Monday, April 4, 2016
Looked at one way, he had a long reign. But in 1825, when Ghulam Muhammad Ghouse Khan came to the title of the Nawab of the Carnatic, he was barely a year old and it was his father's brother, Azeem Jah who served as the regent until the young Ghouse came of age, taking over the responsibility in 1842. It could have been a much longer reign, given his youth when he ascended the masnad, but fate cut it short: Ghulam Muhammad Ghouse died in 1855, and having died childless, allowed the British to take over the Carnatic, ending the reign of the nawabs.
It was during Ghouse's reign that Dr. Edward Balfour, a multi-talented surgeon landed in Madras. Dr. Balfour had thrown himself into India; he had translated the Guldasta-e-sukhan, a 14th century work into English and was generally all for progress and integration. At his insistence that the Muslims of Madras needed a library for themselves, the Muhammadan Public Library was set up in 1850. The Nawab made a grant of Rs.700 to the corpus, and a monthly grant of Rs.35 for the library's upkeep. And with Dr. Balfour coaxing people all over the Madras Presidency and beyond, the library opened with nearly a thousand books. Of these, the majority was gifted by well wishers across the country, and shortly after it opened, the library received a gift of 240 books in Arabic from Abbas Pasha, the King of Egypt.
The library faded out in the 1990s, because the building it was housed in went to seed. Thankfully, the secretary of the library, Saba Mustafa, kept the faith and in 2005, the library was re-opened in its current location. So that explains why the building does looks very dapper for its 175 year old occupant!