The arterial main road near our home witnesses high security restrictions in the last 10 days of December. This year too was no exception. The gun toting security police on either side were very vigilant and active in enforcing rules.
We as usual tried to park in front of the now shutdown odyssey building where there was ample car parking space. Adjacent to that was the vegetable shop where I wanted to buy vegetables. But the gunmen politely told us to remove the car. No parking allowed anywhere on the road not even in the parking space. Nobody is allowed to even shop in the busiest shopping area for long.” Keep moving” was their mantra. The restrictions, the vigil all thanks to the President’s convoy which would be taking that route to reach a heritage palace tucked away in the high security cantonment area of Bolarum in Secunderabad.
Yes, this is where the First Citizen of India has his traditional southern sojourn in the last 10 days of Decemberr.
The palatial retreat called ‘Rashtrapati Nilayam’ is the only Presidential retreat in the South of India. Situated in 90 acres of plush greenery, the 2500 sqm centrally located magnificient retreat is single storeyed and has three wings – the president’s wing, family wing and ADC wing.
The most interesting feature of the Rashtrapati Nilayam is the 50 metre long ventilated tunnel that links the kitchen to the dining hall. This tunnel was built for the safety of the Nizam who was worried that his food could be poisoned by his enemies.
The building has a little history behind it. This was initially the residence of Chief military officer during the Nizam’s period when Sir Salar jung was the Prime minister and Bolarum was one of the military cantonments of the Nizam government. It later served as the residence of British viceroys . After independence, it again came under the control of Hyderabadi Nizams and later after the merger of the state with Indian union, the government converted it into a resort for the stay of the president.
Since 2011, the out of bounds retreat and the beautiful garden surrounding the building is thrown open to public but only for the first 10 days of January.
It has 20 rooms in all, a cinema hall, a huge dining hall with regal chandeliers.
So, if you are here on a leisure visit to Hyderabad during this period and if you love to luxuriate in the lap of nature, take a trip here. The huge well maintained estate is a nice place to take a stroll and reflect with an aural treat from the sweet calls of the birds and the rustling leaves for company.
The crisp herbal air from the 116 species of medicinal and aromatic plants called "Nakshatra vatika" will tingle you and make you feel good. There is no sign of consumerism or commercialisation here. No entry fee. No branded chip packet sellers or no cola gola outside the gate. You will find only the hyderabadi selling kulfi , roasted peanuts or channa batana in paper cones.
Also, don’t expect grand architecture or grand entertainment, it will just be a simple leisure visit to a lung space in a city, but a worth remembering one.
All photos taken by my children during our 2011 visit.