Two artists captured their observations of how Hyderabad is making use of its urban spaces through a series of before and after lockdown sketches.

Skteches of Hyderabad before and after lockdown by Meenakshi Meera and Shriya Dad
Features Urbanization Sunday, May 03, 2020 - 13:56

When Shriya Das looked out from her balcony, she would see the lady in the apartment opposite to her building all dressed for work and praying in front of the Tusli plant. There was the uncle who used to be seen only while retrieving dried laundry hanging in the balcony.

But that was before the lockdown. These days the lady is missing and the uncle now spends his time on the balcony sipping coffee and watching Netflix.

Shriya, a communications professional with Hyderabad Urban Labs (HUL), a research organisation that develops smarter responses to the challenges of contemporary urbanisation, has sketched her observations on how Hyderabad is coping with the lockdown and making use of its urban spaces.

“Hyderabad now lives in its balconies,” says the researcher.

Walking down the streets of the city’s Banjara Hills road number 7 after the lockdown has not been the same.

“There used to be a Kabuliwalla who used to greet everyone he meets, he is missing since the lockdown. There is no one to greet,” says Shriya.

The father who used to take his toddler for a walk too is missing. In apartment buildings, balconies that used to lay vacant have now begun showing signs of life.

“There are no children out playing in the streets anymore,” says Shriya.

Before the lockdown, the view from her apartment balcony painted a picture of a city in a rush.

The man who used to spend five minutes every day in his balcony smoking a cigarette, all the while fiddling with his phone before his commute to work, these days spends most of his hours in front of a laptop working. In one of the apartments, the dog used to spend most of its time in the front of the balcony door, but now plays on the balcony.

Balconies have become the new playground for children; for some it has become a place for gardening or staring at the city landscape while the terrace has become a gym and fitness centre for others.

At an apartment that never used to show any signs of life a cat can now be seen napping on the balcony ledge.

“We always used to do sketches as part of capturing how the city uses its land space, but through these sketches we are capturing the changes since the lockdown began,” adds Shriya.

However, not everyone has the privilege to enjoy the quarantine with a cup of coffee on the terrace or their balconies, notes Meenakshi Meera, another research assistant with HUL.

“The women are working most of the time doing laundry or taking care of the children, while the men spend their time reading newspapers,” says this architect, who has also captured her observations through sketches.

In Telangana, the lockdown was to end by May 7, however the Centre has extended the lockdown to May 17.