Seven months after
the demise of former Indian cricket captain and Nawab of Pataudi
Mansoor Ali Khan, who had a royal connection with Bhopal, his wife
Sharmila Tagore and actor son Saif Ali Khan have successfully
established a deep emotional link with people of the City of Lakes
that goes beyond the royal heritage.
This time the mother-son duo had come together for the first time.
Saif, a Bollywood star, and Sharmila, a 1970's actress but locally
addressed as Ayesha Begum, were seen freely intermingling with
hundreds of ordinary citizens in city last week.
Saif also conferred the first Mansoor Ali Khan Tiger Pataudi
memorial 'Real Life Hero Award' to Aamir Ali Khan, a former hockey
player working in the field of literacy, social work and community
Sharmila was spotted visiting mosques and gardens that were built
by Pataudi's grandfather and other members of the Bhopal royalty.
The former actor was dismayed when she visited the grave of Nawab
Hamidullah Khan in the vicinity of Sofia Mosque. A huge garden
that was bursting with life when Tiger's mother Sajida was
Bhopal's regent, is a picture of neglect and waste. Sharmila wants
the old glory to be restored.
The mother-son's quest to connect has however been far from
smooth. Barely a month ago, Saif was shown black flags by some
disgruntled elements in Bhopal. The actor was in Bhopal to promote
his film "Agent Vinod", and oblivious of a controversy surrounding
his family's handling of 'Rubat' - two prime properties belonging
to nawabs of Bhopal in Mecca and Madina.
In 1819, the first woman ruler of Bhopal, Begum Qudsia had
constructed accommodation facilities for Bhopalis in Mecca and
Madina. Till now most Hajis from Bhopal stay free of cost in these
two buildings, which can accommodate 300. Nawab's Qudsia's will
was that a Bhopali should look after these accommodations.
However, after Tiger Pataudi's death in September 2011, the
caretaker of these Rubats in Saudi Arabia was changed to a Saudi
national, causing disquiet in Bhopal. A delegation of religious
leaders had visited Mecca-Madina but the issue was not resolved to
the satisfaction of everyone concerned. Subsequently Sharmila
intervened making it clear to the Bhopal city qazi and other
religious heads that their views would be honoured. The issue has
been resolved amicably now.
Bhopal's Congress MLA Arif Aqueel also praised Pataudis. "Begum (Sharmila)
you must communicate directly to us and more often. Intermediaries
and cronies tend to complicate issues for their vested interest.
You belong to us and we belong to you," he said.
In his brief speech, Saif addressed Bhopalis, "I am quite moved
with your initiative of starting the Nawab Mansoor Ali Khan Award
for outstanding and valuable contribution. I want to congratulate
you, Aamir Ahmed Khan - you may be an unsung hero but what I
learned of you, you are our real role model. May Bhopal produce
many more young men of character like Aamir and I am there to sing
for your contribution."
Sharmila too told the gathering, "Lets us take this Tiger Trophy
to greater heights in the times to come. I am in all appreciation
for this award in my husband's memory, who had always admired
selfless, purposeful efforts."
Tournament organizer Hamidullah Khan said Sharmila and Saif's
decision to award a 'Real Achiever' from society has gone down
very well with Bhopalites.
(Shahnawaz Akhtar can
be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)