Though exploring the natural beauties and wonders is an exciting thought, the experience of going through the lanes of an old city and learning about the past has a different feel to it. Jayshree Hatangadi, a well-renowned heritage narrator in Vizag, has been endlessly working to take the denizens of this port city closer to its history through her heritage walks. Just a step away from completing her 100th heritage walk in Vizag, Jayshree had recently conducted one such walk with the history enthusiasts of the city.
Amazed by the experience, Sirisha, a heritage buff, gives you a glimpse of her experience of the educative and exciting heritage walk through the old lanes of Vizag.
Every bustling metropolis today has an old city tucked away in a corner. A stone arch, a blue door, little green windows, tall red shutters, arched verandas and moss-ridden stairs are some sights that stand testament to another time and age. For some hopeless heritage hunters like me, just a brush past an old edifice is sufficient for the present to melt away, and for the mind to conjure up images of the subject in all its glory of the past.
So, when I set forth on the 99th Vizag Heritage Walk with Jayashree Hatangadi at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning, 24 July 2022. Sure as I was that my imagination would run on fertile grounds, I was more eager to learn about the history of the city that I’ve called home for 10 years now. Having grown up in deeply culturally rooted cities like Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune and Ahmedabad I always felt a void when I moved to Vizag post-marriage. Stories of art and culture were not part of the daily conversations of the local people. Vizagites I’ve met are a proud bunch of people, no doubt. They love their beaches, their Alma maters, the AU grounds, the Jagadamba theatre and their muri mixture, but heritage did not seem to extend beyond a few famous temples and religious holidays. Wasn’t there a bustling intellectual and cultural centre that the city could boast of? Who were the early settlers of Vizag and what is their legacy that I seem to know nothing about? My Ignorance and I went on a walk this morning. I just hoped to bump off that guy along the way and bring home Answers. And when Jayashree Hattangadi began to walk the talk, I knew that I had come to the right place.
Hatangadi’s reputation precedes her as a passionate heritage narrator of Vishakhapatnam. But what struck me most about her narrative was that she traces her ancestry to this sleepy little port city of Vizagapatnam. Her eyes light up when she talks about her grandfather’s thriving supermarket in the good old days, his patronage of the ebony and ivory crafts of Vizag, her mother’s convent education in Queen Mary’s High School or her father’s Naval escapades. Not many people I know today can boast of such a deep lineage in this city – one closely following the changing social and cultural contours of Vizag
Over the last few decades, the city has undergone a lot of shuffling. Some families have moved away making way for new settlers who now call Vizag home. As inevitable as change is, the city today boasts of a new vibe and new conventions. While we continue to thrive in this new atmosphere, some of the older stories are crying for attention behind crumbling walls and overgrown foliage. It’s taken an iron-willed Jayashree Hattangadi to bridge this gap between the present and the era bygone. It’s her inherent pride in the legacy of her ancestors that fuels her tireless attempts to revive the part of our heritage that is rightfully ours to dive into.
The Town Hall today stands as a crowning example of how diligent and persistent efforts can help restore timeless monuments to their original glory. Standing in the middle of the stunning Central Hall, my jaws dropped in amazement at this splendorous hidden gem of Vizag. It is a legacy that has been gifted to us on a platter, to cherish and to carry forward, lovingly and respectfully.
Queen Mary’s High School, the Mariners Club and some more neglected structures are waiting to be transformed into beautiful spaces for the current generation to connect with their past, boast of their heritage and initiate renewed conversations of culture going forward.
Today, as a generation, we are well-travelled, well-informed and well-connected. While we rattle off many an interesting tale from our trips out of town, it’s time to sit around and share some anecdotes from closer home. It’s time to celebrate our Vizagapatnam, its stories – some wondrous, some mundane, with laughter, with poignance, with pride and with gratitude!
Thank you, Jayashree for this wonderful food for thought for my Sunday breakfast!
Jayshree Hatangadi started Heritage Walks to the four nearby Buddhist sites in 2012. Encouraged by Vizag enthusiasts, Jayshree has conducted such walks in Old Vizag and since 2015, these have evolved into regular events for Vizag Heritage buffs, visitors, the Navy’s new Vizag residents and some special interest tour groups. Her narrations are deeply researched and punctuated with an amusing anecdote or two about Vizag’s past.
Sirisha, the author describes herself as a Heritage Buff who has travelled extensively in India as a result of her Fathers postings. She is a qualified B.Tech and MBA whose family is involved in a shipping-related business in Vizag.
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