Thursday, June 07, 2007

Book Review: The Last Nizam

Hyderabad as a city, and as an idea, has always inspired and interested me. So while casually roaming around at Walden, when I bumped onto The Last Nizam on display, I knew it would the next book I will complete.

Written by an Australian journalist, John Zubrzycki, the book speaks briefly about the first six, and in a little more detail about the seventh and eight (also the last) Nizam of the princely and feudal Hyderabad.

It took nine month and a handful of treachery for the mighty Aurangzeb to break through the supremely guarded Golconda, and ransack both the fort and the Kutub Shahi dynasty. And along with Aurangzeb, came to Deccan the forbearers of the Asaf Jahi dynasty.

Asaf Jah I, also known as the Nizam ul Mulk, would in the due course settle down confidently as the governor of Mughal ruled Deccan. The great Nizam dynasty of Hyderabad would start with him; he was the first Nizam.

In the course of seven generations, Hyderabad would grow into one of the richest states of the world. But interestingly, people would recognize its seventh ruler, Mir Osman Ali Khan, as the miserly King who although owned the most grandiose treasure of the world (“his pearls alone would fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool"), would smoke cheap Charminars, wear patched clothes, and would postpone buying a blanket for its cost won’t fit his budget!

Then one day, Operation Polo would happen and the feudal Hyderabad would become a part of democratic Republic of India, being led by an utter socialist Pt. Nehru. Osman Ali Khan would take this fact in his stride, and would start “expanding” his make-believe kingdom by adopting many of his subjects (mostly from his African Cavalry) as a family; these people still bank on the many Trusts the “Nizam Sarkar” created for their well being.

Osman Ali Khan nominated not his son, but grandson Mukarram Jah, to be the next (and last) titled Nizam of Hyderabad. However, as it would be revealed, Mukarram’s interest would lie elsewhere. Least interested in the affairs of Hyderabad and also slapped by a scurry of lawsuits filed by his extended family members for a share of the Nizam’s unlimited wealth, Mukarram found a welcome escape in the outback of Western Australia. Then onwards, he lived most his life here, which was dotted by episodes like his reckless passion for bulldozers and heavy machinery, his marriage and divorce to an Australian lady, Helen, who was infected by HIV virus by her bi-sexual boy friend, and the systematic collapse of all his business ventures. In brief, it was his enthusiastic but vain attempt of carving out his own flourishing kingdom in this part of the earth.

He attributes most of his financial losses to his over dependence on his set of managers and advisors, who all led to gross manipulation of jewelries and antiques he inherited. His financial health dwindled to such an extent that the Last Nizam had to simply leave Australia for Turkey, the country his mother hailed from.

You may like to read this book to know how the Last Nizam came down from numerable lavish palaces in Hyderabad to residing in a middle-class two bedroom apartment in costal Turkey. You may also like to read the book to know the glorious Hyderabad that once was, to know about the Nizams and their palaces; their wealth, wives, and concubines; about their escapades and their generosity, about the Jacob Diamond, and about the beautiful and confident Princess Durrushehvar; about the infamous extortions in the name of ‘nazar’ and about the fallen prince Azam Jah; about the alleged gross misappropriation of Mukarram’s assets by late Sadaruddin Zaveri…

Read about the rise and ultimately fall of the grandiose nation and notion of The Nizams.