Hyderabad’s City College is a hundred years old now. The iconic Nizam-era monument dates back to an era when several imposing structures in Indo-Saracenic style of architecture popped up along the banks of the river Musi in the Old City. The college, overlooking the new city that expanded northwards, is a testament to the then Nizam administration’s effort to provide quality and affordable education. Today, however, it is a shadow of its former self and cries for attention.
From an initial student strength of 30 in 1921, the same building today houses over 4,500 students in undergraduate and postgraduate courses and another 2,000 students in intermediate courses conducted in two shifts. With limited resources, it is barely able to meet the aspirations of students.
As one of the students puts it, “It is a ramshackle palace. Hardly any repair or maintenance is taken up. Water seeps through the ceilings and walls when it rains. It is hard to imagine what this college must have been like 100 years ago. But should we talk about the present or live in the glorious past?” A faculty member too admitted the same and said they restrict students from using the first and second floors when it rains continuously for three to four days for fear of flaking walls and ceilings.
Originally established as Madarsa Dar-ul-Uloom, the first city school, in 1865 by the sixth Nizam Mahbub Ali Khan Bahadur, the school moved to its present three-storeyed building designed by British architect Vincent Jerome Esch near Mussalam Jung Pul in 1921. The City High School was upgraded to City College in 1929.
Admitting that the building needs urgent repair and is probably past its life, Principal P Bala Baskar told indianexpress.com: “Works worth about Rs 30-40 lakh were taken up about five or six years ago to prevent seepage of rainwater. But it has worn out with time. Now with our centenary celebrations kicked off, another Rs 25 lakh is sanctioned by the government for the repairs.” He underlined that the building’s façade, on the north and west, was given a facelift a few decades ago.
According to the president of the City College Alumni Association, C Vidyadhar Bhat, who retired as Registrar of the High Court of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, City College was among the most sought-after institutes back then. The principal said it still is. “We offer 54 undergraduate courses, many of which are unique. The cut-off mark for most courses is 90 per cent and we still have students coming to us from different parts of Telangana, Karnataka and Maharashtra like before,” he said. The 84 faculty members, he added, is only the third-highest for any government college in the state.
Najaf Ali Khan, grandson of the seventh Nizam and president of the Nizam’s Family Welfare Association, said the college has the ambience of a university that no private educational institution can match up with. “The reason why it was established in the first place is to impart modern education, for which the best educators from across the country were roped in. I am glad it is still one of the best colleges but the building needs to be restored. All institutions of that era require repair and maintenance,” he shared.
Agreeing with Khan’s views that all buildings of that era need a facelift, activist and managing trustee of the Deccan Heritage Trust, Mohammed Safiullah said the government could explore the option of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) if it did not have enough funds for the same.The principal said a proposal is being prepared to construct a three-storeyed centenary block and land has already been identified beside the present heritage structure. “To meet the demands of today’s education, a state-of-the-art infrastructure is necessary. That way, we can protect the present building by lowering the load on it and also have advanced classrooms and labs,” he said. The college hopes to crowdsource Rs 20 crore from lawmakers, ministers, businessmen, elites, alumni and the state and central governments.
Among the luminaries that form the college’s alumni are the then Hyderabad’s state architect and India’s first town planner M Fayazuddin, Marri Chenna Reddy who went on to become the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, former Union ministers P Shiv Shankar and Shivraj Patil, Olympian and Arjuna awardee footballer Yousuf Khan, cricketer Arshad Ayub and international cyclist Syed Salem Ali to name a few. “We don’t have a database of our alumni. We are now going to trace everyone and welcome them back to form a network,” the principal said.
Bhat said his experience as a member of the committee for restoration of the high court in Hyderabad earlier will be of value when it comes to taking up restoration of the City College. “Even when I was a student in the early 1980s, there were not more than 900 students. Now there are nearly 6,000 students. A modern building is urgently required to accommodate classes and labs. And there is a need for restoration of the old building. While it may need several crores, proper planning can reduce the costs,” he said.
“The granite and lime plaster structure is still strong. What we see now is the result of lack of regular maintenance. The building is unique for its use of stairs, hallways, galleries, grills, lighting, and ventilation,” said Anuradha Reddy, convenor of the Hyderabad chapter of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). Reddy has been roped in by the college administration to dig out historical records relating to the institution.
“Starting from the first batch of 30 students in 1921, we want to trace records of students to document the college’s 100 years. We have a team and will look at Persian and Urdu documents available with the State Archives,” she said.
Referring to the words of Navin Mittal, Commissioner of Collegiate Education, during the recent launch of centenary celebrations, she said the government has already shown the will to restore the building. “Meanwhile, the new building should be in line with the old structure and not mar its beauty,” Reddy added.
The principal agreed. “This is an occasion for us to preserve the heritage and tell the role and legacy of our college in shaping Telangana. And also, we look forward to having an infrastructure that will withstand another 100 years,” he said.