What would anyone do with a hundred and eighty five acres of land in Begumpet, the heart of Hyderabad? Considering the malls that have come up around it – Shoppers Stop, Pantaloons, Lifestyle and the like, one would not really point fingers if real estate developers got their hands on to at least some of this land. But what if this land belongs to a trust formed in 1923 by the then ruler, the Nizam of Hyderabad, as the private Jagirdar’s college to educate his vast family and which later became the Hyderabad Public School? This is my alma mater and that of thousands of other proud students, who wherever they are, will always remain a Shaheen (School emblem – The Eagle) at heart.
On a hot summer day, exactly two decades ago, I passed out of the hallowed portals of this institution. This year I was able to get my daughter admitted into the primary school section here. Today her first term papers were being handed out and in my eagerness to know how she has settled in; I reached the campus an hour early. Having time to kill, I decided to take a stroll around the campus and try to recollect the old days and familiar places. And boy, was I stunned by the way the school has maintained its campus! Two decades of phenomenal change in Hyderabad, of population explosion, of troubled and bouts of unstable school administration should have left inedible and unsightly marks all over the place.
But NO! Right from the stately and tall Ashoka trees that front the main Shaheen Block to the umbrella shaped tree we used to climb during school breaks and the rock garden near the Science Block, the school has maintained its green cover and heritage, flaunting it for all to see and savour. If anything, the Greenery actually seems to have increased. Two decades of unhindered growth has widened most of the trees and canopy formation in the rock garden and primary school gardens are a testament to this. Primary school has also added landscaped gardens complementing and encompassing the old grandfather trees. The tennis courts and grounds remain as they always were – earthy fields. A quick round of the backfield – the favourite high school class bunking spot, told me that the rocky hillocks and stream running by it remain largely untouched. Our free hours were often spent high up on a ledge watching the airplanes takeoff from the adjoining airport. Today the airport is no longer operating commercial flights ( a blessing considering the air traffic now!). The hillocks have now been sensibly converted into rock climbing training areas.
One would think from my account so far that the school has got caught in a time warp and allowed 21st century advancements to pass it by. Not so at all. The assembly block has been renovated fully but exactly as per the original design. Most of the buildings have been renovated similarly to ensure a stable structure, repainted and refurnished. A couple of football grounds have been concretized to form a vast parking lot to help out with the traffic management on the main road outside – there is a critical bottleneck in the arterial S.P.Road just after the school campus ends. But that is it. No new buildings or other construction in the campus. No temptation to modernize or expand in spite of so much potential to exploit for business. Education is a big business nowadays as we all know!
Even the class rooms continue with the original “Green” design and each class in the primary block gets most of its light and ventilation naturally. Both sides of the class room have large windows with wire mesh grills for protection and safety and these ensure cross ventilation. Even ceiling fans are not used most of the time thanks to this natural breeze. Two doors for each class room exit on to a corridor whose other wall is a series of similar windows overlooking the inner courtyard which itself is open to sky. Given the generous dose of natural breeze in Hyderabad and more than abundant sunlight through most of the year, the school design is perfect. In today’s world, a building designed like this and adding a few fancy embellishments would most likely boast of several Green Awards.
Just think about the service the management is doing for local population as well. Tens of gardeners and helpers are seen working all over the campus maintained the acres of greenery – weeding, pruning, planting, watering, sweeping…you name it.
An hour’s walk complete, I take a seat on the parapet of the boundary wall to the hockey ground, under the shade of a massive neem. Birds are chirping merrily in the branches above me and I recognize the sounds of bulbuls, sunbirds and sparrows. It is pleasantly shady and a light breeze cools my back. To my side, the spires of Shaheen Block soar up into the sky reaching for the tufts of cloud scattering across the blue. The school emblem – Eagle flutters on the flag atop a tall mast in front of the building. Up above, its original, a tawny eagle circles around looking for small prey in the ground below. Now he banks in the breeze and soars past the spires before turning back towards me, his head moving from side to side as he scans below.
And just for a few moments I am transposed back to 1990..a sense of living in another time when enjoying these moments of quiet solitude outdoors was the norm and which today has become the exception. Thank you HPS for what you were and what you continue to be…..not just a school but an institution and an inspiration to Green Warriors like us.