Take a peek into Nizam’s English

Prized possession: The exercise book of the sixth Nizam Mir Mahboob Ali Khan on display at Chowmahalla Palace.

Prized possession: The exercise book of the sixth Nizam Mir Mahboob Ali Khan on display at Chowmahalla Palace.   | Photo Credit: - Photo:G. Krishnaswamy

J.S. Ifthekhar

Exercise book of the sixth Nizam found in Chowmahalla Palace

The book was found lying dumped among the many artefacts in the palace

Tutors were engaged to teach English, Persian, Arabic and Urdu to the Nizam

Hyderabad: “Rasels was the fourth son of the mighty emperor, in whose domain the father ….”

The handwriting is crampy and uneven. At some point the letters become an unrecognisable scrawl. Wonder what is this piece of writing carefully preserved in the Chowmahalla Palace?

Well, it is the exercise book of the sixth Nizam, Mir Mahboob Ali Khan. On the left page of the book is the date October 20, 1883. The mighty Nizam may have dictated things during his heydays, but he also took dictation from a tutor regularly.

Age inference

The picture gallery at the palace contains a glass case containing the exercise book of Mahboob Ali Khan, his personal stationary and currency notes. This English exercise book was lying dumped among the many artefacts in the palace. The long note book was found when the articles were being shifted to repair and renovate the palace, said its director, G. Kishan Rao.

Going by the date on the exercise book one can infer that Mahboob Ali Khan was 17 then. At the young age of 16 he was initiated into the details of state administration by Sir Salar Jung. On February 5, 1885, he was invested with full administrative powers by Lord Rippon, then Governor General of India. Even while managing the affairs of the State, the Nizam took time off to brush up his English.

Captian John Clerk was appointed to impart language skills. Besides scholars proficient in Persian, Arabic and Urdu were engaged to give him a good grounding in these languages, it is said.

Takes to poetry

In his later years he took to writing poetry and requisitioned the services of noted poet, Daag Dehlvi, to correct his verses.

Once when the ‘darbar’ was in full attendance, he suddenly recited a ‘misra’ – Sharab seeqh pe dali kabab sheeshe mein (I threw wine on the skewer and meat in the bottle).

This obviously didn’t make sense. As everyone looked bewildered, the Nizam asked his courtiers to provide the second verse in a meaningful way. Ultimately, it was his ustad, Daag, who rose to the challenge. He came up with a matching verse thus:

Kisi ke aate hi saaqi ke hosh aise ude (the arrival of someone so befuddled the cup-bearer)

A man of letters, Mahboob Ali Pasha had high regard for poets. He paid special attention to education and opened several schools, including the Madrasa-e-Aliya and Mahboobia Girls School.

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