Retired after a long stint as a management consultant, BV Radhakrishna, today indulges in his passions of reading, writing, and regaling his visitors with snippets on his favourite topic–Vizag. In an edifying session, he shares with Jaya Siva Murty the history of Vizag, its creation and the inherent cosmopolitan outlook of its people that shaped the city.
“Like Mumbai and Chennai, the city of Vizag was largely a creation of the colonial rule. The region passed on from the Nizams to the British. It included the whole of the Andhra region and Ganjam in present Odisha and was called the ‘Circars’. As it was difficult to administrate the entire region from Bandar (Machilipatnam), the British divided the territory into three districts viz. Krishna, Vizag and Ganjam. Vizag was one of the largest districts in the country extending from Tuni (East Godavari) to Ichchapuram (Srikakulam), warranting a six-hour travel by a fast train. The British chose picturesque Vizag as their district headquarters.”
A city is born
“The growth and development of Vizag have been due to two reasons. One is the nature and the other is the local people. The conducive geographical advantage allowed for the city’s development with a port and shipyard followed by other industries over the years. This had been possible due to the good nature of the locals. They welcomed outsiders and allowed them to live in peace and harmony. Even today they do not complain or grudge outsiders making Vizag their home and prospering. Unfortunately, some migrants deem this generous hospitality to be a weakness and belittle native Vizagites, conveniently forgetting that had it not been for their large-heartedness, no outsider could flourish here or become what they are today.”
“The cosmopolitan outlook in Vizag has been largely due to the establishment of the Railways Divisional Headquarters, Port, Naval Base, Caltex and other institutions. People from different parts of the country and abroad came to Vizag with their families. The Railways brought a large number of Anglo Indians. They were very good at heart and never used their clout with the colonial rulers to suppress the locals. Even after independence, they lived a humble life. Due to the presence of missionaries, English schools like St. Aloysius, St. Joseph’s, Timpany and others took root in the city. These schools taught Tamilians, Bengalis, Odiyas, Sindhis, North Indians, apart from Anglo Indian and local children. In my opinion, this cultural convergence laid the foundation for the cosmopolitan outlook of the city. Even Andhra University had great scholars drawn from different parts of India, who nurtured a broader outlook of life.
Apart from this, the local leadership came from the Chemudu Zamindars, who I believe were from the Odiya nobility and were not parochial. So were the Godeys, the Perkis, who came from the Western Andhra, their ancestor being a Dubashi (bilingual), who was an interpreter between the locals and the English. They were highly cultured and epitomised women emancipation and bred no narrow-mindedness. Later came leaders like Tenneti Visawanadham, the soft-spoken scholar politician, AV Bhanoji Row, Bhadram and others who never whipped up local sentiments but we’re proud of the wonderful culture of Vizag.”
Changes, good and bad
“To me, the establishment of the Steel Plant brought about substantial demographic changes in the city with a large influx of people from all over the country. Till then, Vizag had been far from caste-based political intrigue. Much has changed since then. With few migrants looking upon the accommodative nature of locals as a weakness and considering them backwards, I wonder what the coming decade will hold. Will Vizag, a cosmopolitan city, withstand this onslaught or will it cave in? Perhaps the youth have the answer.”