Hyderabad: With debate over demolition versus preservation of Osmania General Hospital (OGH) refusing to ebb, heritage activists and conservationists argue the importance of preserving the historical landmark by provoking an element of emotion and nostalgia. However, conservationists maintain any plans of "development" should be centred on preservation of the historic character of the city.
The state government’s proposal of razing down the ageing structure citing its dilapidated condition and replacing it with a new 1800-bed facility seems to be a good idea in course of development but the idea of reconstructing by demolishing the heritage structure raises a different set of conflicting emotions and personal reminiscences .
"Barbarous philistinism,", "myopic decision", "terrible", "truly horrifying", "an outright shame," are some of the reactions which are doing rounds on social media which are refusing to die every other day. Most recently, a discussion was held at Lamakaan where questions were raised on the future of the OGH heritage structure and whether it should be demolished or conserved. More votes went in favour of conserving the age-old structure.
There’s a word in Spanish, destierra, which describes the psychological trauma of being uprooted, displaced or dispossessed from a loved place. This is exactly what the heritage enthusiasts explain about the sentiment induced by a structure which is tightly linked to values that are attached to it. "The ageing structure is an architectural prowess with loads of cultural aura and witnesses our past memory," a few historians explain.
Recollecting some of the old pictures of the first batch of Osmania Medical College, city-based historian, architect and heritage expert Asif Ali Khan says, "The picture of Osmania Medical College student’s union 1952-53 is probably the first batch after Hyderabad got annexed with the Indian Union. They got trained at Osmania Hospital. Little did they know exactly 70 years later the same prestigious edifice which trained them would be under threat of demolition."
"The doctors’ consultation room of Osmania General Hospital was no less than the décor of a five star hotel, but now in shambles due to sheer negligence of administration. The heritage building stands at high risk of proposed demolition," shares Asif with a picture of the OGH probably dating back to 1926 when the old Afzalgunj hospital shifted to the current location.
Seconding him, Scottish historian and art historian William Darylmple says, "There is, in every other part of the world, a process called conservation."
An emotional tweet from a city-based heritage activist: "Absolutely! They let a building go to seed, no timely repairs and then claim it as unfit. No concept of conservation or saving heritage."
Sharing some of her childhood memories, city-based heritage activist Sanghamitra Malik recalls visiting the old structure in the 1960s along with his father. "In mid-1960, my father, a doctor in the Army, was posted from J&K. I accompanied my dad to the OGH when he was going to see a friend. I was in awe of the building which looked like a palace. I went once again. I cannot forget that," she said.
In some cases, heritage had to bow out of existence to literally pave the way for the modern but the original character must not be eclipsed, debate the experts.