Friday, March 1, 1996

Kirkpatrick and the Residency

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad - 12 :

Kirkpatrick and the Residency
by Narendra Luther

The first English Resident was appointed at Hyderabad in 1779. His name was Holland and he came as the envoy of the Government of the Madras Presidency. Due to some misunderstanding he was suspended by it. However, the Imperial Government at Calcutta nominated him as its representative at Hyderabad. Since then the Resident came to represent not the Governor of the Presidencies but the Governor-General at Calcutta.

James Kirkpatrick who succeeded his elder brother, William, was the sixth Resident and served for seven years at Hyderabad from 1798 to 1805.

Till then all the Residents had stayed in a garden-house of one of the Nizam's noblemen. Kirkpatrick himself also occupied the same house for some time, but, seeing the expanding and crucial role of the English agent at the court of the Nizam, he proposed to build an official residence for himself. He sounded out the diwan, Mir Alam, about the allotment of a suitable piece of land for the purpose. Mir Alam saw no objection in the proposal and asked the Resident to locate a piece and get a sketch-map of the site prepared so that the Nizam's approval could be obtained. Separately he secured Nizam's permission to the proposal in principle. However, when the sketch-plan wpresented to the Nizam, he took one look at it and threw it away in horror. Kirkpatrick was crestfallen. He asked Mir Alam the reason for this summary rejection. Mir Alam simply laughed. "Resident Bahadur", he chided the Englishman, "You made the plan on a paper so big that it seemed to equal the size of His Highness's dominions. How could he agree to part with that ?" Kirkpatrick, on hearing the reason, joined the diwan in laughter. Obviously, the Nizam was not aware of the principle of scale in drawing.

The Resident then reduced the scale and got the sketch-plan for an extent of 64 acres prepared on a piece of paper about the size of a visiting card. This time the Nizam readily agreed and Kirkpatrick then took up the project of building the Residency on the north side of the river Musi. The building constructed was so grand that on a visit to Hyderabad in 1817, Sir John Malcolm remarked that it was better than the Government House of Madras, and in splendour next only to the Governor-General's House in Calcutta.

The furniture for the Residency came from Carlton House in London. That was the residence of the Prince Regent and he wanted to dispose of his furniture. The directors of the East India Company required some political concession and so they purchased the old furniture at the price wanted by the Prince. Incidentally, the payment for the furniture was made by the Nizam who also maintained the Residency at his cost.

Kirkpatrick enjoyed his new abode. The Nizam granted him an Indian title - Hashmat Jung Bahadur - and it was only appropriate that he should adopt some of the ways enjoined by his new oriental knighthood. Accordingly, the young saheb acquired a mistress who stayed not far from the Residency.

Soon thereafter, Kirkpatrick married a Muslims girl called Khairnussina Begum who was distantly related to Mir Alam. The marriage was celebrated according to Islamic customs and Kirkpatrick wore the dress of a Muslim groom. However, Mir Alam needled by the diwan,Arastu Jah, complained to the Governor- General about the wedding and the embarrassment which it might cause to the Nizam's Government and the British and their mutual relationship. The Governor - General ordered an inquiry into the case but, thanks to the manipulation by Kirkpatrick, a favourable report was sent to the Governor - General. Kirkpatrick also had a letter sent by Khairnussa's mother to the Governor General testifying that the marriage was performed with her consent and blessing. The Nizam also issued a statement in favour of the Resident. The complaint was withdrawn and the complainant even apologized.

Khairunnisa gave birth to two lovely children - a boy, and a girl in the same order. In 1803 both were sent to England for education.The boy died there, but the girl Catherine grew up and married into a good English family. She became known for her beauty and wit and was the first sweet-heart of the great writer Carlyle, who immortalized her in Sartor Resartus as Blumhilde.

In 1805 Kirkpatrick was suddenly taken ill. He was advised a change of air and rest. He left for Calcutta for consultations with the Governor-General. When his boat reached Calcutta, his illness took a turn for the worse and he died when he was barely 41. His marriage had lasted only six years.

Thus passed into history another of those flamboyant characters, one of the early nabobs who strengthened the foundations of the British empire in India. In an age when the expectancy of life was short, men like him and Raymond who packed so much action into their brief life, died young.

Like Raymond, Kirkpatrick too is remembered by the people . His Residency now houses the University College for Women. Its ballroom is used for meetings of the general body of the students. On one of the walls of the building hang the pictures of his two children, William George and Catherine. Khairunissa's apartments - the Rang Mahal - have been altered and converted into laboratories for the physical sciences. The original area of 64 acres has now shrunk to 34 the remaining area having been made over to the Osmania Medical College for a hostel. Some area was given to the Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad in 1977 for widening the adjoining road. In the vast and expanding concrete jungle that most of the city is turning into, the Residency still stands as an oasis - a patch of green sprinkled with bevies of young ladies. Close by is the bazaar know after Kirkpatrick's Persian title - Hashmat Ganj. Few people know today that it was named after an Englishman.

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Kolakaluri SriKiran said...
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Kolakaluri SriKiran said...

Your article is informative.

I would like to suggest a small correction. Regarding Khairunnisa's son, you wrote " In 1803 both were sent to England for education.The boy died there, but the girl Catherine grew up and married into a good English family".

In fact the boy grew up , was married and has fathered 3 children and died at the age of 28 years.