A Dialogue With God

My friend Karan had a very serious accident. He nearly lost his life in that. How did it happen? I asked with genuine concern. He described the accident in detail. It was really a miracle that he wasn’t killed.

‘God is great’, he said beamingly, ‘I was saved.’

I had heard this expression so many times before, uttered routinely by many people
whenever they had any luck.

‘Why is He Great?’ I asked.

‘Because he saved my life in such a ghastly accident’.

‘But why did he make the accident happen in the first instance?’

‘Must be a reason. Maybe to punish me for something that I had done wrong.’

‘But whatever wrong you might have committed, it must be He who made you commit it’

‘No. The choice is ours. He doesn’t want us to do anything wrong.’

‘Then why does He create such situations, provide temptations?

If He is the Creator, the Provider, Omniscient, Omnipotent and all that, we are helpless. If
so, how can we be blamed ?’

‘He tests us to see whether we are following the right path’

‘What is the need to test us? Doesn’t He know it?’

Karan’s wife didn’t want him to indulge in such a heretical discussion. He might be punished again.

‘You must discuss these things with some expert, some theologian. We are content with the simple faith that He exists and that He is kind, merciful and benevolent. He protects the good and the innocent and punishes the evil.’

‘But if He is benevolent and kind, why do little children die, why do people fall sick, why do natural disasters take place, why are there wars…?’

‘I can’t answer you now. But there are answers to all these questions. All religions have theories about them.’

‘I have asked many of the preachers of different faiths and no one has been able to satisfy me.’

‘Then ask God Himself – direct’, she suggested authoritatively.

‘God! Where do I find Him?’

‘Everywhere. And specifically, within yourself’

That was some help. You can’t talk to Him if He is everywhere.

But you may be able to do so if He is in that narrow confinement – me.

My wife caught me talking to myself. From a distance, from a different room, she thought I was talking to someone. Coming nearer, she found no one.

‘What was that?’ She asked in wonder.

‘What was what?’

‘I heard you talk.’

‘Yes. I can talk,’ I said.

‘No. But there was no one. Not even phone.’

‘I was talking to God,’ I said casually.

‘God?’ She almost collapsed, ‘Are you crazy ?’

‘Do only crazy people talk to God?’

‘No, but you don’t even believe in His existence. How can you talk to someone who doesn’t exist – for you?’

‘But I have been advised to find Him and talk to Him – within myself’

‘You mean there is God within you?’

‘Yes. That’s what the good people say. That’s what Prema advised me.’

‘She couldn’t have meant you,’ my wife declared disdainfully. ‘God doesn’t – can’t – reside inside people like you.’


‘You must first make yourself worthy of his abode. Right now only the Devil possesses you.’

‘Then where is He right now?’

‘In me,’ she beamed, ‘Talk to me, with love, with reverence, with earnestness. As one would to God. Try. Seek and ye shall find.’

And ever since that I have done that. I am as far from God as I was on that fateful day, but the search is on.

I shall find Him. Someday. She assures me. It suits her.

She is happy. That suits me.

A larger selection of the articles can also be viewed at narendralutherarchives.blogspot.in

The Rockscape of the Deccan

The 400 –year Old City of Hyderabad is known by its symbol – Charminar. A long -neglected feature is now beginning to get associated with the city—Rocks.

These rocks are part of the India Peninsular Gnessic (pronounced ‘nysic’) Complex spread over an area of approximately 20,000 square kilometers covering parts of A.P., Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.  These rocks sprang from the Earth’s crust, which is 40 kilometers deep.  The radius of the earth is 6300 kilometers out of which so far it has been possible to penetrate only 13 kilometers.  These rocks are one of the oldest units with formations. They are older and more stable than the Himalayas.

It is estimated that they are some 2,500 million (250 crore) years old. Life started on this planet about 8 million years ago and man emerged only 2 million years ago.  That gives us an idea about the antiquity of these rocks.

Around the city, they make a fascinating landscape. They have numerous shapes and sizes.  One of them looks like a vulture, another like a ‘laddu’ for giants.  Yet another has been named ‘club sandwich’ for the way in which rocks are piled one upon the other.  Some rocks are so delicately poised that one fears that they might fall any time. But they won’t.  They have weathered physical and chemical action of nature for million of years.  Some rocks look as if giant children were playing with them at house- building. Then suddenly they were summoned home by their mothers for their meals.

In 1820, Meadows Taylor, on his first visit to the city noted this beauty of the city environs.

The Imperial Gazetteer of 1909 observed that “around Hyderabad and stretching as far west as Lingampalli, 15 miles from the city, tors and boulders of fantastic shapes are seen everywhere, composed of basalt and granite piled up in picturesque confusion.”

Rocks help form the natural drainage system of the area and are also responsible for the existence of many lakes.  Over the years because of the destruction of these rocks many such lakes have disappeared.  For example there was a lake on the bend of road no: 1,opposite the Dwarka Puri Lane. Similarly, Masab Tank was, as the name implies, a lake.  The lake in front of the Taj Residency hotel has been polluted because of the construction of slums in the upper part of the valley and so the lake has now more of sewerage than springs water.  The Durgam Cheruvu in Jubilee Hills used to be called the ‘Secret Lake’ because it was hidden from view. Now it is threatened by construction.  Same is the case with the Dargah Shah Hussain Wali Cheruvu. Rocks also support rare fauna like lizards and bats.

Not long ago, Banjara Hills used to be a forbidding territory where people used to come only for shikar and picnics.

Nawab Mehdi Nawaz Jung is responsible for the colonization of Banjara Hills.  In the 1920’s he bought some 500 acres of land. In 1930 in a jumble of rocks he built himself a house with minimal disturbance to the existing rock-scape.

He used to offer lots of 5-6 acres free to his friends and others for a song, if only they would come, build and stay there.  Water and electricity was provided free for six months. Not many took his offer.

In 1933 the Nobel – laureate poet of India, Rabindranath Tagore came and stayed with him for some time.  He was so fascinated by the place that he said if he didn’t have his Viswa Bharati to care for, he would have liked to settle down here. He wrote a beautiful poem ‘Kohsar’ on the rocks.

After the formation of Andhra Pradesh in 1956, colonization of Banjara Hills picked up.  Quarrying because rampant rocks were blasted recklessly. Now there is hardly any unbuilt land left in Banjara Hills.

In 1962 Jubilee Hill Cooperative  Society was formed covering an area of 1400 acres. Now it is the turn of Jubilee Hills to suffer a frenzy of construction, particularly with the emergence of the NRI phenomenon.

Large-scale blasting and cutting of rocks have upset the ecology of the area.  Many lakes have been filled up. Others have dried up.

The temperature, which used to be distinctly lower in Banjara, matches that of the city. Pollution is increasing.  Banjara Hills is no longer the paradise it used to be.

A few people, following the example of Nawab Mehdi Nawaz Jung, have designed their houses with due deference to the original `inhabitants’ of the place – granites. But the majority of houses have copied the patterns of the plains. They have killed the rocks.

These pre-historic rocks are as much a part of our heritage as our fauna and flora and our historic buildings.  In a way they are even more precious because whereas fauna and flora can  be made to grow again and buildings can be renovated and recreated, these massive and hard looking rocks once destroyed will never grow back again.

On 26th January, 1996, a Society to Save Rocks was set up by some people who were keen on preserving rocks. A movement has been started now to save and preserve the remaining rocks. One way would be to develop them into picnic and tourist resorts. Atleast one ‘Rock National Park can be created in order to preserve this valuable heritage.  As a result of the efforts of the Society, the government has declared nine rock formations as protected as part of the heritage under the Hyderabad Urban Development Authority Zoning Regulations.  It is hoped that effective action will be taken to enforce the decision.  Considering the mission of the Society, the Income Tax Department has granted exemption from tax to donations made to it.

As a part of a the campaign to promote consciousness about the value of this great asset, an artists’ camp is being organized for leading painters and artists of the country in March, 1998.  They will, in their own way capture the beauty of the rocks.  These paintings will then be auctioned so that they adorn the offices and residences and thus spread the message.  Also it will help raise funds for the activities of the Society.

Rocks constitute a very valuable heritage of ours.  Unless their destruction is stopped, our grandchildren will not know what granite is.  By saving them we can preserve our present – and the future at the same time.

* * *

‘Kohsar’ – A poem on Banjara Hills

by Rabindra Nath Tagore

‘From the distance thou didst appear

barricaded in rocky aloofness

Timidly I crossed the rugged path

to find here all of a sudden

An open invitation in the sky

and friends embrace in the air

In an unknown land the voice that

seemed ever known

Revealed to me a shelter of loving intimacy’.


 Narendra Luther is the President of Society to Save Rocks, Hyderabad

A larger selection of the articles can also be viewed at narendralutherarchives.blogspot.in

Beyond the Full Circle – An extract from the novel

Extract from the novel: Beyond the Full Circle by Narendra Luther

In Karachi Nawab Hafeez Yar Jung was given a temporary accommodation in Nazimabad, a township set up to accommodate refugees from India. He was offered a rank in Government, one place lower than the one he had in Hyderabad. Only the refugees from India spoke Urdu. The local inhabitants spoke Sindhi and they were generally resentful of the people coming from India. ‘Muhajirs’ – Urdu for immigrant – they were called. The term has some historical significance, because the Prophet of Islam had himself been one, when during the period of his persecution, he left his ancestral town Mecca and migrated to Madina. The Muslim calendar is based on that. Muhajirs were the people, who had left their homes and hearths behind and sacrificed all that they had, to come to the new promised land – the land of believers, a pure land, as the name of the new country implied.

Even at the secretariat Nawab Hafeez Yar Jung was referred to by everyone as ‘that muhajir’ from ‘Hyderabad Deccan’, not their Hyderabad, for there was one city with that name in Sindh too. The muhajirs also had categories amongst them. Those from Uttar Pradesh and East Punjab considered themselves the real ones – the genuine martyrs – one cut above the rest. Not many had yet come from Hyderabad Deccan. So they were isolated and made fun of, largely because of their accent. At the very first meeting with his boss, Manzoor Qadir, Hafeez was asked about his title.
“What were you Nawab of ?”

Hafeez looked puzzled as his hand played with the button of his sherwani.
“You must be having some jagir. Where was it ?” Manzoor Qadir tried to help him.
“No, Sir. This is a title. I was not given any jagir as such, although we had an ancestral jagir.”
“So you are a Nawab of No Land – Lord Lackland as they would say in England,” Manzoor Qadir chuckled good-humouredly.
“You can say that.” Then he quoted a stanza from Mir Taqi Mir, which the 18th century poet had recited when on his migration from Delhi to Lucknow, he was asked where he hailed from. It was an enchanting melancholy poem full of self pity and memories of lost grandeur.

“Well put,” said Manzoor Qadir. “I never saw Hyderabad. Heard a lot about the Nizam and that most beautiful woman – Niloufer. His daughter-in-law, I think.”

“Indeed,” responded Hafeez somewhat coldly. He was taken aback by such casual reference to his “Ala Hazrat”. Hafeez wondered, now that he was no longer the ruler, how the Nizam was referred to in Hyderabad.
The local people in Karachi resented the intruders – all the muhajirs as well as people from the Pakistan part of Punjab and East Pakistan, who had landed there in large numbers. The Punjabis dominated the civil and armed services. Some of them had intruded into the traditional preserve of the Sindhis – business and trade – in which they excelled. But a businessman had to kow-tow before the bureaucrats and the latter were predominantly ‘outsiders’. Nobody gave any credit to the muhajirs for their sacrifices. Some people bluntly asked them why they had come to Pakistan. It didn’t take long for Hafeez to start feeling that he hadn’t been wise in leaving Hyderabad. Though the leaders of Majlis and ministers had been arrested, others like him had remained largely undisturbed. He too could have stayed on instead of coming to a place where nobody gave him credit for his sacrifice. Back in Hyderabad, perhaps he would have been transferred to another job, put down, demoted by a rank for his over – zealousness. But he had lost a rank here too. He also missed the glorious nights and weather of Hyderabad, in particular, the monsoon. And Banjara Hills. There was no place like that. Karachi was a muggy port town, now bursting at its seams with people, who did not belong to it – or relate to each other.

But more and more people were coming from Hyderabad. People, who had acquired a taint for extremism and feared reprisals. People, who believed that a homeland had come into existence at last and it was their duty and their glory to live in it, to serve it.

Soon ghettoes developed in Nazimabad. Even in Karachi. Communal, sectarian settlements came into existence. ‘Punjabi Enclave’, ‘Bhaiya Basti’ for migrants from UP and Bihar, and ‘Gosha-e-Deccan’ for people from Hyderabad. They set up separate cultural and literary associations, but except for the very few, who were able to manage to sell off their properties in India, or to get prized Government jobs, they lived on the margin. Wheels within hierarchical wheels came into existence in the cosmopolitan society of Karachi.

Hafeez Ahmed – nobody called him Nawab Saheb there – had become plain ‘Mister’. He soon began to perceive a flaw in the political creed that he had developed under the tutelage of the Majlis. Religion alone didn’t unite; language alone couldn’t hold. If that were so, why were all the brothers-in-faith in Pakistan bickering with each other? Why were there muted protests against the imposition of Urdu as the national language of Pakistan? It is not our language said the Sindhis, nor ours said the Pushtos and Baluchis. Even Punjabis, who had always accepted the subservience of their mother tongue to Urdu, were suddenly possessed by unusual jingoism. But the most strident opposition came from East Pakistan. Their language was the mellifluous Bengali – the lyrical language of Tagore and Nazrul Islam, which had roused them against the British and given them the vision of an El Dorado – ‘Sonar Bangla’- which they shared with their brethren in West Bengal more than the ‘aliens’ of Western Pakistan. Having overthrown the English, were they to accept the neo-imperialism of the Urdu-wallahs? They were in majority in Pakistan and so if there had to be one national language, it had to be Bengali. They didn’t mind Urdu also to be given an official status as the language of West Pakistan. Hafeez had to come to Pakistan to learn the simple fact that Urdu was not the language of all Muslims. They spoke many other tongues and were willing to fight for them – even to shed blood for them.

As Hafeez discovered how his political education had been ill-conceived, he began to withdraw more and more into his shell. He felt cosy there, as he found that he had indeed grown up as a frog in a well.

He also found that in any society there would always be enough factors to divide people. Human beings discovered ingenious ways of establishing separate identities. People had enough of religion, enough of language, enough of economic interests to divide them, but not enough to unite them. He had, by his own convictions, landed in a false heaven. Indeed all heavens were false, mirages to tantalize the believers. That’s why they always lay in the future, which no one had yet peered into or come back from – to testify to their existence.

It was at these moments that the memory of Sakina tormented him. How much she knew ! How wise she was in her judgements!

“Stay on, Hafeez,” she had once implored him, when he glanced at his watch which was always a prelude to his getting up and saying : “I must go.” How she dreaded that moment. And still it came every time they met. Hafeez would then say : “How would we savour reunion unless we part?” “Good logic”, she would say, and would then yield. Did she have a choice? She always entreated him not to go; not yet; ten more minutes, all right five, okay, just one minute. She begged from him crumbs of time. That was the daily routine. But one particular evening had frozen in his memory. Then she had said in her deep husky voice : “Heaven is here and now. It lasts so long as we are together. There is no heaven hereafter.”

One day a subordinate of his presented an invitation to him for an evening of ghazals by Munni Begum. She was the up-and-coming singer of Pakistan and she too had what is now commonly called a sexy voice. She sang that ghazal:
‘Aaj jane ki zid na karo’ “Don’t insist on going today.”

Hafeez Ahmed was entranced. He was transported. He felt he had gone back to Hyderabad and suddenly it was Sakina singing, as if by magic. Word for word, it was what Sakina had said, though Sakina couldn’t sing.
He had sat through the whole evening and returned home late at night, refreshed and exhilarated. Munni Begum was Sakina. Sakina was Munni Begum. And the image of Sakina had brought the image of Seema to his mind. Seema, his daughter was a souvenir of Sakina. Not born of her but hers nevertheless, because she had given her a name. Seema had now started going to a prep school. He went to the children’s bedroom and kissed her forehead. …….

Beyond the Full Circle by Narendra Luther

Published by Creative Point, Hyderabad
Price Rs. 150


A larger selection of the articles can also be viewed at narendralutherarchives.blogspot.in

Another Charminar, another Golconda

Hyderabad City is known for its monument Charminar built in 1591. Smokers associate Charminar not with the city but with a brand of cigarettes. It is cheap and strong. Foreigners who have stayed in Hyderabad and tasted that brand want only one gift from here – a carton of Charminar cigarettes.

These cigarettes are products of one of the earliest industrial units set up in the feudal state of Hyderabad. It has a very interesting story behind it.

Vazir Sultan

In the early 1920’s, Mohd. Vazir and his elder son, Mohd. Sultan were running a distillery in the Narayanguda locality of the city. They were also auctioneers and traders. Being well off, they became close to the Nizam.

One Mohd. Abdus Sattar who was working in the Tobacco Manufacturers of India (TMI) tried twice to set up a factory of his own in Bangalore. Sattar came to Hyderabad and persuaded Vazir Sultan to do in Hyderabad what he could not do in Bangalore. He urged them to set up a unit for the manufacture of cigarettes in one of their godowns.

According to Nawab Shah Alam Khan who later married the only daughter of Sattar, it was Vazir Sultan who invited him to Hyderabad for helping starting a factory.

Nizam’s image

The Nizam not only gave permission to establish the factory, he also issued a firman giving the factory a monopoly of cigarette manufacturing in the state and exempting it from the customs duty on import of raw materials. The firm was also allowed to use the facsimile of the Nizam on the packets with ‘Shah Oman’ inscribed below it. In an order dated 12th October 1926 the Government cancelled the monopoly but extended the duty exemption by another two years.

In the same order, the firm was asked to substitute the legend of ‘Shah Osman’ with Shah Deccan’, and his picture with a facsimile of Charminar

Meanwhile due to the movement for the boycott of foreign goods started by Mahatma Gandhi in British India, the sale of cigarettes by ITC was affected adversely. The parent company, namely, BAT, explored the possibility of shifting some of the operations to a princely states where the movement was not strong. Their representative came to Hyderabad, contacted the Sultan family, and offered their collaboration to set up a factory in the city.

The Nizam objected to the proposal for the establishment of a factory in the State by a company with head office in British India. He agreed if the factory was directly connected to BAT in England. So a new company, Vazir Sultan was floated with majority share holding of 70 percent held by BAT. Out of the balance, the Sultan family took 20 percent shares and the Nizam’s government 10 percent. The new company was registered on 10th November 1930. At Azamabad, which was the first, Industrial Area established by the Government of Hyderabad. It had seven directors – two each representing the Sultan family, BAT, And The Government and one representing the shareholders making up seven in all. N.B. Chenoy; a trusty of the Nizam represented the shareholders. BAT asked the Chairman and the Finance Director of ITC to represent it. ITC gave the technical expertise. All the officers of VST were British. Diler Shah was the first Indian to become a covenanted officer of the company.


Here again, there is a slight variation in the recollection of Shah Alam Khan. According to him, ITC tried through one Yakub Ali to manufacture cigarettes. He was able to get the Nizam’s permission. That brand was called ‘Arc Boat’. However that venture did not succeed. They then came to Mohd. Vazir and offered to buy his factory. The deal was struck at thirty lakh rupees. In addition, Vazir was given 25 percent of distributorship for 25 years. Sattar was not in favour of deal.

The new Vazir Sultan Company was thus incorporated. Simultaneously, Sattar, out of his share of the deal, set up the Golconda Factory. The composition of tobacco was 60 percent Virginia ‘Indian air-cured’ tobacco and 38 percent ‘pandulu gulla’ from Guntur. It was flavoured like the American tobacco. The formula for both the factories remains the same till today. The Golconda factory commanded at one time 40 percent of the market in Hyderabad. Now its share has gone down. However, it manufactures for VST and ITC.

The Nizam’s Special

The Sultans made special cigarettes for the Nizam. Once a day, a phaeton used to take a carton of ‘Charminar Specials’ for the Nizam. That carton was packed in a gold box, which was put in silver box, inside a metal box and finally in a wooden box.

The initial production was one million pieces a month. It grew to thirty million pieces and then three million pieces. Now it is …. The price per packet of ten was equivalent to three paise.

During the Second World War, VST produced cigarettes for the Army. That way they went to France and Russia.

After Vazir’s death his two sons, Mohd. Sultan and Abdul Hameed became directors. Mohd. Sultan was succeeded by his daughter Wazirunissa Begum. The family also was the sole distributor of the cigarettes. She was in turn succeeded by Abdul Hameed’s son.

The family was very rich. It neglected the education of the children. Diler Shah now a sprightly eighty plus recalls his meetings with Wazirunissa Begum. He used to advise her to educate the children so that they could continue and expand the business. She agreed with him on the need for education but expressed her helplessness before her recalcitrant children. The business was consequently mismanaged and the exclusive dealership of the family was not renewed when it expired.

VST became synonymous with Hyderabad. For a long time it was the leading industrial unit. There was no cultural event, which it did not sponsor fully or in part. Thus the hazard that tobacco posed to health according to the statutory warning in every packet, was more than mitigated by its identification with the cultural life of the city of culture. Lately, that image has been diluted.

The Golconda brand

Nawab Shah Alam Khan is now the owner of the Golconda Factory. Tall, fair, handsome and suave, in his seventies, he personifies the best in the old fading Hyderabadi charm. He is one of the respected figures of Hyderabad. He is associated with some social and educational organizations, and patronizes cultural events particularly related to Urdu. You have to wangle an invitation from him to taste the best Hyderabadi cuisine. He is fond of gardening and has a collection of vintage cars.

Tobacco may not be good for individual health. But for Hyderbad it meant the beginning of industrialization. And its manufacturers have been its good friends.

A larger selection of the articles can also be viewed at narendralutherarchives.blogspot.in

Jai Hind, Safrani

When we talk of ‘freedom fighters’, we generally think of people who were engaged in the struggle for freedom for India within the country. We tend to ignore many other groups who fought for freedom of the country from the outside. They represented the radicals in the Congress party who broke away from the main line of the Party because they believed freedom could not be won through peaceful methods and negotiations. Quite a number of them went away from the country and lived a life of exile. A number of such people went to Canada. They married local women, mostly of Hispanic origin – and gave them Indian names. Their progeny is now completely integrated with the local inhabitants.

Another part of the Indian community which played a crucial role comprised the Indian expatriates settled in South East Asia. They were the one who helped the greatest of hero of the armed struggle from abroad — Subhash Chandra Bose, commonly revered as ‘Netaji’ in setting up the India National Army. They not only gave moral and material support, but also joined the army in good number. They were from different parts of the country and were drawn from different communities and religions.

One young, colourful and courageous person from Hyderabad became a member of that community by chance. He was Zain-ul Abideen Hasan, commonly known as Abid Hasan and still better known as Abid Hasan Safrani. Incidentally, there is no such surname as ‘Safrani’. Then how did he come to acquire that appellation? Thereby hangs a tale.

Sir Salar Jung I who was the Dewan of Hyderabad from 1853 to 1883 tried to reform and modernize the medieval administration of the state of Hyderabad. For that purpose, he brought a number of educated, English – knowing officials from British India. One such person was Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk. His younger brother was Amir Hasan who became a collector of a district. Abid Hasan was born to his Irani wife in 1911.
While most of the well-to-do families of Hyderabad sent their children to England for higher studies, Amir Hasan’s wife did not favour that. She did not like the British. The children of that family were sent to Germany. Abid Hasan went thee to study engineering.

During the Second World War, Bose had escaped to Germany to canvass support for an armed struggle to liberate India. Germany was at war with England and so it was to its advantage to encourage disaffection in India against the British.

Bose addressed meetings of Indian prisoners of war, and others exhorting them to join him in his struggle. Abid met him and was inspired by his patriotism and the spirit of sacrifice. He said he would join him after finishing his studies. Netaji taunted him that if he was worried about small things like that, he could not take up big causes. Stung by that rebuke, Abid Hasan decided to give up his studies. He immediately joined Netaj and became his secretary and interpreter.

From then on he was to be with him. He went with Netaji to Singapore in German in a Japanese submarine. There, after consultations with the Japanese, Netaji set up the Provisional Government of Free India on 21 October, 1943. He also reorganized the Indian National Army originally established by one Mohan Singh, an officer of the British Indian Army.

Abid Hasan became a major in the INA and participated in the march from Burma across the Indian frontier. The army reached Imphal. It was severely handicapped in supplies and armaments and so had to retreat.

Netaji wanted an Indian form of greeting for his army, and for independent India. Various suggestions came. Abid suggested ‘Hello’. He was snubbed. Then he suggested ‘Jai Hind’. Netaji liked it and it became the official form of greetings amongst the revolutionary Indians. Now it is the official slogan of the country. Netaji also established common kitchens for all the soldiers. The Provisional Government of India though fired by idealism, was also riven with squabbles. Amongst the questions which came up for discussion was that of the flag for independent India. The Hindus wanted the saffron colour, while the Muslims favoured green. The controversy was beginning to become acute. At that stage, the Hindu elements gave up their insistence on the saffron. Abid Hasan was so touched by this gesture that he decided to add ‘Saffron’ to his name. That is how he came to be known as ‘Safrani’.

After the collapse of the INA, Safrani along with others was taken prisoner by the British and jailed in Singapore. Meanwhile, his family back in Hyderabad had no news about him and most– except his mother– gave him up as dead. Then somebody came from Singapore and told her that he had met one Irani in Singapore. Abid’s mother then knew that her son was alive.

After the famous INA trial, all the prisoners were released. In 1946 Abid came back to Hyderabad and joined the Congress Party. But here too there were rivalries and groupings and he felt disgusted with the group politics in the organization. He then the joined the Bengal Lamp Company and was posted at Karachi. When India attained independence, and Karachi became part of Pakistan, Safrani came back to Hyderabad.
He was taken in the Foreign Service of India in 1948 and served in different diplomatic capacities in China, Switzerland, Iraq, Syria and Denmark. After his retirement in 1969, he came back to Hyderabad and setup a farm near Dargah Husain Shah Wali.

He remained a bachelor all his life. He adopted three children. One of them is Shahbaz Safrani who is a well known museologist in America. Second is Ismet Mehdi, a scholar in Arabic and a former professor at the English & Foreign Languages University. The third is Maleeha.

He passed away in 1984. How few of his fellow citizens know about this extraordinary man who embodied all that is rich and valuable in humanity!


The Rambagh Temple

We have seen (The Legend of Ramdas – November, 1995 issue) how the temple at Bhadrachalam was built during the rule of last Qutb Shahi ruler, Tana Shah. The Tahsildar of Bhadrachalam had misappropriated some of the state revenues to supplement his resources to build the now famous temple. For this he was imprisoned. But, according to a legend, the dues against him were cleared by Rama and Lakshmana during a nocturnal visit to the Sultan. He therefore, pardoned and released him and also offered to reinstate him. After that a presentation of jewels used to be made to the temple on every Ram Navami day. This practice continued under the Nizams also and even today the chief minister of the State presents the jewels to the deities.An interesting and indeed surprising incident occurred during the rule of the third Nizam, Nawab Sikandar Jah (1803-29).

The Kayasths were the trusted and prominent civil servants of the Nizams. The Kayasths had come with the first Nizam from the North and settled down in Hyderabad. They adopted the ways of the ruling elite and served as a bridge between the rulers and the subjects in all matters. They made good in their career and some of them rose to high civil and military positions and even to nobility.

One such who rose to nobility in the 19th century was Bhavani Pershad. He was in charge of the salaries of the employees of the royal palaces. When he became prosperous, and was given the title of Raja, he decided to celebrate it by constructing a temple dedicated to Rama. It was constructed near Attapur about 15 kms from the city (off the road which leads from near the Nehru Zoological Park to Rajendra Nagar).

The story goes that the idol of Rama installed there was originally commissioned by Raja Som Bhopal of Gadwal for his own temple. Gadwal was a Hindu samsthan or a tributary estate in Raichur district of the old Hyderabad State. It consisted of the town Gadwal and 214 villages spread over an area of 1384 sq. kms. It is now part of the Mahboobnagar district of A.P. The Gadwal estate had been in existence long before the Hyderabad State came into being. While the idol was being sculpted, the Raja had a dream in which he was told to retrieve an idol from the bottom of a well and install it in the temple.

At the same time, Raja Bhavani Pershad also dreamt of the idol commissioned by Raja Som Bhopal. He told the latter about his dream and made a request for the gift of the idol for his temple. Som Bhopal readily obliged since in his own temple, he had installed the idol which he had been retrieved form the bottom of the well.

When the temple was ready, Raja Bhavani Pershad invited the third Nizam, Nawab Sikandar Jah to perform the ceremony of the installation of the idols of Rama, Sita and Lakshamana. The Nizam agreed and the ceremony was performed in 1812. From then on a regular annual `yatra’ takes place there on the Rama Navami day. Not only that, the Nizam also granted a jagir for the maintenance of the temple and sanctioned regular payment for persons who looked after the temple.

The archives of the A.P. Government contain two documents relating to this temple. One is from Daftar-e-Istifa dated 6th Rabi-ul-Awwal, 1231 Hijri corresponding to 1816 A.D. This sanctions a daily grant of two rupees to the persons who looked after the temple.

The other, issued on 28th Safar, 1239 Hijri corresponding to 1822 A.D. is in favour of Raja Bhavani Pershad and is for the amount of Rs. 2,093, eight annas and four pies (a little more than Rs. 2,093.50 in today’s currency) to meet the expenditure for maintenance on the temple.

Farkhunda Buniyad :
Both these documents refer to Hyderabad as the Farkhunda Buniyad suba (province). This was the title given to the city after it was founded by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah in 1591 A.D. The original name of the city was Bhagnagar, `Farkhunda Buniyad’ was the chronogrammatic title in Persian which connoted the year of its completion – 1596 A.D.

Incidentally, both `Bhagnagar’ and `Farkhunda Buniyad’ mean the same thing – `The Fortunate City’.

It is both surprising and inspiring that a Hindu temple should have been inaugurated by a Muslim. Incidentally, this was not held to affect the faith of either the idol – worshippers (Hindus) or those who professed to be breakers of idols (Muslims). This sort of harmony between the two communities was quite common. This and similar acts reinforced the spirit of tolerance and communal harmony bequeathed to the city by its founder, the poet-king Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah who, in one of his poems, said :

There is no kafir or Muslim;
The basis of all religions is love.

Tana Shah, the last ruler of the Qutb Shah dynasty had a Hindu prime minister. He also granted a jagir for the preservation of the Kuchipudi dance form. That is another story.

This spirit became so characteristic of the city that it was widely cited everywhere. In dress, manner of speaking and general behaviour, one could not make out whether a person was a Hindu or a Muslim. This harmony was disturbed only towards the later part of the first half of the 20th century when some communal riots took place and later the Razakar movement raised its ugly head. That however, is to be seen as an aberration in the harmonious flow of history of this city founded on love and built, in the words of its founder, “as a replica of heaven”.

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Humour in Administration

Broadcast talk for AIR Hyderabad on 28.7.00 at 9-30 p.m.

Administration is a dull, dry affair. It does not require any special brilliance. Amongst the many things it specifically does not require is a sense of humour.

The selection procedures for administrative jobs are designed to secure that no person with a potential for laughter should get in. But even the toughest security system has not been able to secure its objective. It is people with the most stringent security around them who get killed.

And so, in spite of all the precautions and precedents, instances of humour do crop up in administration. Some of them are entirely unintended – like a revolver firing accidentally.

Delay is a part of the instruments of administration. Time is a great healer, they say. It is also a great solver of problems. One very senior officer always had a number of old files pending in his ‘In’ tray. Every six months or so he would pick up a heap of them and put them in the ‘Out’ tray, saying, ‘ I suppose these problems have sorted themselves out’. And indeed they had. Problems don’t wait for solutions. If they are not tackled in time, they get fed up and go away. Or they commit suicide.

In administration words don’t mean what they say. If you don’t receive a reply from a Government office for a long time, you remind it. You may get a reply that ‘the matter is under consideration’. It means that the file is lost. After some months, you remind again. This time reply would be that the matter is under ‘active consideration’. It means that the file is lost, but attempts are being made to trace it.

Circulars issued by government to lower officials are sometime marked as ‘confidential’, ‘secret’, and ‘top secret’. The information in the first one is intended to be shared with colleagues. The  ‘confidential’ circular is intended to be given publicity. The ‘top secret is to be accorded the maximum publicity.

Administration has its formalities. During the British rule, every formal letter used to have the closing: ‘I have the honour to be, Your most obedient servant’. It was abolished in India after Independence though it is still prevalent in England. In the old Madras Presidency, a young entrant to the civil service named MacPherson was scandalized by such a servile way of concluding letters especially to the natives. He therefore wrote to the Chief Secretary suggesting that this practice should be abolished. The Chief Secretary wanted to drive home the point that it was a mere formality and did not really make the writer a servant of the addressee. He wrote back to him:

My dear MacPherson,

This does not mean that my heart is gushing forth in love for you.

Yours sincerely,

John Armstrong

According to official etiquette, a letter or file is not simply ‘sent’ from one officer to another. It is ‘submitted’ by a junior to a senior. The senior, in turn,  ‘transmits’ to the junior. Any transgression of this practice can land one in serious trouble.

Once a junior officer sent a note to his senior, which was supposed to go up under the name of the superior. He signed that note. Thereupon, he got a note of reprimand from his boss: ‘You are not supposed to sign the note. Please erase your signature, and sign below the erasure.’

In any administration some formal motions have to be made before a proposal is sanctioned. Evidence must be created that there has been not only consideration, but also reconsideration of every proposal. I once saw a file of the Ministry of External Affairs seeking a sanction of funds to ‘organize a spontaneous welcome’ to a visiting dignitary. For that purpose it wanted to hire a thousand lorries to transport twenty thousand persons from villages near the airport to stand on both sides of the road to cheer the VIP lustily. The Finance Department observed that since our relations with the country were good and the dignitary was fairly well known in India, many people could be expected to come out on their own. The scale of expenditure could therefore be halved. The Ministry reiterated the proposal saying that the VIP in question was a dark horse even in his own country and had become Prime Minister by a sheer stroke of luck. He would not therefore attract crowds on his own. It was in the national interest to make a show of popular welcome to him. The Finance Department, thus having been educated in the fine points of diplomacy, relented.

The next day the papers reported that people turned out in large numbers to give the honoured visitor a spontaneous welcome!

In Nainital– a hill station in UP, I saw a board outside a cluster of flats. It read: ‘Sleepy Hollow – Flats for Deputy Ministers and Senior Officials’. Strangely, no one took objection to the unintended aspersion.

In one of the new blocks of buildings of the State Secretariat at Hyderabad, there are two lifts. One is marked ‘General’. It is meant for every body. It is slow — and often out of order. The notice on the other lift proclaims that it is only ‘For ladies, handicapped persons, and senior officers’. A good grouping indeed!

In spite of the best attempts of people in administration, and unbeknownst to them humour, like love, sometimes sprouts in the most unsuspected crevices.

The famous American humorist Will Rogers once said rightly, ‘I don’t make jokes. I just watch the Government and report the facts.’ People like Parkinson — famous for his ‘law’, Peter — renowned for his ‘principle’, Murphy and others have made a fortune by exposing humour in administration. And that not only in Government, but also in the corporate sector. In both, there are two types of managers – those who manage what they do not understand; and those who understand what they do not manage. That situation often gives rise to humour. Believe me, a shrewd executive will try never to betray his sense of humour. In administration, to laugh openly is to lose your dignity. To become naked as it were. People in administration do enjoy humour, but in strict privacy of their homes. In offices they wear masks. Those who don’t might just manage to survive. Like I did.

A larger selection of the articles can also be viewed at narendralutherarchives.blogspot.in

Last Days of Nizam VII

In February 1967, he was taken ill and as usual was treated by his physician of the unani system. The illness was attributed to various causes, like flu or broncho-pneumonia but there was no proper diagnosis. He would have none of the allopathic treatment. On 18 February he had a relapse, Still his daughter Shahzadi Pasha would not allow any doctors of modern medicine to examine her father. The same afternoon three of his wives left for the haj pilgrimage. It was the first time they were travelling by air. So an official was sent to accompany them. The Nizam bade them good-bye and told them they won’t see him alive on their return. They upbraided him for uttering such inauspicious words and said they would pray for his early recovery. They next day he became very weak.

On the 20th, when he could no longer protest, Dr. Waghray, his medical advisor summoned three allopathic doctors, Bankat Chander, G.P. Ramayya and Syed Ali to his bedside. The bedroom was dark and filthy. Dr. Rammayya felt he was entering a ‘dungeon’. He took the Nizam’s pulse and found he had fever. The physicians found his condition deteriorating. But Shahzadi Pasha would not allow them to give any injection, much less take a sample of his blood for test. On 22 February, a cable was sent to London to his grandson and the designated successor Mukarram Jah, informing him about his serious condition. An anxious crowd had gathered outside the King Kothi. Police reinforcements were brought in to keep them in check.

In the midst of the results of the fourth general elections of India, health bulletins about the Nizam were issued daily. The Chief Ministers of Punjab and Bihar had been defeated in the elections. Krishna Menon and S.K. Patil had also lost the elections. Madras had thrown out the Congress and voted fort the D.M.K the results were pouring in from all sides. The Congress was leading in the Centre and in most states. But here everyone wanted to know about the Nizam. On the 22nd, Mukarram Jah and his younger brother Mufakkam Jah arrived form London and met their ailing grandfather. The Nizam was heartened to see Mukarram Jah and held him close. But he could not speak to him. He had already become unconscious. That day the doctors put him on oxygen. Princess Durreshhear discounted the speculation that she had anything to do with the strengthening of the security in and around the King Kothi. The police authorities were acting on their own, her statement said.

On the night of the 23rd, a nurse was seen coning out of Osman’s bedroom with an oxygen cylinder. She seemed to have made a gesture of wiping her eyes. The intelligence man on duty standing at a distance thought she had wiped her tears. He drew his own conclusions from that. A rumour was set afoot. A news agency flashed the message that the Nizam had breathed his last.
Syed Hashim Ali, Director of Protocol of the state government, received the message at midnight at his home. He checked with Prahlad Singh, the commissioner of Police. He was told the news was not correct but the condition of the Nizam was indeed critical. Hashim Ali had already drafted an obituary note for the gazette extraordinary which would be issued on the death of the Nizam. Earlier, he along with the Commissioner of Police and the Sub-area Commander of the army, Brigadier Ferris, had visited King Kothi to finalize the arrangements for the funeral which seemed imminent.

Some papers published the news of the death the next morning. It caused a general confusion the considerable embarrassment.

The next morning, Hashim Ali and Prahlad Singh visited the King Kothi again. The Nizam was sinking. It was only a matter of hours. The officials of the government and those of the King Kothi met at the office of Taraporewala, the Nizam’s advisor. Prince Mukarram Jah also walked in. Hashim told him that they had come to discuss the arrangements in the event of the Nizam’s passing away. Mukarram Jah said that it was their custom not to announce the death for three days. Hashim replied that it was probably necessary in earlier times because the issue of the succession had to be settled, but now that he had already been notified as the successor, it did not seem necessary to delay the announcement. In any case the people would know from the media. Then there was the question of keeping the body in state. Mukarram Jah was opposed to that idea. It had never been done before for any Nizam. Again Hashim said that there would be crowds of people who would want to see his face and pay their last respects. Mukarram Jah demurred, but finally agreed on both the points.

The end came at twenty-two minutes past one in the afternoon on 24 February 1967. Dr. Ramayya put his stethoscope on the chest of the Nizam and pronounced him dead. He certified the death due to cardiac failure. Nothing more could be known because that was the first time an instrument of modern medicine had touched the Nizam’s body. The richest man of the world passed away without any modern treatment. Prince Mukarram Jah, his younger brother, their mother, Nizam’s stepbrother Basalat Jah, the three doctors and some other members of the household were all by his beside. An hour later the body was brought out and kept below the shamiana specially erected in the courtyard. The crowds started breaking into the compound and the police formed a cordon and asked the crowd to form a queue to file past in an orderly manner.

A touch of bathos was provided when the Prince of Berar came to the King Kothi at 3.PM. he tottered up to the body of his father and touched his feet as a gesture of respect. When he came out, a pressman asked him for some comment on the sad event. The Prince was at a loss for words. He looked balnky at Abdul Mannan, a retired deputy secretary of the Finance Department, who had become his secretary and who was standing by his side. As if on a cue, Abdul Mannan began to whisper prompting into the ears of the Prince who kept on repeating whatever Abdul Mannan said:” He was a great man. He was the architect of modern Hyderabad. He established the Osmania University. He separated the executive from the judiciary. He implemented a number of reforms in the administration. The people of Hyderabad will never forget him…etc.” and then after a while when the secretary thought he had said enough, he whispered to ask the Prince: ” anything more?” The Prince, thinking that it was a part of the prompting, repeated loudly: ” Anything more?”

The Nizam’s second don, Prince Muazzam Jah, did not attend the funeral. He was sleeping off his nocturnal vigil. When an aide tried to wake him up and told him about the Nizam’s demise, he mumbled with closed eyes: “Don’t bring such unpleasant news so early in the morning” Then he turned on his side and resumed his sleep.
Early next morning the body was given a bath. A prayer was said and a brand-new, unnumbered ambulance van cut through thousands of mourners wending its way to the Mecca Masjid. There a prayer was held. The imam of the mosque objected to the installation of a loud speaker on the premises. That would desecrate the sacred precincts because it carried the voice of the devil. That created difficulties in controlling the crowds. There was confusion outside. The prayers over, the body was brought out and placed in a gun-carriage. An estimated crowd of 200,000 people formed the procession. People hung form their balconies and occupied every possible vantage point to be a witness to the historic moment.

At 11 in the morning the gun-carriage reached the Judi Mosque which had been built by the Nizam in memory of his son Jawad. The Arab guards and the Sikh paltan dressed in the uniform of the private estate of the Nizam, bare-foot and holding naked swards took charge of the body their supreme commander. The members of the family gave shoulder to the coffin. A detachment of the Policed sounded the last post and a unit of the army reversed their arms in their last mournful salute to the Nizam.
The body was taken out form the coffin and two old servants of the Nizam, Manzoor Ali and Muhammad Bin Habel lowered it into the four foot deep grave dug by the side of the gave of this beloved mother and his son, as the crowd droned Allah-ho-Akbar. He Nizam’s sons, daughter, grandsons, step-brother and others threw a fistful of earth each gently into the grave. Osman Ali Khan, the seventh and the last Asaf Jah, was returned to me -dust unto dust.

One Muhammad Ali Beg issued an advertisement in the papers with his own tribute. He quoted the first line of his famous couplet:
“Sultans of old, Osman, have died.
By your rule are Muslims now identified.”
“And now,” said the advertisement, “the writer of this line himself had joined them.” Beg did not omit to mention that he was a resident of Charminar and his phone no. Was 41019.

Osman was thirty-eight days short of eighty-one at his death. With his passing away an era ended for me. My break with the past was now complete.

Dear Mamas of Hyderabad

The Nizam was originally the Viceroy of the Deccan appointed by the Mughal Emperor. It was essentially a military officer through he exercised civil functions. The diwan was the other important officer next to the Nizam. He controlled all revenue functions, was appointed by the Emperor and reported directly to him. He thus provided a check on the Viceroy.

In course of time, as the Moghal Emperor grew weaker and his Viceroy stronger, the two key appointments were no longer made by the Emperor.

By the end of the 18th century, the English Governor -General came to exercise influence in the appointment of the diwan. One reason for the English interest in this was that after the dismissal of Mir Alam as the envoy of the Nizam to the East India company, the diwan, Arastu jah, took over that function also. The office of the diwan became therefore, double important for the English. Accordingly, Mir Alam was forced on the Nizam as diwan by the English as diwan by the English. His successor Munir-ul-Mulk was accepted by the English as a dummy diwan, the real power being exercised by his peshkar, Chandu Lal, a favorite of the English, who himself became the diwan later.

Between 1842 and 1853, there was a period of comparative freedom for the Nizam in the appointment of the diwan. But the former could not make up his mind and during the period as many as six diwans were appointed, there of them for periods ranging between two to five months. Pushed again by the English, the Nizam appointed Siraj -ul- Mulk in 1851. He was a man of great learning and did not seek the office. It was during his incumbency that Berar was ceded to the English in 1853. Three days later, he died, some say because of the tension caused by the cession of Berar.

The Nizam was again called upon to undertake the onerous task of filling the vacancy. For a while he thought of becoming the diwan himself. But the English did not like it. So he looked around and many names cropped up. Umdat-ul-Mulk, the eldest son of Shams-ul-Umra, the piagah noble was in and out of the court a great deal those days but then suddenly he was banned from the court. No one knew what really happened. The English papers from Bombay and Madras speculated that Bal Mukand was the most likely choice for the diwan (primeministership). I heard a lot of gossip those days about the names of the likely diwans, and watches – amused.

In a darbar, power and influence seldom flow in the official, perscribed channels. Some persons who have no position whatsoever worm their way into the ruler’s favours. The valet, the maid-in-waiting, the barer and the like, who have regular and uninterrupted access t the source of all patronage, exercise varying degrees of power and influence. A hint thrown at the right time, a suggestion dropped at a receptive moment, an insinuation made at a week juncture can swing deals, settle appointments, fix trnasfers and promotions, and even secure dismissals. The atmosphere around a court is thick with intrigues. Equations change from day to day, people move into and fall of favour from moment to moment.

At the courts of potentates around the world things are never what they seem. The strings of power are held by people who may figure nowhere in the formal power structure. One such person was Burhanuddin, an attendant of the forth and fifth Nizam would see and when. Even the diwan had to be admitted through him. The diwan also used to obtain approvals os most of his proposals through the good offices of the flunkey. Chandu Lal, the longest serving and the most powerful diwan early in the century often complained to the Resident about his difficulties with the Nizam because of Burhanuddin.

Another person was Mama Jamila, a maid-in-waiting. Mamas were an institution by themselves. They were often wet nurses to the royal children or simply maids to the royal ladies. The princes and princesses grew up under their tutelage and could seldom outgrow their influence. In Mughal history and later with the Asaf jahs, they came to play a crucial role in palace affairs. Mama Jamila become a notable figure in the 19th century court intrigues.


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Ex-officio wisdom

Some people are born wise; some acquire wisdom; some have wisdom thrust upon them. The last species of wisdom is ‘ex-officio wisdom’. The adjectival prefix is a Latin term which means ‘by virtue of office’. It is conferred by the office one happens to hold. It is ‘deemed’ wisdom, not real wisdom — like some institutions, which are ‘deemed’ universities.

This type of wisdom is found in sorts of places, but mostly in public service, both the elective as well as appointive variety. In the appointive office it is in services – especially in the all-purpose, nomadic, job-hopping service – IAS.

For this service the government picks up bright young boys and girls from the universities, makes up their deficiency in education, rounds off their corners, and then lets them loose in the numerous districts of India. After they have seen the countryside, they embark on a rambling career in the capitals of different States — and even of the country. It entails movement from one job to another, provided they are entirely unrelated to each other. Each job requires some degree of knowledge of the subject. For example if one is appointed as Director of Agriculture, one has to know that tobacco is grown, not squeezed out of cigarettes; silk is not grown but vomited by worms; pig iron has nothing to do with animal of that name. In other words, reality is not what it looks like.

The rationale behind the constitution of this service is that a reasonably intelligent person can pick up enough knowledge in three months to question the wisdom of experts. And the Selection Board ensures that atleast half the members of the service are reasonably intelligent. Members of this service are charged with the responsibility of saving the people from the tyranny of the specialist for whom nothing exists except the field of his/her activity. Specialists have to be made to relate to each other because life is not lived in watertight compartments. Nor is a human being a mere collection of limbs. IAS people build bridges between narrow disciplines. They interpret the expertise of specialists – to those who know even less than them – the political masters. The latter category exists to tell the other two that man cannot be cut to fit the cloth. It should be the other way about.

The other theory on which this ‘generalist’ breed is predicated is that stagnation sets in if you remain in the same job for more than about three years. According to this formulation, one learns in the first year, practises in the second year, and starts getting stale in the third year. It is therefore in the public interest to move these officials from their posts frequently.

A specialist, incidentally, is a person who knows more and more about less and less until he ends up by knowing everything about nothing. The generalist, on the other hand, is one who knows less and less about more and more till he ends up by knowing nothing about everything. Put the two together and life is fulfilled.

The public at large believes in the acquisition of instant expertise of the given job. I recall my own experience on being appointed Director of Industries. While I was still learning the difference between Large Scale Industries and Small Scale Industries, and the regulatory and promotional aspects of the work of the Department, people started coming to me for advice regarding the type of industry they should set up. I would keep a straight face and roll the pencil in both hands in the manner of a person who knows all and, with a deliberate furrow on my forehead to indicate my genuine concern for the prospective investor, suggest a particular line. In order to reinforce my advice I would summon an expert lackey and hand over the unsuspecting victim to him. Since his job was dependent on me and not on the seeker of advice, he advanced my line. Meanwhile, I would laugh in my sleeve and wonder what would become of the person who had come to put so much faith in my ex-officio wisdom.

I must say however that I kept a track on the progress of those who had sought and accepted my advice. Their rate of success was no less than those who had taken up a line ignoring my advice. No matter what advice you take, the rate of success doesn’t exceed fifty percent. After all there are other public servants too who are paid to keep the success rate low.

Similar was the case in urban development, an area into which I moved later. The best education you get in that field is by studying the growth of unauthorized structures and of slums. Our theory of town planning ignores the basic requirements because they are not mentioned in books authored in developed economies. That is why we have such a high incidence of encroachments and violations of building by-laws. The trouble in poor countries is that there are not as many well-off persons as there should be.

The ignorance of the generalist however is not a handicap. Every step arising out of that is ‘fresh thinking’, ‘new approach’, and ‘dynamic orientation’. After all in public administration and social engineering, the last word has been said. It is a cyclical movement of theories – much like fashions. Old vogues keep on coming back – free enterprise to state control to liberalization. Of course the jargon changes. ‘Approach’ becomes ‘mind set’. And that is necessary to sound original –and progressive.

Ex-officio wisdom becomes more glaring and dangerous when it reaches the political level. After taking the oath of office and secrecy, a man entirely innocent of defense matters suddenly gets transformed into an authority on the subject. The Minister for Science and Technology gets to know in a flash all about nuclear fission. The most astounding portfolio is that of Finance. The Finance Minister has to appear to know a plethora of terms like fiscal deficit, GDP, GNP, recession, monetary policy, CRR, and the like. Of course on GDP (Gross Domestic Product) his wife can always be of help.

The Finance Minister is that dangerous person – a doctor with little learning. Sometimes I wonder how he even fields questions from those who know all about it – the non-playing captains of industry. And after the budget, it is, in Tennyson’s words, a time when

“Blind and naked ignorance
Delivers brawling judgements unabashed,
on all things, all day long”.

The poet was referring to reaction to the budget by the Opposition, which again are ex-officio. They are determined by their party affiliation. In this endeavour, clippings of the reactions of the previous years save a lot of labour.

Ex-officio wisdom is nothing but ignorance wrapped in authority. It is acquired on the job by making mistakes at other people’s cost. And what could be easier way of becoming wise?

Absolutely free, and without any risk!

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A larger selection of the articles can also be viewed at narendralutherarchives.blogspot.in