I cannot say that Mirza Ismail was a gifted public speaker. He used to write down what he intended to convey at a gathering and read it out.
However, the style of his written English was beautiful; the kind that was in harmony with the conventions of the English language. Sentences used to be short and lucid. He chose words that were delicate and aesthetic. The letters he wrote to his friends would have light humour in them.
He used to correct drafts prepared by others in English and beautify them.
At gatherings of friends, he would speak little. However, those few words would be immensely interesting.
He never used foul language. His body language and facial expressions were dignified. He never stooped to a pedestrian level. Even his humour was gentle and sweet, never boisterous.
A member of the Representative Assembly once said in the flow of a speech, “If we do that like this and this like that, they will be ok.” Mirza asked, “What should be done for which and how?”
In 1947, when the new governments were formed in India, a friend went to Mirza’s house and said, “It appears that you’ve been given the position of the Governor. It is gladdening to know!”
At once, Mirza replied, “Yes. I am the Governor of No. 2, Ali Asker Road. ‘They’ did not give this – my father did!”
Referring to one of Mirza’s teachers, a friend once told him: “Your teacher is now practicing rituals and traditions of ancient times. He now talks about the earth being flat in stark contrast with the theory he used to teach about the earth being a sphere!”
Pat came the reply: “Yes, yes. Everyone has to search for a flat piece of land, six feet long and three feet wide, as one gets older!”
Several felicitation ceremonies were organized to honour Mirza Ismail. When the annual tax due from the Mysore Province to the Government of India was reduced owing to Mirza’s efforts, a few friends organized a party at a place called ‘Bamboo Island’ near the Museum.
The celebratory gathering that took place in Lal Bagh was far grander. Representatives from all parts of the Province had arrived. On that day, as soon as Chief Guest Mirza came near the entrance of Lal Bagh, the hosts welcomed him and took him on a procession. On that occasion, the British Resident [C M S] Fraser was next to him. The procession went eastward on a small road in the north flank and turned towards south in the corner. At that point, Mirza turned to me and said, “On this day, I have reached the pinnacle of my life. This is the right time for me to resign from my position. I should not desire much after I have received such appreciation from the masses. But Śrīman-mahārāja refuses to accept it. I have requested him to relieve me but he is asking me to reconsider. How can I abide by this?”
Thus he expressed his feelings. After the procession, the rest of the ceremony followed.
Love and Affection
I request your indulgence to share a personal experience of mine. When I was bed-ridden once, Mirza visited my house. My cough was severe and so I had refused to eat anything and was fasting.
Mirza sat on the edge of the bed on my cot and after enquiring about my health and learning from others that I had not eaten anything, he asked, “Is there milk at home? If so, please heat a little and bring it here.” They brought a bowl of milk from within. Mirza took it in his hands, held it near my mouth, and said, “You should drink this!”
I said, “I can’t have it. I don’t want it.”
“Unless this milk enters your stomach, I will not leave from here. You should drink this and go to sleep.”
Saying thus, he held the milk cup tightly to my lips. Such was his love towards me.
I got acquainted with Mirza saheb probably around 1915. Prior to that, Visvesvaraya had indicated that Mirza would be glad to meet me. But I had excused myself saying I did not have any work with him. After that, in the initial days of the opening of the Mysore University, one day Prof. B Venkatanaranappa came to my home and said, “The day before yesterday I had been to Mysore for the Senate’s session. Mirza Ismail had come there. He is also a member of Senate like me. When Mirza was a student at Central College, I was a lecturer there. Since then, he holds me in high regard. Mirza approached me and asked, ‘Do you know the chap who runs the Karnataka newspaper?’ I replied, ‘Yes, I know him very well.’ Mirza immediately said, ‘He writes well in English. It appears that he is young. I would like to meet him. Could you arrange for that?’ I assured him that I would gladly arrange for it. Now, you should help me fulfil my promise. You shouldn’t oppose this!”
I agreed and went to Mirza Ismail’s residence on the appointed day. His residence was in the Richmond Town area. It was called ‘Silver Oak Lodge.’ Silver Oak trees were in abundance both in the premises of his residence and in that street. That house was Mirza’s ancestral property.
I felt happy after that meeting. We hardly discussed anything of importance. No politics either. It was just casual talk. But the simplicity of his words, the friendly tone of his voice, the feeling of an existing intimacy, light humour – all these evoked a sense of joy in me. At that time, I never imagined that one day Mirza would go on to become the Dewan. I think he gifted me two books. Probably they were the two volumes of Modern Democracies, written by the famous political expert Lord James Bryce.
After this it became a regular practice for Mirza and me to write letters to each other once in a fortnight or once in twenty days. In those letters, we would have short discussions on topics related to polity, history, religion, art, and so forth.
When I visited Mysore, sometimes I used to meet him at his residence.
Thus grew our friendship.
To be continued...
This is the English translation of the fifteenth episode of Volume 4 (Dewans of Mysore) of the series 'Art Gallery of Memories'.