Narendra Luther is a leading authority on Hyderabad. Having authored many books on the city and its various aspects like rocks etc. In this book, Legendotes of Hyderabad, he narrates Legends and Anecdotes of the city’s past. Most of which are related to the Sultans, Nizams and their ministers who ruled the region from the city. Stories range from the oldest residents of the region. It’s Rocks to foundation laying of the city of Hyderabad. To Nizam’s education, their obsessions and how people were expected to behave in their presence. If you do not know the city and its past very well, you would really enjoy it.
I always wondered how did the Nizam become the richest person on earth. And this book throws some light on it. It was all about collecting Nazar from anyone who had any money to offer to Nizam. He would send some small gift to people like few mangoes from his garden. And the person who receives them would have to appear before the Nizam next day. And offer him a generous price for the same. It was not a law but it was not a choice either. If the Nizam liked a palace or a big house he would take from the owner. Even if the original owner has tried to protect it by putting his initials all over the place – a case of King Kothi Palace.
An interesting anecdote of the Shikar or hunting expedition that Nizam went with a British visitor tells about the making of history. The British chronicles say that the British visitor was the master hunter while the Nizam could not hunt anything. And the Nizam’s Chronicles, of course, say the vice-versa. The truth may be a hidden hero who remains behind scenes to let these guys take the glory. There are many such interesting episodes surrounding always the people from the upper echelons of the society. Like Nizam’s fear of coming on radio or Nizam’s son sleeping while his father died and was laid to rest etc. Written more or less chronologically, the book stops just after the police action in 1948 that led to the merger of Hyderabad state with India.
I found some of the stories around police action interesting. Like those of Rajakars and personal interference of Jawahar Lal Nehru to ensure there are enough Muslims in the ranks in the state.
Pictures that are credited to Abhishek Patel, take this book Legendotes of Hyderabad, closer to being a coffee table book. Old pictures showing the old palaces and people take you back in time. And make it easier for you to visualize how the city looked then, how people dressed. Although we know that they made special preparation to be clicked in those days. The interiors of the palaces are a treat to look at. As we will never get to see them in that kind of glory again. I am curious to know how Abhishek Patel has access to these pictures that should ideally be in state archives, museum or gallery. But I assume they may be a part of his personal collection.
Hyderabadis, especially elite ones, are obsessed with the good old days of Nizams. And they love to talk about them all the time. Sometimes I wonder when would the city come out of the shadow. And start living the democracy that it had been for so many decades now. My big apprehension is that no one ever talks about a common man in the age of Nizams, almost as if they did not exist. MMaybethey did not exist as far as the elite are concerned. As they seem to be least bothered about them. All the whims and fancies of the Nizams and their premiers are also presented as great virtues, which show how much the thought process is still influenced by the aristocratic era.
I sincerely wish that someone started telling the stories of an ordinary Hyderabadi as well, as they also make the city what it is.
People of Hyderabad would love this book Legendotes of Hyderabad.