Dewan House – Down the memory lane — Ravish Bahadur (Tare Sahib)


Dewan House is much more than a house or kothi or a place of stay. It gave us an identity, a sense of belonging. Anybody who visited Dewan House or not but came in contact with it always stayed connected and remembered it only with sweet memoreries . Here I would like to repeat what Sneh Prabha (Anga) told me. Once an old couple came caling on Dewan House with their baggage and told her that he got married  during Dadda`a time at Dewan House and while on a All India excursion trip he chanced to read the name of Rampur from the train and then on spur of moment he decided to see Dewan House to re-live his important moments. He was some relatives` relative and his marriage was solemnized there. Anga also told me that once there was nobody in the house and she had to go out of Rampur and when she came out and wanted to lock the door, she found there was no latch provided to put the lock from outside and she had to lock from inside and come out through tenant`s house. So the people who built Dewan House never thought it will ever be without any inhabitant. Nobody has ever said that he was duped or short-changed there. It always gave something everybody, may be happiness only. In Dewan House in inner court(Angan, in the centre of which was a Tulsa tree for sandhya evening prayer) hordes of house sparrows used to fly from one end to another through the day and in the evening bats used to fly in the drawing room causin lot of excitement and enjoyment. At the far corner of the tin shed were parked two horse drawn carriages for use of Dewan Sahab and others.

Our grand father Dadda( Shri Raj bahadur) belonged to Bareilly and it is said that the present day Cantt. there was built the Land of his ancestors. After matriculation, he came to Rampur and worked as secretary to the then Chief Engineer, an Englishman, who was highly impressed with Dadda`s hardwork,honesty and dedication. The present day Rampur was built by him, including Qila, waterworks,powerhouse, roads, schools, important buildings etc. Nawab Hamid Ali Khan had high regard for the chief engineer and asked him to recommend somebody to manage the affairs of the state and the treasury, he recommended Dadda`a name. Nawab Sahab named him Dewan and his succcessors to succeed him after his death. This was the beginning of Dewan House. Robi Sahib has already written about its origin, so I would not like to repeat the same. In Dadda`a time Dewan House had reached it full glory and we all basked and prospered in its glory in years to come. Bareilly Kothi in Civil Lines was built fearing reprisals after the death of Nawab Hamid Ali Khan.

Rulers of Rampur were historically raiders and by late 1700BC established themselves, the entire region upto Bareilly is still known as Rohillas. They get a mention in Sanjay Khan`s serial The Great Maratha. It is said that they used to hide their booty in a temple in a village near Rampur for safe keeping and every Nawab after his coronation used to go there and place his crown at the feet of the Deity. The State of Rampur truly established and prospered during the time of Nawab Hamid Ali Khan. He was great administrater, secularist and a good Muslim. It is said that whenever he used to shake hand with a Britisher he used to wash his hands in their presence, they being pork eaters.

It is said that famous Gandhi Cap had its origin in DH. When Gandhiji had just started his freedom movement he came to Rampur to attend a wedding in family of Shaukat Ali and Mohamed Ali who had an adjoin wall  with DH. Kasturba Gandhi stayed at DH and the food was from DH. When Nawab Hamid Ali Khan came to know about his visit, he expressed a desire to meet Gandhiji. Gandhiji said that is not necessary and he will go to meet him. Then the problem arose that was not used to wearing any type of cap and had come from SA a few years prior to this and nobody could go before Nawab Sahib bareheaded. Many types of caps including Rampuri caps were offered but he wanted only a khadi cap. So late in the night he gave one of khadi dhoti and Manjhli Bua made a sort of hand-sewn cap which he could put on his head and thereafter it begin to be known as Gandhi cap.

The purpose of writing about Rampur is necessary as the story of DH will be incomplete without Rampur. All the above information is in brief of what I could get and understand from my elder brother Shri. Vijai Bahadur(Bhukku Sahib) who was a storehouse of the history of Rampur, its people, incidents, anecdotes etc. And partly because of association with Achchey Mian, about whom I shall be writing separately. Bhukku Sahib on his last visit to Rampur went to Raza Library, one of the four National Libraries in India and spent a day there. He had a good know of the development of the breed know as Rampur Hounds, a hunter`s favourite. To visit this Library you have to take permission from HRD Ministry, New Delhi

My earliest memories of Dadi was that she confined herself to her small room where she had a Mandir also. One maid was always with her.Whenever she wanted to talk to somebody she used to call and it was deemed to be a previlage. She was a frail, old but whatever she said was an order. Everybody was in awe of her including Dadda, I was told. I was perhaps the last one to have an `Bismillah` at the age of 5, the start of learning. Dadi had called Maulvi Sahib who tied a thread on my wrist and held my hand to write urdu alphabets on a wooden slate and thereafter gave me apiece of sweet and asked me to touch Dadi`s feet.

We had three Bua`s. Eldest Bua was married in Banaras and Phupha was the first engineer of BHU`s engineering college and had five sons. Rakesh has circulated our family Lineage chart starting from my great grand father and she is mentioned there. If I am not mistaken, Sunil is married into her extended family.

Manjhli Bua was married into a big Zamindar family (Big Landlord) of Najibabad perhaps and had lot of property in Chakrata near Dehradun, Bhind and Chambal in M.P., mainly agricultural land. She was a brave women living alone in farm land of Bhind after she became widow. She was well respected because of her status in surrounding areas. She was well read and very proefficient in Urdu and Persian and used to correspond with her Bare Papa regularly.In fact all our uncles and perhaps all buas knew only urdu taught by Maulvis in the house. Her son Pria Bhai sahib was an IP officer, Police service equivalent to ICS of British times. He was overlooked for promotions during his carrer. He had a grouse against his mother. Famous decoit  and robber of those​days Man Singh used to come to her farm in Bhind every time she was there and touch her feet out of respect and stay on for a few days with his gang doing bhajans and pooja. Pria Bhai always pestered his mother to send him a message when he comes next. She never obliged him. Man Singh had given her a promise that there will be no decoity in places where her son was posted. She used to visit Rampur often but Bari Bua came only once that I remember.

Very little is known about Choti Bua as she died early. She was married to Shri. Satyawadi of Allahabad. He was once Collecter of Customs Bombay in British Times. He had a Rolls Royce car as his official vehicle with a flag. Shri. Shiv Bahadur ( Bare Lalla sahib) used to mentioned about enjoying ride in that car. I am still in touch with her daughter Chobijiji whose son is Head of The Deptt. Of Radiology MAMC, New Delhi and other son is working with NHPC at senior position. One son from Phupha`s second marriage, an IAS officer retired as Chief Secretary Karnataka.

I have written in brief on the history of DH. I think today only Suresh Sahib, Robi Sahib will able to comment the veracity of what I have written. I shall be writing on Bare Papa, Babu and Uncles in the next article.

From Ravish Bahadur