Cultured, graceful and a woman of substance
Cultured and graceful, Begum Hamida Habibullah was truly a woman of substance who inspired many people for leading a purposeful existence.
After India’s independence, she had been the face of progressive Indian Muslim women and encouraged thousands of girls to empower themselves with economic freedom.
She was undoubtedly the pride of Lucknow and one of its most iconic women. In Shakespearean language, all the world has been a stage for the Begum and she had portrayed various roles with a deep sense of responsibility and dignity. With her passing away, an era has indeed come to an end as God seldom makes people with such a persona.
Begum Habibullah was an MLA, a Rajya Sabha MP, a UP government minister, the chairperson of SEWA, the president of Talimgah-e-Niswan and the president of Awadh Girls’ Degree College. A close family friend of Indira Gandhi, she was also a member of the All-India Congress Committee.
She spent her childhood in Hyderabad where her father Nazir Yar Jung Bahadur was the Chief Justice, high court. Marriage to Maj. Gen. Enaith Habibullah brought her to Lucknow who went on to become the first Commandant of National Defence Academy. Over the years, the Begum became an embodiment of the Ganga-Jamuni culture.
Having passed Senior Cambridge with distinction in five subjects and graduation with gold medal from Osmania University, she also studied at White Land College, UK. Little wonder, she was articulate and possessed a keen sense of humour that really heightened her persona.
She is survived by her bureaucrat son Wajahat Habibullah and doctor daughter Nazli Siddiqui who always remained the apples of her eyes.
Not many people know that she changed the face of her family’s mango orchards in Saidanpur where Malihabadi Dussehri, Langda, Chausa and Safeda varieties were planted by the Begum herself in consonance with the recommendations of agriculture scientists. This orchard is now the site of a major mango festival celebrated annually by her family with support from UP government.
I always admired the way she conducted herself gracefully in social appearances and engagements.
Her stylised pehnava, polished nails, well-kept hair and tasteful jewellery would put many a young girl to shame. Her fashion quotient was high but always understated. It showed the importance she attached to being well groomed in life.
Begum Habibullah’s zest for all the wondrous hues of life invariably reminds me the lines from Amir Khusrau’s famous song ‘Aaj rang hai re maa rang hai ri’. Undoubtedly, she has remained the most dignified and adorable lady of Lucknow all her life. May her noble soul rest in peace!