The other day I happened to search archives for a book on Mirza Ismail and I stumbled on one of his works ‘ My Public Life’. What an insightful page turner it was.
For those of you who have never heard about him he was the diwan of Mysore, Jaipur and for a short while, Hyderabad. For his astonishing work in the field of industrialization, irrigation, rural electrification, city development, the ruling Maharajas heaped praises, paid tributaries to him. The popular M.I road in Jaipur is one such road name after this diwan.
The reason why I feel this book is worth a read is this. His vision and farsightedness are astonishing. And his short book is inspiring.
Let me quote a couple of them here.
- The State did not boast of electricity in the early 20th century. And when electricity did come in State it was provided to important places like the Kolar Gold Fields, Mysore, and in Bangalore city in 1908. Mirza Ismail views were however different. He believed that electricity was not the purview of few. And he came up with rural electrification thereby 500 plus villages in Karnataka or rather Mysore State back then were electrified. Mysore was the first State in the country to do this.
- To quote another instance Micro irrigation was given due importance during his tenure. The production of Ganjam figs had gone down due to lack of water. Though the village was near Kaveri, it was not getting sufficient water to irrigate the figs. These figs were delicious and were often sent to Palace and served to foreign dignitaries and officers. And they were being grown from Tipu Sultan’s era. Realizing this, the Maharaja of Mysore, Mirza Ismail was the diwan then, supplied pumps and gave lands to fig farmers. Thus the figs production revived. It is a different story however that it has a similar fate today.
His faith was broad enough to encompass all religions. He fervently believed that he would be nearer to God by serving people of all faiths.
He says,’ I felt that one please the almighty even more by serving other faiths than one’s own’
Sanskrit was given due recognition during his times, religious intuitions like temples and churches flourished.
Lastly, in his tenure as Diwan, he introduced the weekly sessions with common people. The common man could come and meet the diwan and tell him his troubles.
In the book he says
‘ It is a taxing duty as can easily be imagined-seeing dozens of people each with his request or grievance. But it was worthwhile’
Such was the level of his commitment that in-spite of having a tight schedule, he took time out to hear people out just to satisfy them.
Not satisfied with this he also used to conduct weekly inspections of the city. All this in the mid 20th century. Today’s leaders can take a leaf out of him.
There is more. His belief in a federation of India, his talks with Jinnah to dissuade him for campaigning for a separate Muslim nation, talks with Nizam of Hyderabad showcases his love for the country.
The book is worth reading. It is freely available online in public archives. Along with his powerful ideas, you will also get a glimpse of the South Indian History especially life and times of Mysore then.