Yes, my bond with Kacheguda railway station and the area has been strong and timeless. I was born in what is today Badruka College, a stone’s throw from the station, and had spent all my childhood at the nearby Barkatpura Chaman.
When my parents and siblings arrived from Bezawada to settle down for good, their first step in the new world was on platform No. 1 of Kacheguda railway station on March 26, 1942. A year later I became the first Dasu born in Nizam’s Hyderabad. A pucca local!
What stoked nostalgia of the good old happy days was the recent addition to the station, a ‘Restaurant on Wheels’, mounted on railway coaches.
Unlike the plain Nampally and Secunderabad stations, the century-old Kacheguda is an architectural wonder built in Gothic style with central and side domes and accompanying minarets. It was the headquarters of the Nizam’s State Railway (NSR) from 1916 till 1950 when it became part of the Indian Railways. Kacheguda station was for many years a hub of the meter gauge section of the Central and later South Central Railway.
A circular park in front enhanced its beauty. Over the years, it shrank in size by degrees. A huge steam locomotive in the park was a star attraction. The park and the loco too disappeared. Fifty years ago, disembarking passengers found themselves accosted by tonga wallahs and rickshaw wallahs. Cabs and autos were few and far between.
Life in those days was cool. Barkatpura was an elite neighborhood. Plumb opposite our Anand Bhavan was the house of Burgula Ramakrishna Rao, Chief Minister, while Gopalrao Ekbote, G.S.Melkote, D.G.Bindu, Annarao Ganamukhi, Srinivasrao Ekhlikar, Ministers, nawabs, and aristocrats lived there. Tanguturu Anjaiah, the future chief minister, was also a Barkatpurian.
It was said that in the 1940s, Kacheguda station had two tea stalls, one run by a Muslim and the other by a Hindu in a friendly atmosphere. Close to the station stood an ordnance depot where a maternal uncle had served as an engineer.
Apart from the romance of the small steam-hauled ‘locals’ ( suburban trains between Bolaram and Falaknuma), we would watch with wide-eyed wonder the circular turntable. It was used to reverse the direction of the loco. The table was manually moved on the circular track. It was dismantled to make room for staff quarters.
Another interesting feature was the Nizam’s royal saloon housed in a curved shed. We used to snatch a glimpse of the train through the gaps in the gate. Rulers of princely states like the Maharaja of Mysore traveled in ultra-luxurious private saloons comparable to today’s Palace on Wheels. In contrast, Nizam’s saloon was said to be austere. The saloon of the world’s richest man, it is said, did not even have a chair.
Blogger Parvez Hussain, who lives in Canada, writes: There was a floor on which he did his daily Namaz (prayers) and recited the Quran, besides two living quarters on each side of the floor. The Nizam’s lucky number was 13, and so was the number of his saloon. He rarely traveled in the coach built in1917. The Rail Transport Museum in New Delhi houses the Nizam’s saloon along with those of other erstwhile Princes and Maharajas.
Unlike the electric trains of Bombay and Madras, local trains in Hyderabad reflected the contemporary laid-back lifestyle. The frequency of services was less and coaches were sparsely occupied, except during office and school hours. Orange-colored nariyal ki mithai and
time-pass chana Bataan were in good demand. I wonder if they still do in today’s MMTS trains.
Not many may know that the road transport department (RTD) was once part of Nizam’s State Railway (NSR). The bus service was launched on June 15, 1932, covering about 450 km with a fleet of 27 buses.
I saw a diamond-shaped “NSR-RTD” signpost, relics of the happier times, as recently as during the 90s in front of the Dilkusha guest house on the Raj Bhavan road.
The annual Urs was a big draw, like the Numaish. Small-time traders spread their wares on both sides of the station road under candlelights.
Times have changed. The good old bindaas days are gone forever.