Sunday, September 1, 1996

Some Eccentric Orders

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad – 17

Some Eccentric Orders
by Narendra Luther

Governments all over the world are sometimes found in awkward situations for issuing eccentric or amusing orders. Sometimes what appears to be absolutely normal in one age , may look amusing or eccentric to succeeding generations. In the feudal order there were many practices which in the democratic and constitutional setup of today may seem rather amusing.

We have seen how Dagh was appointed as the poetic preceptor of the sixth Nizam. Given below are some of other orders in the last and early part of this century which may appear to the reader of today as odd eccentric and amusing.

Punishment of an Apprentice :

In the 19th century there was a custom that many persons used to enroll themselves as `candidates' for jobs in government. These `candidates' were not paid any salary till a regular vacancy arose to which they could be appointed. But they did all the work assigned to them. Once such a candidate wrote a note on a file which turned out to be misleading. Salar Jung I ordered on the file that the author of the note should be fined 10 rupees. It was submitted to him that since the `candidate' did get any salary, he could not be fined.

Thereupon Salar Jung ordered that he should be appointed to some post with salary and the fine of ten rupees be deducted from his first salary.

Enhanced Pension by Mistake:

The Sixth Nizam, Mehboob Ali Khan was a very generous ruler. Once his personal attendant requested for superannuation on account of old age and ill-health. While granting the request, the Nizam ordered that he be paid a pension of eight rupees per month for life. In the draft order, due to a mistake, instead of 8, the figure of 80 came to be written. When the Nizam was about to put his signature to the order, the clerk detected the mistake, apologised, and came forward to correct the figure. The Nizam stopped him and observed : "If it was ordained that he would get this fortuitous benefit, how can you or I prevent it ?" He then signed the order and the lucky attendant enjoyed the bounty till the end of his life.

Special Allowance for Beard :

Rehman Khan was a Risaldar Major in the Third Lancers of the Hyderabad Army and worked in the private secretariat of Nawab Afsar Jung, Commander-in-Chief under the Sixth Nizam. He used to accompany Afsar Jung to the Purani Haveli which was the residence of the Sixth Nizam. Once he was riding a horse at great speed within the premises of the palace. He sported a thick long beard which swayed in the air because of the speed at which the horse was galloping. The Nizam watched this spectacle and was very impressed by the flowing beard.

He ordered a special allowance of ten rupees a month for its maintenance. Rehman Khan received this allowance along with his pension till his death.

When The Police Commissioner Was Fined :

Nawab Shahab Jung was the minister for police under the Sixth Nizam. Once due to some reason, he was cross with the commissioner of city police, Akbar Jung. He imposed a fine of one rupee on him. Akbar Jung was naturally very upset at this humiliation. He appealed to the Nizam against the punishment. When Shahab Jung went to pay his respects to the Nizam the nest day, the latter told him that the commissioner was his trusty and a well-wisher. "You have imposed a fine of one rupee on such a person !" Shahab Jung apologised and said that he would reconsider the matter. On return to the office he recalled the file and minuted on it : "Half the fine remitted. Let him pay only half-a-rupee".

And the highest police officer of the city getting a salary of two thousand rupees a month had to pay that fine.

Princesses Barred from the Mosque :

The Seventh Nizam always took two or three of his daughters along with him wherever he went. They accompanied him even to his favourite mosque the Moti Masjid in the Public Gardens for his Friday prayers. The princesses used to sit quietly in the front row till the end of the namaz. Once the Nizam went to the Mecca Masjid. As usual, the princesses also were with him. The famous preacher of Pakistani Punjab, Jamat Ali Shah was present in the mosque. As soon as he saw the Nizam with the princesses he exclaimed agitatedly in Persian : "Kufr az Kaaba bar khezad, kuja manad Musalmani" meaning that if paganism sprang from Ka'aba, what would happen to Islam ? The implication was that the entry of women in mosques without veil being impermissible in Islam, of all the people, Nizam should not commit that infraction. The Nizam on hearing this, turned to his daughters and whispered to them, "Go back. Go and sit in the car and wait".

Transfer of "Sawab" :
Like most nobles Maharaja Kishen Pershad was a great spend thrift. He spent quite a good deal of his income on charity. Consequently he ran into debts and his creditors started pestering him. Thereupon he petitioned to the Nizam for a loan of 200,000 rupees. The Nizam knew the reason for Kishen Pershad's indebtedness. He told him that he would give him the loan on one condition. He would have to give him a promissory note transferring the sawab, for his charity (that is, the reward in the next world for good deeds done in this world) to the Nizam. Maharaja Kishen Pershad signed the deed and thus was able to release himself from the clutches of his creditors.

There were many such instances which appear strange to us today. One day some of the perfectly reasonable orders of today will amuse our grand children.

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