Author: Jai Undurti
Published: 2014 by Syenagiri
No. of Pages: 88
Subthemes: Historical biography of the city through time-travel
Hyderabad: A Graphic novel is the first outcome of a unique and ambitious city centric story telling initiative namely “Every City is a Story” conceived by Jai Undurti who has penned this story and is the creative director of ‘Syenagiri’- the publishing house behind this initiative. The story is revolving around the sights and sighs of the city amalgamating the urban legends and whispers about iconic elements of Hyderabad, rendered in an ornate poetic language which demands serious attention from the readers.
Novelist takes us for an auto rickshaw ride from the Jurassic age to the 21st century Hyderabad where we meet a research scholar desperately trying to convince his professor about his research proposal on the life and times of a legendary poet Ashfaq, but his proposal gets rejected. The story progresses through the imaginations of this young scholar and the author skilfully uses the techniques of time travelling, where this young scholar go back to the times of Ashfaq which also in parallel unveils the history of Hyderabad. The scholar profess himself as Ashfaq in the royal court of the princess Shehzadi and attends the grand mushaira of poets. The philosophies of Ashfaq and a gripping blend of reality and fiction takes the story forward. An interesting look into the origin of Hyderabad’s famous miracle medicine touted to cure asthma, swallowing a live fish down the throat which is now locally known as fish prasadam, and some other hyderabadi references would certainly engage native readers.
The story then moves on to a concept called phsychogeography where one would study about a geographical environment on the emotions and behaviour of individuals staying there. That seems to be the key intent of this series of city centric storytelling to dive deep through the tale of cities pointing out the underpinning emotions of the geography and people rather than romanticizing the superficial facets of the city which has been repeated time and again. A beautiful exploration into architecture of cities in the lights of some of the great cities ever built in the world history and traversing through the idea of cities keeps this work a class apart. Author accentuate on the idea that cities are magic and architects are the great sorcerers for they create illusions from which even the imagination cannot escape.
The association of architecture into literature brings in even more fascination. Subtle detailing of the Persian architecture of medieval Hyderabad including the Charminar, the global icon of Hyderabad is sprinkled here and there in the novel. He considers the minar as the throat of prayer, a line connecting man and heavens, and find it is as an alif (Arabic letter), the first letter of the name of God.
The evolution of city as a poet’s paradise to an IT hub is expounded in a fine-drawn sequence. The whole novel cherishes the fact that Hyderabad began as a poem by Quli Qutub Shah, who was the fifth sultan of Qutb Shahi dynasty of Golkonda who founded the city and it was born in poet’s mind.