They committed to photographs, and married four years later

My husband, Imam Hadi Naqvi and I, a few days after our marriage. Patna, Bihar. 1958

Image and text contributed by Nazni Naqvi, Mumbai

My name is Nazni Naqvi. This picture of me and my husband Syed Imam Hadi Naqvi was taken on 11thOctober, 1958, five days after our wedding day. It was taken on the terrace of my parents’ home, Sultan Palace in Patna (now the pink painted State Transport Bhawan) by my brother, Syed Quamarul Hasan. An avid photographer, he took this photo as part of a series with his Roliflex Camera.

I came from a family with part royal lineage of Nawabs – My paternal grandfather had established the Patna University and was knighted by the British for his contribution to education. He was thereafter known as Sir Sultan Ahmed, and my grandmother as Lady Sultan Ahmed, customarily called ‘Lady Saheb’.

Hadi was raised in Amroha, Uttar Pradesh. He was a graduate of Aligarh University and then went to study Economics at LSE, London.

In 1954, a Maulana recommended Hadi to my father as a prospective son-in-law. I was 16 years old then and the only daughter in seven sons. I had other considerations for a husband- some cousins (sanctioned under Islamic law) and some other men with royal lineage. Marrying cousins was out of the question, and marrying into a royal family was not a very appealing idea even though my mother belonged to one. Photographs were exchanged and once I saw Hadi’s picture, I was in love. My father however wasn’t sure because the only thing that concerned him was Hadi had to be taller than me.

My father then travelled to London for health reasons and also met Hadi. They began to meet often and became well acquainted. To his relief Hadi turned out to be an inch taller than me, I was 5ft 3, he was 5ft 4. Everyone was happy, the families met and we were declared Engaged. Through the process of the engagement until our marriage, a 4-year gap, we never met or communicated with each other. Although I did sneak a peek from behind the curtains when he was visiting.

At the time of my engagement, at age 16, I was studying in class 9th I think. This might seem strange now but as a generation many of us didn’t have school for almost 2 years, because most educational institutions were closed due to partition issues. But in those days, loss of time in the arena of education wasn’t a big deal, especially for women. Nonetheless, I did complete my matriculation from a private school.

Three years since the Engagement and the Nikah, Hadi returned from London in 1957. Our marriage was fixed for October 1, 1958. That the dates changed is because of an interesting incident. The train that was supposed to bring the groom and his family to Patna never arrived on the date. It was pouring rain so hard in Amroha that the connection bridge from Amroha to Moradabad broke and they had to stop at Moradabad. At the time there were no mobiles, the few telephones that were around too were dead. So we had no clue where anyone was and it seemed the entire groom’s family had vanished!

Zakir Hussain, who was then Governor of Bihar and a family friend came to Hadi’s aid and with the help of the Telephone Exchange enabled a phone call to Patna two days later, informing us of what had happened. Hadi and his family finally did arrive, though four days later.

After my marriage, we left for Amroha and a few months later I moved from a 100-room palace in Patna, to Delhi with Hadi into a two bedroom government allotted flat. Hadi had begun working at the Ministry of Agriculture as an Agricultural Economist and later joined the Ministry of Finance. I on the other hand could not have asked for a better man in my life.  He was a good man, joyful, liberal & interested in life and all that it had to offer. We were in love and had three beautiful daughters. He was the best thing that happened to me. Hadi passed away in 1991. And I now live with my daughters in Mumbai.

BECOME A PATRON : Work on Indian Memory Project takes time, money and hard work to produce. But it is necessary work because parallel views on our histories matter. If you like the project, admire it, and benefit from its knowledge, please consider awarding us an honorarium to make the future of this project robust and assured. You can support Indian Memory Project for as little as Rs. 500 or more


This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Jane Hayes

    I came across this story as I found a wedding dinner invitation among my late parent’s items. It looks as though this is the wedding but the bride’s name is sharifunnisa begum. The groom’s name is correct and the bride’s grandfather is Dr. S Sultan Ahmed. It says rsvp sultan palace, patna. The date for the dinner is 15th October 1958. I have no idea how my parents were connected. My father was a doctor and my mother a nurse in Swansea, wales

  2. Vmanocha

    Hey Hina…

    What a lovely story….It felt wonderful, tho i dont know much about Patna, its royalty or its life. But i loved your moms story and wud love to know what happened when she moved from a 100 room palace to a 2 bedroom flat ? Surely she must have had a tough time adjusting….Somehow we dont see such marriages anymore where the faith, the trust and the love is so overwhelmeing and empowering. Do keep the stories coming …

    Hugs for a awesome Eid….

    Respect and regards to your mother…


    1. Hina

      I’m glad the story connected with you V. I think there was a lot of adjustment but also a covert enjoyment in that, especially in hindsight. Hard to explain in words.
      Will pass on your regards.

  3. Rajiv Soni

    A lovely photograph!

  4. Abid

    :) Extremely tight Hug Nani. HK…lovely write up.

  5. Joe

    That photograph, that body language speaks volumes about Imam Hadi Naqvi.
    It perfectly fits what you said “He was a good man, joyful, liberal & interested in life and all that it had to offer”

  6. prince

    loved this!

  7. saleem izdani khan mian khel

    sir sultan ahmed was the barrister to the maharaja of tikari, while my own ancestor was tikari’s doctor. we are both related to the imam family of neora. together sir ali imam, hasan imam , mazhural haque and sir sultan ahmed were the top barristers of british india. sad that students at leading british and indian universities don’t know this, people like kunal dutt and myself are trying to get rid of the knowledge gap.

  8. Kunal Dutt

    Dear Ms Sayida,
    How r u? n howz Mrs Naqvi? Touched to hear back from you, must have been the blessings of the Eid that day. I’m very happy to learn that Alamdar saheb is your cousin. And, I thank you for understanding my pains and my project regarding this Patna Project. Alamdar Saheb had shown me that book at his home but I’ve not been able to procure a copy for myself. Btw, I haven’t received any mail from you, in case you’ve sent it. You must be on facebook, aren’t you? Kindly find me with my name/id and add me, there, since i couldn’t track you on the networking site. I’d learned about this project last year only. And, I was happy because I’d wanted to start something of this nature, only on Patna/Bihar where people could post their old moth-eaten, weather-beaten, dog-earrred, black and white and sepia-toned memories drawn fro mtheir old family attics, their old family abums and therfore the picture of the story of Patna/Bihar could become clearer to people of our unfortunate generation, who were neither born in that era nor had a window to see, understand and appreciate the value and the menaing of it all. I wish I’d a time machine to go see the majestic Sultan Palace in its heydays, with its royal fountains and the victorian lamps and the wrought-iron benches, and the ‘vintage’ cars, all of which today sould like ghosts from the past.

    Looking forward to hear from you and see more of the great past of the Sultan Palace through the old pictures, Ms Hina.

    Khuda hafiz.


    Ph: +91 87504 66648

  9. austere

    Thank you for sharing this. What a beautiful time.

  10. Avi

    looking at your parent’s picture brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face…no idea why. perhaps it didn’t even need my connection to you, in fact probably..strange, but then I always have been..and am only walking this thing in my own strange way ever more with passing years…perhaps I miss a time that I’ve never known. it’s not so much that I’m idealising it, more that something intangibly precious has been drained from the world and, while I can freely list the effects, it makes my heart ache a little to not have known it, apart from the sure sensation of being bereaved of it…like a fostered child wondering about it’s birth parents

  11. Shamim

    Dear Nazni and Hina, I love the photograph – so beautiful! And I love the story — it has whetted my appetite and I am now just wanting to hear and see more and more!! Will there be more? Another photograph? More on Nazni’s interesting and fascinating life? I hope so!
    Shamim from Johannesburg, South Africa

  12. hinasaiyada

    Hi All,
    I am Mrs. Nazvi’s daughter Hina. Since she’s not very tech savy I’m playing her proxy, reading your comments to her and we are both very touched by the responses.

    Alok, we appreciate your sharing your memories of sultan palace and my great-grandfather, Syed Sultan. It really is a pity, like Kunal says, that what could have been a heritage site of the legacy old Patna is now in a shambles.

    Kunal, thanks for your heartfelt note. Alamdar Hussain is indeed my cousin. We would be happy to share with you what photos we have.
    Will be a pleasure to aid you in whatever way i can toward your film project. Its important work that you plan to undertake, the revival of the forgotten heritage of Patna.
    If you like, try and get my uncle Tanvirul Hasan’s book “Freedom and Partition; The Seasons Changed”. It extensively covers the life and work of Syed Sultan. It was available in when i looked last.
    I’ll also mail you my contact.

    Its wonderful how this site is telling these stories, helping unlock memories long buried and connecting people seeking those stories.

    Yay Anusha!

  13. Kunal Dutt

    Hello Mrs Naqvi,
    I wish couldthank you enough for sharing yer wonderful story with us. I’m from Patna, too, mam. I was/am doing an ambitious documentary film on the history – places ahd personalities of old Patna. Currently, I’m enrolled as a post graduate student of IIMC, New Delhi. Mrs Naqvi, I havebeen to Sultan Palace several times, andeach time I go it saddens me even more. The govt and the people have ruined the once famous and probably the most beautiful edifice in Patna. I wish I’d money or at least the govt would listen to my plea and convert it into a heritage hotel, as a pride of the city. Regarding this film, I met Mr Almadar Hussain, advocate at Patna High Court. I’m sure u al must be family. Mam, kindly, share some of the photos of Sultan Palace take by you or your brother Mr Nazmul Hasan. Is he still in Patna? Wher does he live? Mam, i wish I could tell u the pains insidemy heart of seeing my city turn into an urban concrete jungle with no respect for heritage. My film was about this saving the heritage of Patna, and Bihar at large. I also know some other people who are related to late Sir Sultan. Mrs Naquvi, I am sorry that yer husband passed away earlier. I sincerely hope that all your family membes are doing well. Sulta nPalace will always stay with me, even though I may stay anywhere else. My email id is – or u can reach me on 087504 66648 (delhi no). It’ll be a privilege to hear from you. please respond mam, u r almost like a godsend for me, who just appeared on the eid day to tell me the story of Patna, which I’m collecting n chronicling for my film.

    Insha Allah! apse kabhi mulakat hogi.
    khuda hafiz.
    aur Eid Mubarak.

    Kunal Dutt
    Student, PGD
    English Journalism
    Indian Institute of Mass Communication
    New Delhi

  14. Jason Tilley

    Dear Mrs Naqvi, what a beautiful photograph and a wonderful life story you have shared with every one.

    Jason Tilley

  15. Alok

    My name is Alok.and a vivid memory of Sir Sultan Palace. I was born in one of the Govt.Quarters (Gardani Baugh) in 1950. Later shifted at our own house at the corner of Gardiner Road (Beer Chand Patel Path) and Bailey Road in 1955. Sir Sultan Palace was situated at the end of Gardiner Road and my house was on the other end. The Palace Had a very big compound with beautiful carved front gate and an oval shaped driveways going from the gate to the Porch of the Palace. Since I was not allowed to go inside but I admired this Palace from my childhood. This two story palace had lovely stone carved walls, burg, bay-windows and lovely garden with manicured lawns. to sum it up, I was in awe of this Palace, and totally mesmerized thinking about the people living in the Palace. Later it started degenerating due to lack of maintenance …Later it was came in possession of Govt of Bihar when I was in Miller High School which was just 200 mtrs on opposite side of the road. It was sold for Rs.11 Lakhs Gradually the grandeur of Sir Sultal Palace started to diminish. I left for Uk in the early70s. and on return joined ITDC – Ashok Group of Hotels, Later transferred to Patna as GM Hotel Patliputra Ashok in 2001 as GM. I once again had the opportunity to see Sir Sultan Palace and by this time it looked a Sarkari Office, Later I read that Sir Sultan was never in favour of two-nation theory and was not in agreement with Muslim League policies. It would have been completely different scenario about this subcontinent had Sir Sultan’s dream materialized …. we could have been Super Power and economical ruled over world … This is absolutely my thinking and unbiased of any political, religions, castes and creeds. Thank you …

    1. Joe

      Agree with you Alok.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.