Hyderabad: To know the history of Niloufer Hospital one has to delve into the history of the past from Turkey to France then to Hyderabad Deccan.
Sultanate of Turkey
In 1922 the Turkish Grand National Assembly abolished the Sultanate of Turkey. Two years later, the Turkish government abolished the Khalifath and sent to exile the then Khalifa of the time Abdul Majeed with his whole family.
Abdul Majeed, his daughter Durru Shahwar and other members of the family sought refuge in Nice [city in Southern France]. One of the family members was a widow Adile Sultana, daughter of an earlier Turkish Sultan. She was accompanied by her daughter Niloufer. Adile’s husband Moralizada Salar-ud-din died when Niloufer was just 2 years old. As times were difficult, the Khalifa appealed to the Muslim royalties throughout the world for help. At that time, the richest man of the world was Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan. The Nizam offered the Khalifa, a pension of 300 British Pounds per month.
A few years later the Khalifa’s daughter, Durru Shahwar was of marriageable age, a proposal was brought to the Nizam. It was suggested Durru Shahwar should be married to the Nizam’s eldest son Azam Jah. The Nizam was very pleased with the proposal, he asked the mediator Maulana Shoukat Ali to proceed with the discussions in detail. The Khalifa’s side proposed for a dowry of forty thousand Pounds as Mahr-e-Muajjal [dowry to be paid immediately at the time of Nikah]. The Nizam was taken aback. After all, the Khalifa was being paid a pension of 300 British Pound, how could he ask for such a large dowry? The Nizam exclaimed to the mediator that the dowry was large enough to get two brides so both his sons could be married. The Khalifa’s side then proposed Niloufer to be married to his youngest son, Muazzam Jah within the stated dowry. The Nizam agreed and the marriages were performed in Nice, in November 1931.
Two princes returned with brides
The two princes returned with their brides. As Niloufer was only 15, her mother accompanied her. she also brought a midwife to help the anticipated pregnancy. When the princesses arrived in Hyderabad, they were given a lavish welcome. They then settled down in their respective homes. Azam Jah and Durru Shahwar were housed in Bella Vista. Mouzzam Jah and Niloufer, in the Hill Fort building on Naubhat Pahad. Azam Jah was the heir apparent of the Nizam and was being trained for the future. Mozzam Jah was made the president of the city improvement board.
A couple of years later Durru Shahwar gave birth to a son [Prince Mir Barkat Ali Khan Mukarram Jah]. Niloufer too, longed for a child, but she could never have conceived. Her inability to conceive had driven a wedge between her and her husband. They always had separate bedrooms on separate floors. Earlier, they had several holidays travelling to Ooty and Kashmir.
During the day her husband Mozazam Jah, busied himself with the affairs of the city improvement board. Almost every evening he held a mushaira where poets attended and read their poetry. Prince Muazzam Jah was himself a poet of repute. His ghazals complained of the difficulties faced in love.
The years passed by and Princess Durru Shahwar delivered yet another son [Prince Mir Karamath Ali Khan Muffakhan Jah]. Once again Princess Niloufer was consumed by pangs of guilt.
Second World War
In 1939, the Second World War had started and there was austerity in the air. India had been brought into the war on the British side. The Nizam, as the faithful ally of the British government contributed men and material to allied forces. Princess Niloufer, whole heartedly participated in the war efforts. As the war progressed, she sought and received training to assist during the air raids. Around this time her favourite servant absented herself from duty as she was pregnant. She never came back to work because she died in child labour. Shocked at the neglected women’s health care, Niloufer plunged into a huge effort to raise funds for child welfare and maternity. At first, she involved the higher officials of the Nizam’s government. The project began to take shape. Land was identified in the Red Hills area, leading architects designed the hospital and the construction started. Princess Niloufer left for London to be with her mother. The situation in Hyderabad became grimmer. Within the dominion there was group called Razakars who wanted Hyderabad to hold up for better terms. Finally, the Indian Union sent in its army, within three days the Nizam’s government surrendered. Niloufer was stuck in London her friends advised to stay out of Hyderabad. Stuck in a foreign country and with limited resources, Niloufer longed to return. Hyderabad was the only home she had known. After several months when the situation had calmed down she came back.
Princess Niloufer left for London
She went to see the Nizam. Confined himself with his palace, King Koti. When Niloufer met him, he kept saying, Hyderabad is finished. Saddened by what she had seen; she went to see the construction of the hospital. It was nearly complete. Princess Niloufer left for London before the hospital was inaugurated and he never came back.
The hospital is an extraordinary symbol of her love and passion for the welfare of women and children. It is through her efforts that many women have experienced the joy of motherhood.