Real World Traitors
Who comes to mind when you think of betrayers? If you're thinking along the lines of Luis Figo and Sol Campbell, you might want to think bigger.
On the day of the assassination, other conspirators, fearing that the plot had been found out, retreated; but Brutus was determined. He waited outside the senate till Caesar arrived, ignoring calls from messengers to leave. When the dictator finally arrived, his assassinators attacked him in such a way that they even hurt themselves. The king was shocked to see Brutus among them, uttering “Et tu, Brutus?”(Even you, Brutus?) before his death. Poetic last words? Check. Biggest traitor in history? Check.
Even though there were 14 conspirators, Fawkes was seen leaving the scene and was arrested and he's the one most famous for their plot. He was tortured and interrogated but to the surprise of his interrogators, refused to give the names of the others till he was sure they also confessed. He was torched and hanged, but his legacy lives on as November 5 is known as 'Guy Fawkes Night'.
Mir Jafar got the power he wanted when the British made their puppet a ruler, but by then independent ruling was long gone. It may be a quarter of a millennium since that man sold his country out, but his name is still one of the worst things you can call a person from this subcontinent.
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
Books might have Sarumans and Peter Pettigrews, but the real world is not so far behind in treachery.
A Meeting with the Past
We've all heard the stories. Of how the noble princes fought for the people's rights against the oppressive lords. Over time these heroes faded from human memory, remembered only when a dusty ancient tome was brought down from the attic. Today, Rising Stars tries to bring you something different: a first hand glimpse into the lives of the Nawabs, the nobles of Bengal.
We caught up with Mr Salauddin Akbar Chowdhury, whose grandfather was a first cousin of Nawab Faizunnesa Choudhurani. We also had a chance to talk with Syed Masudul Huq, who is one of her direct descendants. For the uninitiated, Nawab Faizunnesa was the first female Nawab of Bengal. She was born into a wealthy family, but used her wealth and power to help people. The Nawab was a writer, philanthropist and a patron of several newspapers. She left much of her wealth to the state before she died, to provide for scholarships for poor students. Queen Victoria awarded her the title of 'Nawab' in recognition of her contributions to society.
RS: So tell us about the life of the Nawabs. What was it like?
SMH: Other Nawabs were more religious, and they lived simpler lives. Even though the Nawab class in general lived in style, their lifestyles were still a far cry from the royal lives of the time. They were respected and well-recognised figures in society, and had a lot of influence over local happenings.
RS: A lot of people seem to confuse the role of a Nawab with that of a Zamindar. Could you please tell us exactly what each of them did?
RS: We know that the ruling class lost their powers during the partition of India. What happened to the Nawabs and their families at that time?
SAC: Many Nawabs began to marry into other wealthy families, even into those without the 'Nawab' title.
RS: How was their relationship with the peasants that they ruled?
RS: And could you tell us anything about their treasures and other family possessions?
His wife Mrs Khurshida Khanam Chowdhury shows us a full-length ivory tusk, used for decorative purposes. Her treasure-chest reveals a silver hookah stand and a jewelry box with intricate patterns on it. There are also ancient seals, coins and some silver hairpins. There is even a wooden palki, very old but still pretty much intact.
We wonder at these treasures as their words come to life through them. They take us back to a time and place that is at once far away and yet close to home. The very place that we are standing right now could have once been a Nawab's favourite hunting ground. Who knows?
Special thanks goes to Salauddin Akbar Chowdhury, Khurshida Khanam Chowdhury and Syed Masudul Huq.
By Tahmida Zaman
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