About the Book
Hyderabadis fondly remember the reign of Mahbub Ali Pasha as a golden age in the history of their city. Mahbub, beloved of his people, who ruled Hyderabad at the turn of the nineteenth century, became a legend in his lifetime for his generosity and benevolent concern for his subjects.
Weaving together memories, stories and anecdotes, historical facts and archival source material, The Days of the Beloved paints a loving picture of life at various levels in this elegant city, and of Mahbub Ali Pasha himself, who like a fairy-tale prince, mixed with the common people, sharing their joys and sorrows. This book will be of interest to general readers, dedicated researchers and scholars of Hyderabad, including journalists and historians.
About the Author
Harriet Ronken Lynton lived in Hyderabad for six years in the 1960s and has visited nearly every year since. A former member of the faculty of the Harvard Business School, she is the author of several books and case books on organizational behavior. She lives in North Carolina, USA.
Mohini Rajan belonged to a Hyderabadi family, granddaughter of the man who was kotwal to Osman Ali Khan Nizam VII, she was familiar with many of the familities who appear in this book and interviewed their surving members. Mrs. Rajan passed away in 1975.
"Facts are the enemy of truth," says the Man of La Mancha. In that sense the understanding most Americans have of things Indian is distorted. Isolated pieces of information may be correct, but their interpretation is often misleading because it is drawn from too narrow a context or because it has missed the particular flavor of India. Not for lack of interest or intelligence, Americans and Asians, despite all the news coverage in recent years, art really strangers. Historical perspective is absent. The history of India is long, complicated, and as full of confusing names as a Russian novel; only those who have some acquaintance with the culture can make much of it.
Out of an urge to know India better, the idea for this book was born. It attempts to make personal one small slice of the Indian past to bring it alive, to populate it with individuals who ate, slept, made love, pursued their will-o-the-wisps, did their duty as they saw it, kept up with fashion and ran into debt in doing so, even as you and I. But they did these things in a way of life so different from ours as to seem straight out of the Arabian Nights. That way of life is now gone, swept out by the political and social changes of this century which laid the foundation for the democratic society that now exists in India.
Hyderabad moved from a feudal to an industrialized society within the span of one generation, many of whom are alive today. From a personal administration to the impersonal rule of law, from a monarchy to a republic, from an agricultural to an industrial economy, from people-helpers to mechanical helpers-such moves are generally considered signs of progress. Whether liking the changes or not, people are having to accommodate themselves to a quite altered way of life. To see how they are managing, the book concludes with a brief look at the present. We hope in this process to get some impression of what the changes have cost and what got lost along the way that could still be useful.
To knit together the raveled and disjoined pieces of a society is a good thing. When one is young and groping for an identity, the central question is "Who am I? What may I become?" As one grows older, the focus shifts to "Who were we? What did we come from?" A society as well as an individual may draw strength from knowing that others in the historical lineage have had similar problems and have coped.
In choosing which small slice of the past to look at, Hyderabad suited our purpose admirably as a culture recognizably Indian in all its significant essentials. Yet far from being just any small slice, it is a distinctive one. The North and South, the East and West arc sections of India with their own distinguishing characteristics; Hyderabad is at the crossroads of them all. The sixth city in the country, it is one of the two major ones (Lucknow being the other) in which Muslim and Hindu cultures have profoundly influenced one another, giving the lie to the often-repeated assertion of a traditional enmity between the peoples of the two religions. It is a city in which many cultural strains are intermingled: Persian and northern Islamic, with the Hindu culture of the South, itself a blend of Maratha, Telegu, and Tamil influences, and last of all a little of the Western world. Through all the changes of wars and social upheaval, Hyderabad's continuity has remained solid and is, if anything, more disturbed now by modern industrialization and the political shuffling following independence than it was by events of the intervening centuries.
Mahbub Ali Pasha, whose reign spanned the turn of the century, was the last ruler of Hyderabad to live in the style that the West is pleased to think of as "Oriental Potentate," wielding a power that acknowledged no democratic limitations. The social organization was still feudal, but not in any sense primitive. It was highly cultivated, with a grace of manner and, above all, a tolerance and mutual respect between components which could speak to our generation if we would listen.
The days of the beloved is neither traditional history nor traditional biography. It is a book about people: it attempts to re-create the atmosphere of the days of Mahbub Ali Pasha by depicting the lives arid manners of a cross section of the people of Hyderabad. Individuals have been chosen for this as representatives of their class or rank. That the very poorest are omitted is not to suggest that they did not exist. Rather, as was common in the nineteenth century, they were not particularly influential in determining the tone of the society. Moreover, although their lives have probably changed less than those of any of the levels of society at which we have looked, it is now almost impossible to get first-hand information on them pertaining to the years around 1900. As usual, extreme poverty was not productive of either longevity or legends.
This book has been written by two persons: one an American for whom Hyderabad is a second home, the other an Indian whose heritage is the culture written about. Apart from a certain amount of necessary background reading, it is by and large oral history, based on conversations with all the traceable eighty- and ninety-year-olds in the city and many sixty- and seventy-year-olds who remember their earliest childhood and the stories their parents told and retold them as children.
What the book relates is true, not in the sense of scientific accuracy but in the sense that people today do believe that things happened in the way told here. For the most part, we also believe; where memory has re-formed history, it has surely done so in the direction of the heart's desire. If the 'memories are not completely accurate as to "the facts," then they tell us all the more clearly about the things that people valued in a society which is now gone. Our method in approaching this work has been shaped by that understanding, together with our consciousness that the memories of a generation that knew the days of Mahbub Ali Pasha at first or even at second hand are a treasure which is rapidly being eroded by time.
Gossip, of course, can also survive in people's memories. Over a few questions we had a difficult task to sift reports that had a basis in fact from those that seemed to be only unsubstantiated hearsay. Occasionally this process involved giving up tantalizing leads, for laws pertaining to libel in India protect the dead as well as the living, and with the type of material dealt with here, the odds are heavily against finding hard evidence so many years after an event. For some readers this cautiousness may leave an impression of partiality, but that at least is closer to our design than the opposite position: we are not out to write a sensational expose but to capture the spirit of an era.
In a different attempt to capture the original spirit, we owe . apologies to the lat~ Maharajah Kishen Pershad and to his fellow poet, Fani, for the liberties we have taken in translating their work. To people who know only the literal rendition of the words, Persian poetry sounds either platitudinous or nonsensical. Rather than this, we risked having it sound like the insides of greeting cards in order at least to be suggestive of the poet's philosophy or sentiment. .To give them their due, what we have translated is considered skillful poetry in the original language.
In the matter of spellings, a considerable latitude has been exercised. Because translation from Indian languages involves transliteration, the same word may appear in a variety of English spellings. In the case of proper names we have followed the spelling favored by the individuals to whom they belonged. Thus Maharajah Kishen Pershad spelled his title with a final h, whereas the Raja of Wanaparthy did not. In common usage are four different spellings for Husain, a name which is about as popular among Muslims as Joseph among Christians. For words other than names we have consulted three guides: dictionaries, which sometimes vary from one another; the form that sounded to our ears phonetically the most accurate; and general usage in Hyderabad. In the end, one simply makes 'a choice.
The people who so generously shared their memories with us, or who led us to others who could, prefer-to remain anonymous. Those whom we can acknowledge publicly are Nawab Ghazi Jung Bahadur, who died in September, 1971, at the age of ninety-four, and Roy Mahboob Narayan of the Guna Bharat Vardhak Library in Hyderabad, without whose unstinting help much of our task would have been more difficult. To them and to all the others we owe a debt of gratitude, not only for helping us with this book but, in the process, for broadening our understanding and increasing our knowledge of the city which they and we love.
All data from the British point of view are from the India Office Records, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 197 Black- friars Road, London SE I. To that staff we express our gratitude for their numerous trips up and down to search out records and their patient explanations of the complex systems for retrieving the data.
Of non-Hyderabadis who have given generously of their time to read and criticize the manuscript, mention must be made of James M. Bray, in Hyderabad, and Robert G. Kirkpatrick, Jr., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Rolf Lynton's guidance has been invaluable in establishing priorities and in sustaining our focus, partly through his ability consistently to cut through to what is significant. Isabel Kingsley Arms, by her painstaking comments on each chapter, has greatly increased the readability. To Daphne Reddy, who cheerfully took on the job of typing interview notes and manuscript that often resembled squirrel tracks, our special thanks.
Finally, we salute our spouses and children-husband Rolf and children Maya, Nandani, and Devadas in Chapel Hill; and husband Rajan and son Mohan in Hyderabad-for their qualities of perceptivity, enthusiasm, and endurance, which allowed us to indulge our passion for this work. In a very real sense they have been partners in this enterprise. Now that it is completed, we hope they will also share our sense of satisfaction at having at- tempted it. To them we say now, Salaam Aleikum, Peace be with You!
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