Zinda Tilismath Stall at the Exhibition
Young men ogling the pretty girls, hassled home makers haggling away to glory with the ever smiling shopkeepers, Hyderabadis enjoying biryani on the sprawling lawns are blissfully unaware of way they are helping the larger cause that the exhibition or the Numaish espouses.
The Hyderabad Exhibition had begun in 1938, when 100 Osmania University students had opened stalls in Public Gardens (since then the exhibition has been shifted to the large exhibition grounds in Nampally) for the purpose of promoting business and industrial exhibits in Hyderabad city.
In the seventies, eighties and nineties when there were no shopping malls and limited entertainment options, Hyderabad exhibition was the ultimate destination for local populations of Hyderabad and the surrounding districts. The onset of the New Year was welcomed with gusto and the citizens made a beeline to the exhibition grounds.
Since then exhibition has lost its sheen and the ongoing agitation of Telangana had meant that the crowds are thin this year. But to revisit the nostalgia there is no place like the Hyderabad exhibition. We children used to wait with baited breath as my father used to write out our name, parents names and ours addresses on small pieces of paper and place them in our pockets (those were the days when there were no cell phones). We were severely warned not to stray away from our parents). The mournful wailing of the Hyderabad exhibition radio about lost children used to reinforce the strong tenet not to stray. The exhibition radio had very heavily Urdu accented announcers. The advertisements of Zinda Tilismath still rings in my ears.
We used to wander around wide eyed clutching the precious 10 or 20 rupees my parents had granted us. We used to debate as how to use the money. Should we buy something of permanent use or should the money be splurged it on mouth watering sweets and eats that were so beckoning?
We used to go from stall to stall always very careful not to step on the railway tracks on which the exhibition train ran. Listen with rapt attention as the stall owners and sales people explained about products unimaginable and out of reach for most middle class Hyderabadis. As a youngster I remember listening very carefully to a sales man from Iran and casually asking the flabbergasted salesman if I could have home delivery of two Iranian carpets costing a jaw drooping Rs 5,00,000/-. Just to put things in perspective I was earning a royal salary of Rs 1,800/- per month. The year -1988.
The stalls that were most popular were the once that were handing out freebie calendars. Governmental agencies like Girijan cooperative society, APSRTC and others used the Hyderabad exhibition as the venue for giving publicity to their activities. Exhibition also was the place to get free medical checkup.
The entertainment area was very popular and featured rides like the giant wheel. The eateries cost a bomb. One can hear the wails of hungry children being dragged away by reluctant parents. Parents who were shocked at the obscene high prices that the eateries were demanding.
All in all a fantastic experience only marred by the autorickshaw drivers extracting their pound of flesh (exorbitant auto fares sometimes four times the normal fare) from the already tired visitors.
On the other side the Hyderabad exhibition society will spend 70 per cent of the Rs 14 crore it expects to earn from the sale of entry tickets each priced at Rs 10/- and by selling the space to traders through the 45-day event on furthering education and providing scholarships to students, mostly girls. The Hyderabad exhibition society helps 25,000 students this way every year.
The Andhra Pradesh government has extended the lease of the exhibition grounds to the society till 2052.The traders and exhibitors this year have put up more than 2,500 stalls, including those by traders from Pakistan, Iran and Bhutan.
Keeping pace with the changing times, the exhibition society plans to build a huge mall on the exhibition grounds. The society also plans to build three convention centres, two marriage halls to seat 5,000 and underground parking to accommodate 1,000 vehicles.
The Hyderabad Exhibition Society runs 18 colleges, including junior colleges and engineering colleges. 28 lakh students have been benefited by the efforts of the Exhibition Society which has spent about Rs 3,000 crore in its 71 year old history.