Night of the Jasmines An Englishman’s life in the Nizam’s court The beginning of the end.

Capt Hemming studied his face as he took his seat. He knew the troubles were raging but what exactly the Resident proposed to do, he could not guess.

Meanwhile Khairunnissa gave birth to twins – a boy and girl – bringing a streak of light into the storm-ridden night. Temporarily the troubles ceased or so it appeared and Kirkpatric drifted back to those carefree days spending much of his time at the Rang Mahal. Khairunnissa limped back to her normal life. She regained her colour and with it a glow which only the first flush of motherhood brings.

But, alas, those days were short-lived and the peace and calmness that ruled their hearts and lives did not last long. The walls were closing in and Kirkpatric found no way out.

He paced up and down in his study in the west wing where he attended to the confidential work. Now and then he bent over to the table to pick up some papers and read them again and again. He seemed impatient with waiting.

At last, he appeared – the Resident’s personal escort, Capt Hemming. The drawbridges lifted, the west wing was now completely cut off from the rest of the building. The two were alone.

“Capt Hemming, be seated,” said Kirkpatric very much relieved. But the anxiety still remained and his handsome features looked drawn. But, when he spoke, his voice was steady and calm.

Capt Hemming studied his face as he took his seat. He knew the troubles were raging but what exactly the Resident proposed to do, he could not guess.

“I have some important matter to attend to. And I need your assistance. It is to be kept very confidential,” Kirkpatric said without mincing matters.

“I will certainly do my best. Please tell me what it is,” replied Capt Hemming who deeply sympathised with him.

Kirkpatric reached for the paper and gave it to him, “Here it is, read it.”


Capt Hemming’s eyes glanced through the letter taking in every detail of its contents. “The supreme government takes a serious view of the recent developments in the Hyderabad Residency. It, therefore, institutes Capt John Malcolm to enquire into the position of Khairunnissa begum, granddaughter of a certain nawab, Akool-Dowla in the British Resident’s home. It also demands that Colonel James ArchilliesKirkpatric, the British Resident in the court of the Nizam should explain his relationship with this begum.”

Capt Hemming looked up still unable to say what he was expected to do. Without delay, Kirkpatric said, “The first thing to do is this: Capt John Malcolm should be prevented from entering Hyderabad at this point. Any enquiry here would lower my prestige among the natives. Moreover, it might bring more trouble to the company.”

“How can you do this? Capt John Malcolm is already on his way to Masulipatnam.”

“Yes, but we can do one thing. I would like you to go up to Masulipatnam and await Capt John Malcolm there. You just have to hand over notes from me. Say nothing more. He understands.”


This came as a thunderbolt. But what was he to do? Kirkpatric spoke with such conviction and authority that he knew there was nothing else to do but to obey him. At the same time he knew Kirkpatric’s heart well. His love for his begum was no secret. What would be the outcome of all this?

There was no time for contemplation. He had to obey.  “I will do accordingly,” Capt Hemming replied earnestly. “Then, start immediately. There should be no delay. Tomorrow you will have. Remember it is confidential.”

“I will,” Capt Hemming replied and rose to go. There were no more words spoken. They just shook hands and as they did so their eyes spoke. There was perfect understanding between the Resident and Capt Hemming as Capt Hemming left him.

Kirkpatric’s health deserved a little more attention. In the excitement of the recent years he had paid little heed to his health which suffered a setback. In the beginning it was only a fever but later it began to appear more regularly. Sometimes rigors accompanied the fever.


The swamps around the Residency stretched for miles on all the three sides, while on the fourth flowed the Musi. In the rainy season its water touched the grounds of the Residency. Sometimes in the quietness of the night the rumbling noise could be heard.

Added to this, the trees and bushes grew wildly intercepted by little pools of water. There trees and bushes offered homes to a large variety of birds and insects. One could hear the chirp of the crickets and also the buzzing of the mosquitoes and other insects. Swarms of these insects invaded the surrounding areas.

When the rains ceased, the little pools became a perfect breeding place for these insects, even the waters of the Musi receded leaving the banks boggy and the pools of water left here and there reinforced the army of these insects.

The bouts of fever recurred. There was a brief relief from the troubles that apparently subsided but the fever persisted and Kirkpatric’s trip to Calcutta was delayed. For some time the roads were unfit to make a journey. He waited. But then his deteriorating health came in the way. His face grew pale and the eyes lost their lustre.

In between these attacks of fever Kirkpatric worked as usual but only to be interrupted again. The medicines took time to arrive and his strength seemed slowly to give way.

Finally, the journey to Calcutta had to be undertaken. The preparations were afoot.

“Must you go, my sahib?” asked his innocent begum.

“Yes, I must,” replied Kirkpatric as he packed a few things.

“Even in this state of health?” the begum pursued.

He looked at her. Did she suspect anything? There she sat cuddled up on the divan clutching her knees. There was no sign of doubt or suspicion on her face. He was touched by her innocence. The scene of the garden house on that summer night flashed across his mind. The scent of jasmines still lingered in the air. Many things had come to pass since he met her on that night in the garden-house amidst an array of jasmines. But Khairunnissa begum retained that child-like innocence untainted by the havoc their marriage had created in his professional life.

“Yes, my lotus flower,” said Kirkpatric. “The affairs of the state cannot wait. I must see the Governor General.”

After that Khairunnissa questioned him no more. But deep in her heart there was fear lurking. It came like a passing cloud but when it did pass she felt relieved for she knew nothing about the trouble that was brewing. Only the anxiety about his deteriorating health persisted.

She consoled herself. ‘The change of place might be helpful and my sahib’s health might receive a new impetus.’

Khairunnissa, thus content, resigned herself to her husband’s departure.

Next issue: Kirkpatric’s tenure and life comes to an end.

Finally, the journey to Calcutta had to be undertaken. The preparations were afoot.“Must you go, my sahib?” asked his innocent begum.“ Yes, I must,” replied Kirkpatric as he packed a few things.

By Sarada J. Israel