Walled city: The Hakims do not live here

Dilli has given way to Delhi. Shahjahanabad is now found only in books. Sharif Manzil, however, lets us peep into the days of yore.

Danish January 05, 2012 11:26:29 IST
Walled city: The Hakims do not live here

Mehdi Hasan greets us with a smile. He bows a little. We follow him through the gallery of Mehrab guest house in the bylanes of Ballimaran, Old Delhi. Gallery leads to stairs. On the first floor lives Masroor Ahmed Khan, Hasan's master and owner of Sharif Manzil.

"I am the great grandnephew of Hakim Ajmal Khan saab. I am the only Sharif Khani in Sharif Manfil." says Masroor, 65, whose visiting card describes him as president, Hakim Ajmal Khan Memorial Society and Cricket Tournament Committee. "If anybody else says the same, he is lying," he adds, affirming his authority on the haveli built in 1740 by Hakim Sharif Ahmed Khan, great grandfather of Hakim Ajmal Khan — physician, legendary Congressman and poet.

Dilli has given way to Delhi. Shahjahanabad is now found only in books. Sharif Manzil, however, lets us peep into the days of yore.

The building with 19 rooms is home to 19: Masroor, wife Sayeda, two daughters, two sons and their wives, grand daughter, eight staff members and two canines, Buddy and Flirt. The house once had 12 cats. They created ruckus in the house, something Masroor didn't like. Cats had to go.

Walled city The Hakims do not live here

Masroor Ahmed Khan in the guest room of Sharif Manzil. Naresh Sharma/Firstpost

The drawing room of the house has bronze wares, porcelain vases, antiques, wooden arches on the windows and a hookah, resembling the set of yesteryear blockbuster movie, Pakeezah. One of the eight frames hanging on the walls reads, "Hakim Ajmal Khan with Lord Hardinge, viceroy of India, at the inauguration of Hardinge library (now, Hardayal Singh library)". The same year i.e. 1916, Ajmal Khan founded Tibbiya College, the first institution in India to bring together two ancient systems of medicines, Ayurved and Tibbiya.

The Hakims came to India from Egypt during Babar's reign. After Hyderabad and Agra, Delhi became home. During the Mughal era, the Hakims were at par with other royal families. Sharif Ahmed Khan had a keen eye for architecture. He got a mansion built for the family which would become Sharif Manzil and the occupants, Sharif Khanis.

Not much remains of the original structure, a landmark in the area. Most of the portion has given way to optician shops. The trade hub, where you jostle for space to walk, is a sign of change. Increasing congestion has resulted in lot of families shifting to relatively quieter Okhla or spacious Nizamuddin West and New Friends Colony.

The Maharaja of Patiala and the Raja of Jind were patrons of Sharif Khan's descendant, Ghulam Mahmood Khan. At the time of the Mutiny of 1857, the Maharaja of Patiala sent troops to guard the mansion.

"Thousands of people took refuge here in this building. Many left their belongings with Mahmood saab. Those were worth around Rs 2 crore. You can imagine the kind of faith people had in him," says Masroor.

The Hakims were fond of cars, cricket and horse races.

The sprawling haveli, then spread over 3.5 acres, hosted feasts for the who's who of the town.

"The history of Dilli is incomplete without a mention of this family," notes Mulla Wahidi, the author of Mere Zamane Ki Dilli, published by Anjuman Taraqqi Urdu. "It was always a festive season at this mansion."

As a kid, Masroor travelled with his grandmother in a doli. Women were not allowed to venture out alone. Vendors used to call out in chants not heard anymore. "Mitti keee bartan laaeee looowww," Masroor tries imitating one, and bursts out in laughter.

The Hakims never charged from anybody, prescriptions were cheap and they used to give expensive medicines from their own store. But royal patronage continued. According to some accounts, the Muhgals, impressed with the hikmat (service) of the family of physicians, rewarded them with at least four districts near Delhi: Baghpat, Barod, Dasna and Sonepat.

"In the 1930s, we had 11 cars. Mirza Ghalib was our landlord in the nearby Gali Qasim Jaan. That building was also our garage," says Masroor, referring to what is now known as Ghalib ki Haveli. "One day, the roof collapsed and we lost five of our cars."

Walled city The Hakims do not live here

A farman (order) in Persian in Urdu with the stamp of Shah Alam on it. Naresh Sharma/Firstpost

Ghulam Mahmood Khan's younger son Hakim Ajmal Khan was the lone Hakim to enter politics. Gandhi and Maulana Aazad met for the first time in the Sharif Manzil. Many secret meetings of the Khilafat (non- cooperation) movement followed.

Partition turned the world of the Sharif Khanis upside down. Majority of the Muslims of the area, including Masroor Khan's uncle Majeed Ahmed Khan, migrated to Pakistan. The government acquired properties of Hakims spread across the city, says Masroor, who fought a legal battle. "I got a meagre compensation for some of the land. Then I gave up."

The long line of physicians ended with Hakim Mahmood Ahmed Khan. He wanted to inculcate modern values to see a 'liberal' muslim in Masroor, his only child. Having studied in a missionary school and Mayo College, Ajmer, Masroor felt somewhat lost amid the crowd at Tibbiya College where he went to study medicine.

For the younger generation, the transition was smooth though. Sabila, the elder daughter of the family, loves reading and music. A post graduate in psychology, she is considering taking up a project with Patni Computer Systems.

Her sister, Sana, pursued her Masters in Social Work from the Jamia Millia Islamia University and interned with Butterflies. Like father, she, too, is proud to live in the 'core of the city'. It gives her a high. “If I want to buy something from the market at 4 in the morning, I can do it,” says Sana, who plans to enroll in a PhD programme. Her father says, “We have to move with changing times in a way that we do not forget our values.”

As we talk to her father, Sabila comes wearing boots and blazer. “I am going to Adventure Island. Khuda Hafiz,” she signs off, for a world beyond the Walled city.

Updated Date:

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

also read

Arvind Kejriwal issues stern warning to school authorities accused of confining kindergarten students over non-payment of fees
India

Arvind Kejriwal issues stern warning to school authorities accused of confining kindergarten students over non-payment of fees

Kejriwal said they interacted with the principal of Rabia Public School, Naheed Usmani, and warned her that this kind of treatment towards children would not be tolerated

Haroon Yusuf Election Result 2020 Ballimaran LIVE Updates | Delhi Assembly (Vidhan Sabha) Election Results Congress Candidate Haroon Yusuf Ballimaran Seat
Politics

Haroon Yusuf Election Result 2020 Ballimaran LIVE Updates | Delhi Assembly (Vidhan Sabha) Election Results Congress Candidate Haroon Yusuf Ballimaran Seat

Haroon Yusuf election result 2020 live news and latest updates online - Read about Haroon Yusuf Congress candidate who is fighting Delhi assembly (Vidhan Sabha) election from Ballimaran seat and many more at Firstpost.com.

Ballimaran Election Result 2020 LIVE Updates | Delhi Assembly Elections; Constituency, Party, Candidate Name Wise Winner, Loser, Leading, Trailing
Politics

Ballimaran Election Result 2020 LIVE Updates | Delhi Assembly Elections; Constituency, Party, Candidate Name Wise Winner, Loser, Leading, Trailing

Ballimaran Delhi Assembly Constituency Election Results 2020 Live Updates - Read Ballimaran constituency vidhan sabha chunav latest news, party, constituency, candidate name wise winner, loser, leading, trailing live updates online at Firstpost.com.