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.