Wednesday, July 1, 1998

A Laughing Legend

Legends & Anecdotes of Hyderabad : 36

A Laughing Legend
by Narendra Luther

Today Hyderabad is known as the Humour capital of India. Every year a largely attended function is held in the city and writers, poets and narrators of jokes comes from all over the country and even from abroad to attend that. It is therefore appropriate to recall the legend of Jamaluddin. He was a great wit who not only made jokes, but whose name also generated many jokes even after his death.

He was born in 1881 in Chennai into a family related to Tippu Sultan. He came to Hyderabad as a student, became a ward of Sarojini Naidu’s father and studied up to matriculation.

Jamaluddin married Ghousia Begum, a sister of Nawab Kazim Yar Jung who was a favourite of Nizam VII and his minister-in-waiting for many years. Ghousia Begum, a remarkable woman became one of the first women graduates of the state. She took keen interest in education and was one of the persons responsible for the introduction of the Montessori system of education for children in the State. For that she underwent training in England.

Due to his relationship with Nawab Kazim Yar Jung, Jamaluddin also came close to the Nizam. He was appointed to the Horticulture Department and became superintendent of the Public Gardens.

After training in gardening in Japan, Jamaluddin prepared a project for setting up a Chinese Section in the Public Garden. He promised to Nizam VII that it would cost Rs.1 lakh and take a year to complete. Exactly after a year, the Nizam came to inspect the progress. The garden was far from ready and so Jamaluddin hurriedly put some plants to give it the semblance of a garden. The Nizam pulled him up for not sticking to his commitment. Jamaluddin replied : “Exalted Highness, it is all ready except for one thing. Only volcanoes have to be imported from Japan!” The Nizam smiled and went away. Nobody else could ever fob off the Nizam like that.

Later, the Chinese Section became the best part of the Public Garden. During the period of the late N.T.R. as chief minister, this garden was turned into an open-air theatre. Part of it is now occupied by the Telugu University.

Jamaluddin’s sense of humour brought him close to many high personages including the Prince of Berar and the Junior Prince. The Prince of Berar and the Junior Prince had their own set of courtiers and nobody could be a member of both. Jamaluddin was the only exception. He dined with the Junior Prince and the Prince of Berar often dropped in the Public Gardens during his riding to have a chat or even a cup of tea with him.

Jamaluddin built a house for himself in the Red Hills in 1940 and called it the ‘Fern Villa’. It had a hall built and decorated in the Japanese style.

After his death in 1942, Jamaluddin’s son decided to sell some unserviceable articles and so he issued an ad in the papers. That came to the notice of the Nizam. One day he descended at ‘Fern Villa’ along with Nawab Zain Yar Jung who was an architect and also his minister for public works. He asked Zain Yar Jung to estimate the value of the property. Zain Yar Jung was still making mental calculations, when the Nizam burst out and asked him why he was taking so much time ? The hustled Nawab gave an estimate of Rs.2 lakhs. The Nizam decided that he would give Rs.1 lakh for the house - inclusive of everything that it contained. The Nizam gave it to his second son, Prince Maozzam Jah who stayed in it for 20 years after the police Action. Now his widow, Anwari Begum and son Shahamat Jah stay there.

Because of his unrestrained wit, many jokes came to be attributed to him - some real and some apocryphal.

A favourite was that Jamaluddin used to wear his head dress with the front facing back wards. When someone asked him why, he replied : “Suppose the Nizam suddenly comes from behind.”

Once the driver of his car asked for a screwdriver. He asked him when a driver was there what was the need for a screwdriver !

Once his servant was trying to fix a nail on the wall. Jamaluddin noticed that the head of the nail was towards the wall while the pointed end was facing the hammer. He pulled up the servant and told him that the nail in his hand was the wrong one. It was meant for the opposite wall !

While on a drive, his driver suddenly applied brakes to the car. He asked the driver what the matter was. The driver said that he had noticed a pit on the road in front of him. “Then why didn’t you blow the horn ?” asked Jamaluddin angrily.

Jamaluddin is mentioned by Siddiq Jaisi, the Urdu poet in his book on the nocturnal court of the Junior Prince. K.P.S. Menon, the famous Indian diplomat in his autobiography : ‘Many Worlds Revisited’ narrates the incident of Jamaluddin’s opposition to the suggestion of sending his daughter for higher education to Delhi. He said that it was not safe to send young girls to such far-away places alone. ‘She might get involved with somebody there’. However, he was prevailed upon to let her go. After sometime his daughter wrote to him saying how much she liked the college and that she had picked up a number of friends. She added that she had become very fond of Ping-Pong. On reading this letter, Jamaluddin’s face became red and he said : “I warned you. Look. Now she has got involved with a Chinese”.

When he died in 1942, the Nizam himself composed his epitaph which also yielded the date of his death.

Over the years, as often happens, so many jokes got pasted on to him and he became known more for his wit than for his profession. Now his name is part of the legends of Hyderabad.

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