Her Highness Nawab Mehtab Zamani Ali Khan urf Begum Noor Bano opens her heart and her home Noor Mahal with a smile on her lips, and elegance personified. Meet Begum Noor Bano, witness to many royalties in India – from Loharu to Jaipur to Rampur.
Tell us about the Rampurs.
The Royal family goes back to 13 generations. Origin can be traced to the time of Mughals. They came and stayed here, settled down. At that time there weren’t any rulers or Nawabs among them. Their leader was addressed as Sardar who used to be the strongest and fearless. But then, everyone would be tough and brave. One of the earliest Sardars was as young as 14 – Ali Mohammad Khan. The royalty era began during the British. Interestingly, their history has been quite dominant and secular. They never ever fought with anyone from other religion.
How was your entry into the family?
One girl from the Rampur royalty was married in Loharu from where I belonged. So, there were already communication between Rampur and Loharu. I was born in Loharu, which was in Haryana to the last ruling Nawab Amin ud-din Ahmad Khan and I went to study in Jaipur. As all royalties were friendly and known to each other, Nawab Raza Ali khan of Rampur once travelled to Jaipur to support a case of Maharaja of Dholpur. While in Jaipur, he stayed at our place, as the Maharaja of Jaipur was out of the country. It was there that Nawab Raza Ali Khan saw me while I was coming from school. He discussed his son’s early marriage to me which was solemnized at Jaipur only.
Can you recall your journey to Rampur Palace?
I was received royally and elegantly. I came from Rajput culture, which was a Hindu culture. At Rampur, it was a Muslim culture. To my great satisfaction, there was absolute harmony, so much so that I adjusted very well. The Rampurs also had the western lifestyle by that time.
How does it feel from royal to non royal India?
In Rajasthan, there were so many rulers while in Uttar Pradesh, there were only three royalties – Rampur, Benaras and Tehri-Garwal. The custom and culture at Rampur were different, but I quickly adjusted. My stay at the Khas Bagh Palace with the family was pleasant. There wasn’t any disturbance in Rampur, and ties among different religions were too strong. My family commanded respect which people shower till date.
How do you see the legacy continuing?
People still see us with same respect and honour. My father-in-law Nawab Raza Ali Khan was a very progressive ruler. He had accommodated lots of people after partition, given them land, allowances. I was married into the family in 1956 and throughout the transition period, I saw my family supporting the country that was evolving. We welcomed the free India as much as the people of India welcomed us. In fact, Rampur was the first princely state to become a part of India.
Waht differences do you notice between the Rampurs and the modern times?
My husband was elected to assembly, and then to Parliament 5 times, with the support of people of Rampur. I was elected to Parliament twice. My son has been in state assembly four times, straight. My husband never took any ministerial berth as he wanted to stay focused in Rampur. In Rampur, people always had total freedom. Our family never considered itself superior to anyone. We have always been pro-people. We never allowed people to bow before us, our hands rise to greet each other, even to this date.
What about the upcoming generation?
We have raised the new members in our family in such a way that people respect them out of their own volition. My grandchildren have been taught to earn respect. People should honour them because of their behavior and work and not just because of the family. Rampur people call me their mother. I am mother to them, and I am proud of it. Respect has got nothing to do with title.
What do you think when people say that you are beautiful?
If I do get the compliments I feel that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Yes, my mother-in-law Rafat Zamani Begum was very beautiful. And I was fortunate to have been groomed by the most beautiful women in the world Maharani Gayatri Devi who was a mother to me.