
He is the Co-Convener of INTACH and the Secretary of Centre for Deccan Studies. And then, came his tryst with the architecture of Hyderabad namely Golconda Fort and tomb of Maha Laqa Bai Chanda, the famous courtesan and lyrical poet of Nizam’s era. “We conserved the 200 year old mausoleum at Chanda Bagh, Moula Ali. As part of the restoration-exhibition we put on display her portraits and volumes of her poetry,” avers Shahid. The work was undertaken under a grant from the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.  An American scholar Dr. Scott Kugle worked on an English anthology of Chanda’s poetry. 

Governments Apathy

What bothers Shahid the most is the apathy of government towards conservation of heritage monuments. There are more than 5,000 tombs in India that are not being taken care of. And the irony is that Government of India has released only Rs 100 crores for all the monuments of India. “This much amount is required for the conservation of Qutub Shahi alone,” he wonders. He is the crusader for conservation of old monuments of Hyderabad. Be it Naya Qila, Moazzam Jahi Market, Khusro Manzil or Koti Residency. Disappointed with the lackadaisical approach of Government, Shahid suggests, “Much like Britain National Trust we require to form a Public Trust for Conservation in India. The funds that the Trust will receive will go for the conservation of the heritage monuments. Officially the conservation should be transferred to the Trust from the Government. Then we will see concrete actions.” With this vision he hopes to preserve the slices of history scattered all around Hyderabad. 

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