The Last Nizam, who travelled continents, died away from 'home'

The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | 17-01-2023 | 02:45 pm

The Last Nizam, who travelled continents, died away from 'home'

AS MIR Barkat Ali Khan Siddiqui Mukarram Jah is laid to rest next to his ancestors here on Wednesday, it marks the end of an era.And it wasn’t just because the death of Jah, the titular eighth Nizam of Hyderabad, marks the official end of the dynasty. It was also because how the characteristically peripatetic life of yet another erstwhile royal – in Jah’s case, the grandson of erstwhile Hyderabad State’s last Nizam, Osman Ali Khan — panned out, in pursuit of finding home from Australia to London, settling down in Turkey, and finally seeking to be buried here, where it all began.Meanwhile, the legacy of his family’s history remains intertwined with the region’s politics, now more than ever.Born on October 6, 1933, in Nice, France, Mukarram Jah bore lineage of two prominent families – if father Azam Jah was the son of the Nizam of Hyderabad, his mother Durru Shehvar was the daughter of the last Caliph of the Ottoman dynasty.In April 1967, Mukarram Jah was considered the richest heir of the richest erstwhile princely state in India, with assets running into at least $1 billion at the time, despite the royal properties being caught up in multiple court disputes.Then came prime minister Indira Gandhi’s order discontinuing the privy purses of erstwhile princes in December 1970, breaking a promise given at the time the princely states agreed to merge into India.Jah, considered a friend of former PM Jawaharlal Nehru, decided to “retire”, away from the remnants of princely responsibilities, the “sycophancy” and, as per those who knew him, from people in general. His family already lived in London and he started spending more and more time there, occupying his hours with fixing old cars and machinery.Jah kept his ties with Hyderabad alive though, and in December 1971, set up the Mukarram Jah Trust for Education and Learning through which he funded several academic institutes. According to former minister & ex-Leader of the Opposition in the Telangana Legislative Council, Mohammed Ali Shabbir, the Trust has made a significant contribution to promoting education in Hyderabad, especially in the field of medicine.“He will be remembered not only as the titular Nizam of Hyderabad but as an individual who always cared about the people from his homeland,” Ali says.The Congress leader recalls how in 1989 when he, as a minister in the then united Andhra Pradesh, invited Jah to visit Hyderabad, he willingly accepted it. “Mukarram Jah visited Hyderabad after a very long time, and though he didn’t agree to our request to move permanently back, he increased his visits to the city.”Author and journalist John Zubrzycki writes in his book The Last Nizam about how another event would mark a turn in Jah’s life. In early 1972, he was visiting Australia to meet an old friend when he came across the Murchison House Station, a half-a-million-acre expanse of sheep and cattle in the wilderness, about 500 km from Perth. A few months later, Jah was back, having bought the sheep station.His wife Esra Birgin could not take to living in Australia and returned to London, but while Jah persisted, Zubrzycki writes he had little interest in running the cattle station as much as in tinkering with the huge earth-moving equipment and industrial machinery which he purchased at auctions, including a 75-tonne bulldozer which was said by some to be the world’s largest at that time.Jah would acquire other posessions in Australia, including a gold mine, a mansion in West Perth, a luxury yacht, and more bulldozers and cars. Each of those business ventures marked significant losses, with Jah losing millions of dollars, according to a cousin, Nawab Najaf Ali Khan.The Nawab says he would rather remember other, pleasant memories. “Like when my late father, Prince Hashim Jah Bahadur, invited him for an event in 1968. As per the Asaf Jahi tradition, I presented nazar to him.”In 1979, with Birgin filing for divorce, Jah met and married Helen Simmons. By 1997, heavily in debt, Jah left Australia for good and settled down in Turkey.In 1992, he married former Miss Turkey Manolya Onur but divorced her too in 1997. He later married Jameela Boularous.Jah had seven children, some of whom are expected to accompany his body for the funeral to Hyderabad. As per most accounts, little of his fabled wealth remains.

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Schools’ assn alleges extortion bid by education officers in Maharashtra