Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Feb. 22, 1937 Time Magazine Cover Story, The Richest Man in the World, His Exalted Highness Sir Mir Osman Ali Khan, the Nizam of Hyderabad & Berar

"The Richest Man in the World," Lieut. General His Exalted Highness Sir Mir Osman Ali Khan, the Nizam of Hyderabad & Berar. Feb. 22, 1937, Time Magazine, Cover Story

India has no native state so rich, potent and extensive as Hyderabad which is about the size of the United Kingdom and there last week the Royal Family of the Asatia Dynasty celebrated the Silver Jubilee of "The Richest Man in the World," Lieut. General His Exalted Highness Sir Mir Osman Ali Khan, the Nizam of Hyderabad & Berar.

Because the scheduled Coronation Durbar next winter of British King & Emperor George VI has had to be canceled by His Majesty (TIME, Feb. 15), there is no immediate prospect for the world to see such another Indian spectacle of pomp and power as that of the Jubilee Durbar which began in Hyderabad with warlike display of 10,000 Hyderabad troops last week and will close Feb. 26 when the Nizam prays in the public gardens of the Great Mosque, entertains the eminent Indian theologians of his Dominions, and throws open the characteristic and important Hyderabad Departmental Progress Exposition.

Some Indian sovereigns are lecherous, champagne-quaffing wastrels with a taste for French women and English horses which they spectacularly gratify from Monte Carlo to Epsom Downs and Hollywood, but decidedly the Nizam is different, and by an honored Hyderabad tradition no Nizam has ever left India no matter how good a reason might exist for doing so. Ever since Hyderabad stood aloof from the great Indian Mutiny of 1857, its Royal Family have been accorded by British Royalty special honors and the Nizam now has the official status of "Faithful Ally." This gracefully implies that his exalted highness is not so much the inferior as the colleague of His Majesty the Emperor of India — and, during the World War, the dry, grave "Richest Man in the World" contributed to Britain some $100,000,000 cash plus untold supplies and Hyderabad army units.

Safety First is the policy of the Richest Man, and in Hyderabad this continued to mean last week the flourishing reign of probably the ablest native government in India, with its key statesman Finance Minister the Nawab Sir Akbar Nazarally Hydari. During the cycle of Depression his famed "Three-Year Budgets'' have always balanced with a surplus and Hyderabad taxes have not been raised. Sir Akbar's system is to have an annual accounting of each Government Department provisionally, but to carry forward to a so-called "Grand Accounting" only every three years. He will close the books of Hyderabad's present financial triennium Oct. 5, 1937, including such comparatively recent items as $65,000 to the Memorial Fund for King George V, $25.000 for Hyderabad broadcasting equipment, $12,000 to victims of the Quetta earthquake and an additional $9,000 to the academy named after Indian Poet Sir Rabindranath Tagore. Because his exalted Highness the Nizam is a Mohammedan (a descendant of the last Mogul Viceroy), while about 90% of his 15,000,000 subjects are Hindus, it was discreet in 1902 to appoint a Hindu Prime Minister, the Maharaja Sir Kishen Pershad Bahadur who was still nourishing last week. Living nowadays in semiretirement, Hindu Sir Kishen leaves the business of running Hyderabad largely to Mohammedan Sir Akbar Hydari, several of whose adroit coups have jolted Islam as well as the British Raj.

Holy Coup, Most news stories hung on the Richest Man are chiefly chatter about how careful His Exalted Highness is with his pennies — whereas $5,000 is his approximate daily income, his jewels have an estimated value of $150,000,000, he reputedly has salted down $250,000,000 in gold bars and his capital totals some $1,400,000,000, not to mention the fabled "Mines of Golconda." In English poesy, these disgorge a never-ending stream of diamonds. They lie immediately west of the city of Hyderabad, India's fourth largest metropolis (pop. 400,000). frowned upon by the beet-domed tombs of the Royal Family (see cut, p. 22) about five miles out in the suburbs. Poesy aside, the Mines of Golconda have yielded diamonds in only trifling quantity and were exhausted long ago. What fooled early English travelers was the fact that Golconda was long one of India's chief centres of diamond cutting, strongly fortified to protect these precious stones: "The Riches of Golconda."

The Nizam of Hyderabad is supposed to have once refused to pay 6¢ for a dab of ice cream, rebuking the vendor for asking this "high price." In Sunday supplements he is said to have his worn clothing cut down to fit the next smaller member of the Royal Family, and so on. In fact the World's Richest Man is just about as tight & loose with his money as the poorer John D. Rockefellers. One of his old Hyderabad customs is never to receive one of his subjects, no matter how poor, unless the subject brings a cash present for His Exalted Highness.

To the Richest Man more money, gold or jewels would have no overwhelming appeal, but as a Mohammedan he could aspire to mix the blood of his descendants with that of descendants of the True Prophet and in 1931 a coup of this holy character was brought off by Sir Akbar Hydari.

Up to the fall of the Turkish Empire its ruler was both Sultan and Caliph or "pope" of Islam. On the French Riviera, thoroughly deposed so far as Turkey was concerned, lived and still lives "His Imperial Majesty the Caliph Abdul Medjid II" and a ripe 17 was his beauteous daughter Princess Dur-e-Shawar in 1931. Beauteous too was his niece the Sultana Nilofar Hanim, great-granddaughter of Turkish Sultan Murad V. Best of all, the Caliph had no son and his hoary beard was that of a Patriarch unlikely to become again a father. At the death of this pope of Islam, therefore, pious believers would look upon the offspring of his daughter perhaps not as an orthodox and regular Caliph but certainly with utmost reverence in the absence of any other Caliph. Obviously the two pretty girls were a prime match for the two sons of the Nizam of Hyderabad and off these princes—Azam Jah and Moazam Jah—were packed to Europe—the first royal Hyderabad males ever to marry outside India (see cut, p. 20).

Nowadays there is always plenty of money for His Imperial Majesty the Caliph Abdul Medjid II and almost any sunny day he may be seen strolling with a mien of great dignity along the beach near Nice, attired in swimming trunks only and carrying a large parasol. "I live apart from worldly vanities here in Nice," recently observed the Caliph, whose favorite reading is Anatole France. "I read, I play the piano, I paint. Nice is perhaps the only foreign city which is popular with the Turkish people. You will recall that in the 16th-Century Wars against Charles V of Spain, the people of Nice witnessed the imposing spectacle of 150 Turkish ships of war sailing to the aid of 40 galleys of the French King François 1er"
Two years after the Crown Princess of Hyderabad's marriage, she returned to Nice to give birth to her chubby son the Nawab Mukaramja (see cut, p. 22) in the holy presence of the Caliph her father. Now back in Hyderabad, she has devoted herself to Indian female uplift movements and this week the Crown Princess marshaled the Hyderabad Girl Guides in the Jubilee Durbar. Unlike their husbands, who follow their father's example in dress, the Caliph's girls dress as Indian ladies do (see cut above).

26-Year-Old Rolls. Attempts by correspondents to get advance stories on the Nizam's Jubilee drove them frantic as His Exalted Highness kept paring down his Durbar budget. Elephants cost a good deal more as a means of royal transportation than Rolls-Royce cars and while a lesser Indian potentate simply must ride out with elephants galore, one elephant has always seemed enough to the Nizam. (see cut below). Of late he has given careful thought to whether the World's Richest Man need ride an elephant at all. Suddenly last week the Hyderabad State Railway Shops received rush orders to spend not a penny more than $500 putting streamlined fenders on a Rolls-Royce which gives only eight miles to the gallon and so has been run but 300 miles by His Exalted Highness during its career of 26 years in Hyderabad. While putting on the streamlined fenders, Hyderabad artisans were instructed to build the centre of the body up much higher last week into a sort of throne topped by a gilt dome. In this way the Rolls was made practically as good for a parade as an elephant & howdah.

Up to the last few days before the Jubilee, citizens of Hyderabad had obeyed the Nizam's injunction not to waste money on decorations, but at the last minute strings of electric lights were invested in by many householders. Taxi drivers contributed to the excitement by going on strike. In the crush of arriving guests were the Empire's No. 1 Mixed Couple: creamy onetime Mrs. Thomas Loel Guinness, formerly of the "British Beerage" and her present burnt-almond husband, the Prince Aly Shah Khan, son & heir of the famed Aga Khan.

With Hyderabad citizens kneeling at the roadsides in prayer this week the Jubilee began with the 26-year-old Rolls-Royce followed by two 30-year-old Rolls-Royces gliding through the streets escorted by four regiments of infantry, a detachment of native cavalry gaily caparisoned, two batteries of artillery, a regiment of Arabs and the personal bodyguard of His Exalted Highness who employs for this purpose Sidis from Africa. Instead of cheering the populace prayed and the Nizam of Hyderabad on his Rolls Throne wore not a single ornament or diadem and was not in uniform. As on other days (see cut, p. 20) His Exalted Highness wore an ordinary suit and simple turban.

On the Mohammedan theory that "all are equal before Allah in prayer," the World's Richest Man prostrated himself with his subjects at the Great Mosque and everyone prayed. Poems were recited and the venerable Hindu Premier read an address hailing his Mohammedan Monarch as "today the sole relic of Mogul greatness in India."

Uncorked amid huzzahs was an appointment signed by His Majesty Edward VIII, and saved up for last week's Jubilee Durbar, creating Hyderabad's Crown Prince Azam Jah additionally Prince of Berar. Thus officially ended was the long dispute over Berar which was almost taken away from Hyderabad by domineering Viceroy Lord Curzon. Berar is about the size of Switzerland, immensely valuable because its peculiar soil produces the finest cotton which can be grown in India.

The State of Hyderabad, "Heart of the Indian Peninsula," occupies the centre of the continental lobe. Unusually fertile and desert free, it is dotted with artificial lakes and storage reservoirs, has no sea-coast—a grave disadvantage—but is well watered by a system of rivers on which float many a quaint coracle. The district drains eastward into the Bay of Bengal.

The Residency. No royal and ruling Indian, not even His Exalted Highness, ever escapes a British Residency, an outpost of London which makes him feel the more or less iron hand of Britain in a less or more velvet glove. In his early days as Hyderabad's ruler the present Nizam dismissed the Diwan or acting cabinet and directed affairs as his own Prime Minister for some years with such vigor that "The Residency" was often rumored pressing for his abdication. Came the War. The Nizam's $100,000,000 gift to Britain squared many things, and Sir Akbar Hydari now manages to square the rest. However, the Richest Man considered his Royal Family not too exalted last week to accept the hospitality of British Duncan George Mackenzie, in the white-columned palace of the Raj (see cut, col. 1).

Constitutional Crisis. Today Indians, royal and otherwise, are just beginning under a new Constitution (TIME, Jan. 11 et ante} to edge up to the head of India's table for the first time since the Empire was set up. Among ways of wrecking this Constitution would be for the ruling Indian potentates to refuse to sign the Act of Accession intended to bring their States into the new All-India Federation. Last year the Maharaja of Patiala, longtime chairman of the Chamber of Princes, re-signed rather than continue his role of being more or less Britain's whip over his fellow Princes. In the secrecy of their courts and councils last week India's ruling Princes tensely and suspiciously watched the Indian elections. Strongest figure on the princely stage was the Nizam of Hyderabad's trusty Sir Akbar Hydari, firm demanding of the British Raj virtual amendment of the new Constitution by insertion in the Act of Accession, presenting for the signature of His Exalted Highness and other native rulers, such ultrasafe clauses as: "Nothing in this instrument affects the continuance of my Sovereignty in and over this State."

In Hyderabad the native government is real, it is earnest, and the life of His Exalted Highness is much involved with projects of irrigation, soil conservation, the anxieties of how much in the way cotton piece goods is imported from Japan rather than England, modernization of the Hyderabad State Railways and the still somewhat novel issues raised by electricity. The words on a modernistic building of which Hyderabad is proud are not in native characters but read "POWER STATION" (see cut, above), and the Nizam has promised communal radio sets to every town and village.

The cash Silver Jubilee gifts to the Nizam of Hyderabad, by his subjects were expected this week to total at least $1,000,000.

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