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A shocked Hyderabad overflows with grief

By A Ganesh Nadar
Last updated on: September 03, 2009 23:51 IST
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Late Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajashekhara Reddy's home in Hyderabad was crowded to the brim and overflowing with grief.

There is a huge flyover just outside the house and below that a temporary 'mandap' had been put up. In front of a portrait of YSR, singers sang religious songs for the departed soul.

Loud speakers conveyed the sorrow to the people around. There was a huge screen put up, with the aim of letting people see what was going on without crowding the place. It's aim was totally lost as people just refused to move out of the way.

The cops had blocked all roads leading to the house, only VIP vehicles were allowed through. But there were so many VIPs visiting, that this too caused its own jam. So much so that Praja Rajyam leader and Telugu megastar Chiranjeevi had to walk the last 100 meters to pay his respects.

His arrival was greeted with a slogan of "YSR amar rahe" (Long Live YSR!). The crowd was not willing to forget that he was a political rival. Chiranjeevi ignored the slogans. His security people just pushed people out of the way roughly. TV cameras struggled to get him in their frame.

People going into the house were being pushed by people coming out. The police there tried their best, but there was no controlling the crowd. The cops finally gave up and went and sat down.

Elsewhere in the city, Congress supporters were going around in cavalcades. The lead car had a photograph of YSR and the Congress flag. The rest of the cars and vans flew black flags. They went around shouting slogans.

They were not only in mourning, they also ensured that every business was shut down. In one place they opened the closed shutters of a private courier. There were people working inside. They smashed the furniture and on the way out, smashed the windshields of the cars parked outside.

As dusk arrived, it was time to break the daily fast. It is the holy month of Ramzan. Muslim restaurants opened to feed their fasting brethren. Good sense prevailed. No one interfered with them.

Today was also Ganapathi Visarjan day. Half a kilometer from the CM's house huge Ganeshas passed by. The usually gaiety and noise was not there. They went quietly.

Back at the CM's house high court Judges, jostled with mayors and MLA's to pay their last respects. The arrival of every VIP was greeted with slogans. Some onlookers had gathered on top of the flyover to watch the unfolding spectacle. The flyover like everything else in this area had been closed to traffic.

In the small lanes of Hyderabad cigarette shops and provision stores stayed open to cater to their clientele. People were buying in haste, as on Friday too shops would be closed. The merchant asked his customers to hurry up, he knew he would have to close all of a sudden. He kept a watchful eye on the road even as he counted his small change.

There was a lot of emotional energy in the air. A small ember could light a fire. The police, armed reserve, the fire brigade were out in strength. They were ready to maintain a night long vigil that would only end after the funeral tomorrow.

Image: Women workers of the Congress and common people weeping inconsolably at the residence of YSR's official residence in Hyderabad on Thursday

Photograph: SnapsIndia

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A Ganesh Nadar