Born in Hyderabad, a princely state in southern India, in 1937, Dr. Anand Raj Varma grew up in a beautiful farmhouse in a joint family. He was 10 years old when India was partitioned, but his surroundings remained largely unaffected by the event. Hyderabad, he said, was a haven with a tight-knit community that looked out for one another.
Where there is dark, there is light
In 1948, when Hyderabad was integrated into the Indian Union, Dr. Anand Raj Varma’s family had lived in the city for over 200 years. They faced a difficult choice: they could either seek shelter, or leave the state altogether.
Dr. Varma, his family, and his friends were never involved politically in the movements that led to India’s independence. Hyderabad had remained relatively untouched by the nationalist movement. More than 500 princely states joined India, but Hyderabad was not one of them.
There was amity in those days, said Dr. Varma, who still remembered the names of his closest friends from different faiths and backgrounds.
He recollected the 10-day Ramlila celebration that would unfold during the festival of Dussehra; reading out the Ramayana while his friends acted it out; the evenings during Ramazan when joined his Muslim friends for iftar, and the processions during Muharram, which he would observe from a rooftop along with his uncle.
With Hyderabad’s integration however, Dr. Varma said, the state plummeted into upheaval. Many of his friends had already left in 1947, when thousands of families moved to Pakistan. Along with 25 relatives, Dr. Varma’s family left for Vijayawada, where they would temporarily stay with a friend.
69 years later
Later, the Varmas moved back. Dr. Varma began his career in zoology, and went on to occupy every rung of the academic ladder from head of department to dean. He also designed curriculums, and anchored a Urdu television game show for almost seven years.
Today, with several history and education books under his belt, he is more inclined towards literary pursuits. His friends who migrated to Pakistan still return to visit.
He felt deep sorrow over the partition, and questioned the cost at which independence was gained. But he was also optimistic about the future, and said, “If there is night, there is day; if there is dark, there is light; if there is evil, there must be good.”
This interview was conducted by Story Scholar Zain Alam.