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‘Some day, I would like to own Hyderabad’

Last week, the arrests of two Muslim students from Hyderabad sparked protests and revived allegations of police bias against the community. HT meets three young Muslims who are riding high on ambition and love being part of the globalised state.
Hindustan Times | By Chitrangada Choudhury, Hyderabad
UPDATED ON MAR 17, 2008 02:57 AM IST

As terrorists detonated deadly bombs at Hyderabad’s lakefront on an August evening last year, Asra Yasmeen was in her city engineering college, going through nail-biting rounds of selection by multinational firms recruiting on campus.

Days later, as the city still struggled with its disbelief over the bombings, Asra landed her first job. “Ironically, I had never felt so relaxed,” recalls the lissome 21-year-old electronics engineer.

This summer, Asra will start work with global consulting and technology firm, Accenture, creating programmes for its clients across the world.

The firm, with offices spread across 150 cities, arrived two years ago in Hyderabad. It is located in a vast complex of new-age buildings called HITEC City, which beckons thousands of young Indians like Asra, armed with merit and grit, to join the ranks of a global workforce each year.

It is a 14-km journey from the sleek complex, past the luxurious villas of Banjara Hills and over the stone embankments of the Musi river, into the Old City’s Kaala Pathar locality.

Asra’s home is a modest whitewashed structure, where she stays with her parents and five young siblings. “My friends say I live in a slum,” Asra laughs. “But for me, this is paradise.”

At the head of the lane is her father Mohammed Anwar’s bangle shop. A Urdu school dropout, Anwar is funding his daughter’s degree with a Rs 1.8 lakh loan.

“It’s the first time in my life that I’ve taken such a big loan,” he says. “It would have been unthinkable in my time, but today it is a good education that can make my children unstoppable.”

In this lower middle-class Muslim quarter, religious and political identities are worn on one’s sleeve. But the growing awareness of the power of education and the ambitions it is sparking, is altering that.

When younger, Asra had joined protests by the city’s Muslims against the Babri Masjid’s demolition. Today, she says she wouldn’t. “I first want to concentrate on my studies and career and become someone. Then I can make my point.”

A shadow crosses her face as she recounts how, following the August blasts, police

picked up and tortured a young Muslim neighbour and autorickshaw driver, before releasing him.

Bristling with anger, Asra says, “His family is still traumatised. I want to protest but I am nobody. But imagine, if Narayana Murthy spoke on the issue, the country would listen. I want to reach the top, and then help my people.”

Most evenings, when she is feeling reflective, the young woman goes up to the dargah on a hilltop behind her house.

From its heights, the 500-year-old city, with its medieval domes and slender minarets interspersed with shimmering lakes and newer buildings, seems spread out at her feet.

As dusk falls, Asra whispers to herself, “Some day, I would like to own Hyderabad.”

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