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The enigma that was Mir Osman Ali Khan

J.S. Ifthekhar

Last Asaf Jahi ruler considered architect of modern Hyderabad The last Asaf Jahi ruler is best remembered as the architect of modern Hyderabad



Mir Osman Ali Khan

Hyderabad: It was one of those chilly winter nights. Mir Osman Ali Khan, the seventh Nizam, feels like acquiring a new blanket and calls his ADC and orders him to buy a blanket. But there is a rider - the price should not exceed Rs. 25. The ADC goes around the bazaar and comes back crestfallen. The minimum price of a blanket is Rs. 35. When the Nizam learns this he decides to make do with the old blanket.

A few hours later, he gets a request from the Maharaja of Bikaner for a donation for the Benaras Hindu University. Without thinking twice he orders the sanction of Rs. 1 lakh! Sounds incredible. But that was the last Nizam for you. He would use the 185-carat Jacob diamond as a paperweight and at the same time settle for a simple sherwani and pyjama for a dress. Stories of his frugal habits are dime a dozen.

Defies definition

Once he contributed gold coins worth crores of rupees to the National Defence Fund of the Government of India. When the trunks containing the coins were being loaded into vans, the Nizam told the officer in his characteristic style. "I am donating the coins not the trunk. See that they are returned."

Call him tight-fisted or open-handed, Osman Ali Khan defies definition. The last of the Asaf Jahi rulers, whose 124th birth anniversary is being observed today, he is best remembered as the architect of modern Hyderabad. His vision in developing a planned city couldn't be glossed over. The flash floods of 2000 submerged several posh localities in the new city while life in the old city went on unhindered. Old-timers recall how Hyderabad was one of the best-administered States under the Nizam. His 37-year rule saw the expansion of roadways, railways and postal services. Industries like the Shahbad cement factory and Nizam Sugar Factory were set up. The façade of Patharghatti underwent a change.

All the important buildings one can think of today were the result of his enlightened policies. The High Court, Assembly Hall, Osmania General Hospital, Nizamia Unani Hospital, Nampally railway station, Jubilee Hall, Osmansagar and Himayatsagar - the list is endless.

Biggest contribution

Osmania University remains the Nizam's biggest contribution to education. Another noteworthy aspect of his rule was communal harmony. After his death in 1967, his grandson, Mukkaram Jah Bahadur, was asked whether he planned to raise a monument for his grandfather. Pat came the reply: "Go around Hyderabad and you will find so many of them."

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