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.

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‘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

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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.

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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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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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Memoirs of a City to Hyderabad – A Biography

The Police Action against Hyderabad was started on Monday, 13th September 1948. There was hardly any resistance from the Hyderabad forces.

On Friday, 16th September the Director General of Police, Deen Yar Jung called Zafar, the executive incharge of the Deccan Radio to broadcast only music. The Indian forces were hardly thirty miles away.

On the morning of the 17th, Kasim Razvi rang up the Deccan Radio to say that he wanted to contradict rumours that he had fled Hyderabad. He was asked to come to the studio at 10-30.A.M. Then Zafar realized that in the new circumstances, he ought to take the permission of the controller of broadcasting for that. He was not to be found. He contacted ADC to the Prime Minister. He had gone to meet the Nizam. Razvi’s talk was delayed by over half-an-hour. He made a brief speech, starting on a strident note but sobering down to assure people that he would not desert them.

At noon, a messenger brought a personal note from the Nizam to K.M.Munshi asking him whether he could see the Nizam at 4-00 p.m. He had not granted Munshi an interview since his appointment as India’s Agent General ten months ago.

Earlier, the Nizam had spent the morning in hectic consultations. His premier had seen him twice already. The Nizam had summoned him the previous day and asked for his resignation by the morning of the next day. The cabinet decided to resign forthwith.

As soon as Munshi entered the sitting room, the desolate ruler said: “The vultures have resigned. I don’t know what to do”. He handed him his premier, Laik Ali’s letter of resignation. His hands were shaking. He had had this problem for some time which became pronounced when he was tense or angry.

Munshi had come to know about the resignation earlier from Laik Ali himself. He said: “I am worried about the citizens of Hyderabad. There is no government. The troops and the police have disappeared from the streets. General Choudhuri will take a day or so to reach because the approaches to the city have been mined. I suggest that Your Highness may ask General El Edroos to take steps to preserve law and order in the city”.

The Nizam noted that Munshi had not used the word ‘Exalted’ before Highness. But it was no occasion to point it out. He asked that the Army Commander be sent for.

“Munshi Saheb says that steps have to be taken to maintain law and order in the city. What do you say?” The Nizam asked General El –Edroos.

“Yes, Exalted Highness. The proper course is that I should take charge of the city and surrender it to General Choudhuri when he arrives”.

“Go ahead”, he said. Then turning to Munshi, added, “I am sending a chartered plane to Sir Mirza Ismail. He must carry on the government”.

Munshi was surprised. Obviously the Nizam had not grasped the full gravity of the situation. He still thought he was the master. Munshi put him wise: “I have no communication from my Government so far. I don’t know whether they would like Sir Mirza to take charge. But some arrangements must be made meanwhile to carry on the administration so that innocent blood is not shed needlessly”.

They discussed the possible composition of the new interim government. Munshi did that without any brief from Delhi.

He suggested that the Nizam may make a broadcast welcoming the Police Action and withdrawing his complaint to the Security Council.

“Broadcast!” The Nizam repeated the word as his glazed eyes met Munshi’s. The latter helped by paraphrasing the term – “I mean speak on the radio.”

“But how does one broadcast?” asked the Nizam innocently.

Munshi explained.

It was the Nizam’s first visit to the Radio Station. There no red carpet was spread for him; no formalities were observed. No music, no anthem was played before or after the broadcast. The speech was in English. Nobody bothered to translate it into Urdu.

He was nervous, as all broadcasters are when they first face the microphone. The gravity of the occasion and the text of the broadcast added to that. All the braggadocio had been done on his behalf by others. He had signed some letters indicating his intractability. But now he had to eat his words and reverse his stand in his own voice which would be heard all over the world. The glory of defiance had belonged to others; the humiliation of public apology was his.

At that moment an era ended. While the Indian army was yet to arrive, the old order had already collapsed.

After the broadcast the Nizam drove back to King Kothi to brood. Munshi on his way to Bolarum found the streets full of excited crowds shouting national slogans. Munshi was mobbed and had to address groups of people enroute. They wanted to be told by India’s official representative that they were now part of the great motherland.

That night the city changed a great deal. Many khaki uniforms were discarded, many beards shaved. The shouting, rampaging crowds of razakars disappeared magically. The citizens emerged from their cocoons. People of all ages came out in throngs waving the tricolours of India. Suddenly where there was fear and restraint, now there was life and laughter. There was a general release of tension and a new, quivering anticipation.

Earlier, it had been agreed that the surrender ceremony would take place 8 kilometres out of the city at midday on the 18th. But the progress of the march of the army was slower than expected. The mines laid on the way by the Hyderabad forces were posing problems. The ceremony was therefore postponed to 4 p.m.

General Edroos was waiting at the appointed place with one aide. General Choudhuri reached the spot dot on time.

The two adversaries stood facing each other. Both were slim and tall — about the same height. Edroos in his beret cap, tucked-in shirt, rolled-up sleeves, leather belt, and his swagger stick under his left arm; Choudhuri in his peaked cap, full-sleeved bush coat and without his baton. Edroos saluted. Choudhuri returned it and then spoke gravely:

“I have been ordered by Lt. General Maharaj Rajendresinhji, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command to take the surrender of your army”.

“You have it”.
“You understand that this surrender is unconditional”.
“Yes, I understand”.

Choudhuri’s grim visage melted into a smile. He stretched his hand and shook Edroos by the hand. Then he opened his cigarette case and offered him a cigarette. Edroos pro-offered a lighter. Choudhuri’s team joined them.

The party drove to the residence of India’s Agent General. A jubilant crowd cheered the victorious general there. He waved in return and then sat down to discuss the details with Munshi, Edroos and others.

Crowds had begun to gather at the corner of the Parade Ground in Secunderabad since morning to greet the Indian army.

It was a sea of humanity, heads, heads, heads, bare and covered. Men and women, ten deep, twenty deep, children on shoulders, on heads of adults, young people perched on the railings, on tree-tops, even on telephone poles. It was a riot of colours, dresses of all types in all the colours of rainbow, only deeper, like a field of flowers of different hues. And then tricolours, thousands of them, each hand holding one, even two, green, white and ochre, fluttering joyously. Flags made of cloth, and of paper quivered in the gentle breeze. They reflected the frisson of the hands holding them. There was clapping and wild cheering, shouting and shrieking. People threw flowers at soldiers sitting on top of armoured cars and waving to crowds. Suddenly, garlands would land on the vehicles. Throngs of people shouting slogans which could not be uttered till the previous day.

‘Quami nara’ – a shrill, lone voice shouted. And the mob shouted back in unison, in a loud abandon — Jai Hind. This was taken up and repeated from different groups.

“Mahatma Gandhi” cried one voice — “Ki Jai” responded the chorus.

‘Pandit Nehru’ … ‘Zindabad’
‘Sardar Patel’ … ‘Zindabad’
‘General Choudhuri’ … ‘Zindabad’
‘Hindustani Fauj’ … ‘Zindabad’
‘Bharat Mata’ … ‘Ki Jai’

There was no order, no sequence but one slogan followed another without any interruption. Each time as a thousand throats shouted in unison flags went up. The din multiplied. Far in the distance some people were dancing. There was celebration everywhere. People had this brief spell to squander recklessly all their pent-up emotions of these past weeks when the flame of life had burnt low.

They were now free!

There were friendly cross-talks between the soldiers and the spectators at the turnings of the road. Near the Plaza Talkies, a soldier shouted: “We have driven out the razakars from the field. Tell us where the rest are.”

The crowd shouted back: “Everywhere”!

Somebody suddenly shouted: ‘ Razakar’ — and the crowds roared:‘Murdabad’.

But that was a discordant note. The chant-leaders brought them back to the cycle of recitation of Zindabads. It was a positive, hallowed moment. Let it not be marred by negative outbursts.

Then light began to fade. Vans were going up and down announcing the imposition of the curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. The crowds began to melt. They hurried to reach their houses in time. There would be celebrations there too.

Soon there was quiet everywhere. Silence and knowledge of security such as the city had not felt for the last many months overcame it. A feeling of peace wrapped it, like a snug coverlet. It too slid into asleep — exhausted and relieved.

Tomorrow would be a new dawn.

* * *

Sword, Fire & A Book

Freedom of India in the North had two faces – one of Independence, and the other of Partition of the country. It was Independence for those who were not disturbed from their homes and hearths. It was Partition for those who were uprooted from their moorings and became refugees. For 16 million people in the North it meant Partition. Undergoing a personal unforgettable trauma, they set a record of the biggest human migration in history.

We were in Rawalpindi in 1947. It is now the older twin city of Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. I was about 14. The year started with communal riots, which increased in frequency and ferocity as the Independence Day drew close. We stayed in a locality which was separated from a Muslim – dominated area by a small seasonal stream. Sporadic attacks on our locality had started. We heard the incessant sounds of exchange of gunfire. All able-bodied males even of tender age like me were asked to do night petrol. They were ‘armed’ with broken swords and sticks. There were small covered wells in the courtyards of some houses and the instructions to women were that in case of death of the men-folk they should jump into well and commit suicide. That would also contaminate the water for the ‘enemy’!

By August the situation had worsened and we could no longer hold out against the other side. We moved into the heart of the city in an area called ‘Bazaar-e-saraffan’ (Jeweller’s Street) which was mostly inhabited by the Hindus. One of our relations had a jewellery shop and a house close by and he took us in.

It was in that house that we heard the midnight speech of Pandit Nehru on 14- 15 of August 1947. We shivered with emotion – and fear about the future. Outside there was no celebration. Only an eerie silence.

Before Partition, all government servants had been asked to choose between the two countries. My father was a liberal person who used to translate the verses of the Quran and compared them with some of the slokas of the Geeta. He opted for Pakistan believing that it would only mean a change in the Governor-General. His option was soon nullified by riots and arson. When life became difficult even in the city, the Muslim head – clerk in my father’s office offered that the families of Hindu officers might shift to his son’s house. He was an army officer and stayed in the cantonment. Three families grabbed the invitation and moved into his small house. We ran a common kitchen and boys had strict instructions that anyone who moved out of the house should assume a Muslim name. We stayed there for a month.

Every morning our father went out to try for seats in the planes which were evacuating Hindus and Sikhs but came back disappointed. His savings also were running out and we often heard our parents conferring with each other about what to do in case the funds were exhausted.

On 17th October 1947 my father came and said that a special train for government servants would be leaving the next day. We packed up our meager belongings in no time and when we reached the station we saw a surging, struggling sea of humanity with all their bag and baggage near the station. I don’t know how we managed to get into a small compartment. It was meant for 14 persons and over 40 men, women and children with all their earthly belongings were stuffed into it.

From Rawalpindi to Amritsar, ordinarily an overnight journey those days, the train two nights and three days. The train was heavily guarded by Gurkha soldiers who had a reputation for being fierce soldiers and were not affected by communal feelings. Most other units of the army had become openly partisan and so they could not be relied upon for escort duties. The train was attacked thrice on the way. The Gurkhas repulsed the attacks and I the dark of night we only heard slogans and gunfire. We could see burning houses and smoke billowing out of habitations which we passed by.

The last attack was after we had crossed Lahore. The train halted there for some time. It was dusk. By that time all our provisions that we had carried for the journey were exhausted. The children started crying because there was nothing to eat or drink. Unable to bear the sight, my father stole out of the compartment under cover of darkness and filled a small bucket of water from a nearby pond. The pond had been sprayed with DDT and the water was contaminated. But we were dying of thirst and so everybody drank that water. Resultantly, most of us started suffering from nausea and vomiting and seemed to be dying. However, such is human ability to spring back to life that as soon as the train crossed the border and we heard the shouts of ‘Hindustan Zindabad’ most of us recovered. But, due to the earlier trauma and tension, my father fell seriously sick.

As the train steamed into the Amritsar railway station on the afternoon of 21st October 1947 a group of volunteers peered into every compartment and asked was if there were any dead bodies. There was a makeshift cremation ground at some distance from the platform and some bodies were being burnt there. Nine bodies were recovered from our train. While they were taken to one side of the area which had been converted into a cremation ground, those who were alive were led to the other side and given something to eat and water to drink. We ate food in full view of the bodies being cremated.

In Amritsar there was a maternal uncle of mine and we moved into his house for about ten days till my father recovered. After that we moved to the city of Jalandhar which was temporary headquarters of a number of departments. There we stayed with a cousin of my father whom he had brought up, educated and even married off. He gave us a very cold reception.

There we were reunited with my eldest sister and brother who were already on this side of the border and had given us up for dead.

My father got posting orders to Garh Shankar, a sub division of the district of Hoshiarpur about 20 miles distant from the district headquarters and so we moved there. By then winter had set in and we were entirely unprepared for it. All that we were able to bring with us for a family of six were two trunks and three bedding. The government gave some blankets and one pullover and one pair of trousers for the whole family from the army disposal and that is how we managed to live through our first winter in free India. The rule was that whoever went out would put on the pull over and the woolen trousers and the rest would stay warm by the side of the hearth.

One day it was announced that all the refugees could collect some household effects from out of the property left behind by Muslim evacuees. The local magistrate set up his office outside a huge building and the refugees assembled there. I represented my family and was asked to pick up utensils and anything I liked. I hadn’t brought with me any bag or basket and had to manage with my bare hands and shirt. I picked up some essential items and also some others that took my fancy. One was a steel tumbler on which an Urdu couplet was inscribed:

“Aabe angoor ne to aag lagaa di saaqi
Baraf pila ke kalejaa meraa thandaa karde”

(Wine has burnt my innards, O’ cup-bearer, Give me some ice water to cool them)

I also picked up a copy of the Quran as a gift for my father since his own had been left behind.

At home everybody laughed at the choice of the tumbler which was due to my interest in Urdu poetry. It had obviously belonged to a tippler. Then, noticing the copy of the Quran, my eldest sister asked somewhat agitatedly why I had brought a copy of the book that had brought so much ruin upon us. By that time my father had come. He admonished her and said that it was because of that book that we were all alive. “Do not forget that we were given asylum by one of those people who followed this book and went by its teachings.”

That copy is still safe with me.

(Original published in the Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad in November 1997)

Chloroform and Hyderabad

Hyderabad has the distinction of many ‘firsts’ in judicial, administrative and economic reforms, and in medical research and discovery. Due credit has not been given to it for those contributions.

Of special significance in the field of medicine, one relates to research relating to the risk entailed in the administration of chloroform to human beings, and the other is the discovery of the malaria parasite and the process of its transmission. The second won for its discoverer, Sir Ronald Ross, the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1902. Both occurred towards the end of 19th century when the pleasure-loving and popular ruler, Mir Mehboob Ali Khan was the Nizam of Hyderabad. Incidentally, both were made by two British members of the Indian Medical Service while serving in Hyderabad.

Chloroform as an aid to surgery was discovered in 1837 and it revolutionized surgery all over the world. It was first used in 1847 by Dr.James Simpson in Edinburgh.

They were two theories about the risk implicit in the administration of chloroform. One was the Scottish theory propounded by Prof. Syme in 1854. He held that what needed to be monitored during the administration of the chloroform was respiration. The English theory, on the other hand, held that chloroform constituted a risk to heart and that the anesthetic should monitor the pulse throughout its administration.

Edward Lawrie was born on 17th May, 1846 and was educated at the Edinburgh University, and in Paris. He was Professor Syme’s house surgeon at Edinburgh. He joined the Indian Medical Service in March, 1972 and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He served in Calcutta and Lahore and finally in 1885 became the Residency Surgeon at Hyderabad, the premier Indian State. He was simultaneously principal of the Hyderabad Medical School, superintendent of the Afzal Gunj Hospital (now the Osmania Hospital), and personal physician to Nizam VI.

Lawrie, being a disciple of Syme and committed to the Scottish School, was keen to prove the truth of Simpson’s theory. He therefore persuaded the Nizam to finance a scientific investigation into the safety aspects of the use of chloroform. A Commission was accordingly set up in 1888. It consisted of Lawrie and three of his colleague. In January, 1889 the Duke and Dutchess of Connaught came to Hyderabad and presided over the prize-giving ceremony of the Hyderabad Medical School. At that function Lawrie talked about the achievement of the Hyderabad School and the conclusions of the Hyderabad Chloroform Commission, and claimed that “in the 40-50,000 administrations which he had superintended he had ever seen the heart injuriously or dangerously affected by chloroform.” He added that, “he had no doubt deaths would go on occurring until the London schools, which of course influence the whole world, either entirely changed their principles and ignored the heart in chloroform administration, or else confined themselves exclusively to the use of an anaesthetic like ether, which, with all its disadvantages, they know how to manage”.1

When the report of this speech was published, the Lancet, the journal of the British Medical Association observed that Lawrie’s conclusions were “utterly at variance with the experience alike of experiment and practice as carried out In Europe…. We should require more than the scanty statements of experiments performed upon dogs”. It added that “ while welcoming the attention paid to the subject by the Hyderabad Chloroform Commission, we cannot but feel that should the Commission inculcate a disregard of the heart as a factor in chloroform dangers, it will do harm and provoke a slipshod carelessness in the use of that valuable anesthetic, which must in the long-run do damage to the cause the Commission has espoused”.2

Thereupon Lawrie persuaded the Nizam to constitute a Second Commission and invited the Lancet to nominate one of the experts from London to sit on the Commission. The Nizam offered to pay 1,000 pounds sterling to meet the expenses of his travel and to treat the nominee as the guest of the government during his stay in Hyderabad. The Lancet accepted the offer and nominated Dr. Lauder Brunton as its representative. The Commission consisted, besides the members of the first Commission, of Dr.Lauder Brunton, Maj. General Gerald Burmford (appointed by the Government of India) and an Indian, Dr. Rustamji of the Hyderabad Medical Service. It started its work on the 23rd of October, 1889 and continued it for 57 days. It used to start its work at 7 in the morning and continued till 5 in the evening. It conducted experiments on about 600 different animals.

It is interesting to note that the Nizam demonstrated his interest the project by witnessing himself the administration of chloroform to three animals – a goat, a horse and a monkey on 29th November, 1889. The Second Commission confirmed the findings of the first that it was the care of respiration and not of the heart that was crucial to the administration of chloroform. Even before the Commission concluded its experiments, Dr. Brunton sent the following telegram to the Lancet:

“Four hundred and ninety dogs, horses, monkeys, goats, cats and rabbits used. One hundred and twenty with manometer. All records photographed. Numerous observations on every individual animal. Results most instructive. Danger from chloroform is asphyxia or overdose; none whatever heart direct”.3

This report of the Second Hyderabad Chloroform Commission was published in five monthly installments in the Lancet from January, 1990 onwards. Later, it was also published in a single volume. A summary of its findings was also published in the issue of Lancet of 21st June, 1890 and while still expressing his reservations, the editor expressed the gratitude of the medical profession to the Nizam ‘for the opportunity of scientific progress which his unbounded liberality afforded’.

The controversy did not stop there. Later, the Scottish- Hyderabad theory was proved wrong. But it contributed to the final conclusion which is how science makes advances. Lawrie with his enthusiasm, and the Nizam with his patronage, advanced the cause of science.

Lawrie retired in 1901 and went away to England where he died in 1915. His widow was left in poor financial circumstances. The Nizam, out of his regard for Lawrie, sanctioned a pension of 600 pounds sterling per an annum for the rest of her life.

The importance of the contribution of the two Chloroform Commissions of Hyderabad can be gauged from the fact that W.Stanley Sykes in his book: ‘Essays on the First Hundred Years of Anesthesia’ Vol. III (1982) devotes four chapters out of 19 to the Hyderabad Commissions, their findings and their evaluation.

In 1988 the government of A.P. celebrated the centenary of the First Hyderabad Chloroform Commission and the Department of Post and Telegraphs expressed its recognition of the contribution by issuing a special cover with the photograph of Dr.Edward Lawrie on 28th March, 1988. Nine years later, the centenary of the other achievement of Ronald Ross was celebrated.

These two events do Hyderabad and its people legitimately proud.

* * *
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The New President – Some Fond Recollections

Mr.K.R.Narayanan has been chosen as the President of India. His choice was virtually unanimous except for an adamant token fight given by T.N.Seshan who could have shown better grace in conceding that he did not enjoy any measurable support amongst the electoral college.

Much is made about his being a ‘dalit’ in an age in which belonging to backward community is at a premium. This is hardly fair to a person who has impeccable credentials and unquestioned objective merit for the job. He has been a first class student, a teacher, a journalist, a diplomat of a high order, a Parliamentarian and a minister. More- this time a scholar succeeds a scholar – an unusual occurrence in politics. The elevation of such a person to the highest office of the land is something to rejoice about.

I must confess that I myself did not know about his affiliation or about his origin till this thing was played up by some political parties and the media. I have known him for a long time though I cannot presume to say the same thing about him vis-à-vis me!

My thoughts go to 1966 when I was a Deputy Secretary in the Government of India and he had returned from a posting abroad and was Joint Secretary in the External Affairs Ministry. We were staying in flat no. 21-C of the Government colony which was then called Wellesley Road and is now called Bapa Nagar on the Zakir Hussain Marg. He stayed in the same block on the first floor of a similar flat. Because of the difference of rank and different services to which we belonged, and also because in Delhi social life is more official, we didn’t meet very often.

The first occasion for a social meeting occurred when the Frontier Gandhi visited his house and he invited a few neighbours. Our two young children knew about Mahatma Gandhi but did not know about the Frontier Gandhi and so they were keen to go and meet him. The Narayanans gave a small tea party and there was no visible security.

Sometime later Mr.Naraynan narrated to me the very interesting incident through which he came into the Government of India .

He was a student of the London School of Economics when the great Prof. Harold Laski – an idol of mine – was teaching there. Narayanan was a favourite student of his and just before he finished his course India had become Independent with Nehru as its first prime minister. Laski told Narayanan that if he wanted a job in India, he could gladly put in a word for him to Jawahar Lal, as he used to refer to Nehru. Narayanan was naturally elated by the offer. Laski asked him to remind him about that at the appropriate time.

When the course was over and time came for Narayanan to leave, he could not bring himself to remind Laski about his offer. He was too shy and diffident about it. He went to Laski to make his farewell visit and after an exchange of good wishes, Narayanan left his room feeling sorry that Laski had not remembered and regretting that he could not bring himself to remind him about Laski’s offer.

He had hardly covered half the corridor when Laski’s secretary came running after him and said : “Mr.Narayanan, the Professor wants you back”. Narayanan went back wondering what it was all about. Laski looked up and said to him :“Look, you did not remind me about writing to Nehru”. Narayanan said that he felt too diffident to do so. Laski immediately called his secretary and dictated a letter to Nehru to the effect that in the new and independent India he would need many young people of calibre and promise and here was one who could be useful.

Armed with that letter Narayanan came to Delhi and sought an appointment with the Prime Minister. At that time the Indian Foreign Service had not been constituted yet. Nehru looked at the letter, talked to the young man and asked the Secretary – General of the External Affairs Ministry (most probably) N.R.Pillai to see what could be done. After sometime Narayanan was invited to join the incipient Foreign Service and that is how his brilliant career started.

In due course Narayanan rose in the Foreign Service and served, inter alia, in China and the United States as Ambassador. In an early postings to Burma he married a Burmese lady who now becomes the first lady of India.

Narayanan is an erudite scholar and with a man of mature judgement. But he hides all that and what he wears on his sleeves is his utter simplicity and humility.

The time that I am talking of was when he was serving in Delhi between two spells of foreign postings, about 1966-7. Officers of the Foreign Service are allowed to import a car on their posting home. Narayanan had brought a Mercedes Benz. To maintain a car of that make on the meagre salary of Joint Secretary without foreign and travel allowances was not easy. One day Narayanan said to me that one of the tyres of his cars had gone bald and sought my advice as to what could be done. At that time the retreading of tyres had come up in Delhi in a big way and most of us used to get our car tyres retreaded to postpone the purchase of a new one, poor as we were . A new tyre, particularly, for a Mercedes Benz car at that time would have to be imported or bought at a fancy price. I suggested to him that the tyre could be retreaded. He gave me a look of innocence and helplessness as if I was talking of an arcane subject. I volunteered to take him to the place. That, incidentally, gave me my first ride in an M.B. After an ‘Ambassador’ it felt like a flying carpet. We drove to a tyre- retreading outfit near Lajpat Nagar and the elite German car was thus Indianized.

Soon after that he was posted out of India – probably to Thailand and we lost touch with each other.

In due course he retired and got appointed to various jobs. Later, he became an M.P. then, a minister, and Vice President of the country. There were occasions when I could – and perhaps should have – called on him, or at least written to him. But the ‘status’ gap between us had grown and I wasn’t sure whether he would remember me at all. I find nothing more demeaning than to have to remind a VIP that once we had known each other. I am reminded of Lamb’s celebrated essay on ‘Poor Relations’ on such occasions — ‘the one thing not needful’ — and so scotch the thought.

So I did not call on him or even write to him for the same reason that he could not remind Laski about his offer to write to Nehru for him.

But everytime he rose to a higher rung, we felt happy. And now that the gap between him and me cannot grow bigger, I would like to pick up the threads to say how happy and proud we feel that a person of such geniality, scholarship, maturity – and humility has reached the top.

Today, at this juncture, congratulations from an old neighbour would not be out of place. We also wish you a glorious tenure, Mr. President & Mrs. Narayanan.

Perhaps now I can also make bold to ask : Remember us?

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