Bakhtiar Dadabhoy’s political biography of Salar Jung I, the administrator most often credited with engineering Hyderabad’s turn to modern times is a welcome addition to the field of Hyderabad studies. It tracks the life and times of a man widely acknowledged to be one of the most powerful and influential political leaders of his times, Mir Turab Ali Khan aka Sir Salar Jung I (1829–1883).
Curiously, his candidacy for Diwan-ship was proposed by a coterie around the Nizam because they regarded him as a malleable puppet in times when political chicanery and fiscal shambles were at their zenith (p. 11). Their faith in Mir Turab Ali Khan’s inexperience may have been justified: his education, typical of the times, had been desultory. He had been taught Persian, Arabic, logic, theology and calligraphy, and developed a passion for riding. As a young boy, he helped explain the accounts of jagir villages to his grandmother and at eighteen, became talukdar of some talukas in certain Telangana districts. He also managed some lands and other estates the Nizam released back to the family in 1848, after the satisfaction of the family’s debts. But this was the extent of the administrative experience of the 24-year-old appointed Diwan of Hyderabad on 31 May 1853.