Saturday 12 July 2014

Barrister Abbasi and Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru

A senior lawyer of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court told me this story when I was practising in the Allahabad High Court.

In the 1930s Barrister Abbasi, was a young lawyer of the Lucknow Bench. He was the son of a rich zamindar of Avadh. He had got his barrister's qualification in England after studying many years in England. He returned to India and started law practice in Lucknow.

Like most fresh lawyers he had no work. Such sons of zamindars who became lawyers in Lucknow ( and elsewhere) used to have an easy life, their allowance coming from their father. They would get up late, have a sumptuous breakfast, go to Court, where they had no work and spent their time chit chatting with friends, and then returned home In the evening. Later they would go to Mohammedbagh club, play tennis or bridge, have some whiskey, and then go home again.

Barrister Abbasi also followed this routine.

It so happened that in this period of his life he fell in love with the famous ghazal singer Begum Akhtar, and wanted to marry her. To this his father vehemently objected, because Barrister Abbasi belonged to a high caste Muslim family, whereas Begum Akhtar belonged to a low caste family. Moreover, she was a singer, which was not then regarded a respectable profession. Barrister Abbasi, however, was adamant, and married her, and on learning this his father cut off his allowance.

At that time Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru had come to Lucknow to argue an important case. He saw barrister Abbasi sitting dejected in the Bar Library, and came to him and asked " Kya baat hai barrister, kyon itne udaas dikhayee de rahe ho ?" ( Barrister, why are you looking so gloomy ?). At first Abbasi kept silent, but ultimately he related what had happened.

Sir Tej then went away, but a few days therafter Barrister Abbasi received by post an envelope containing Rs. 500 and a first class train ticket to Jaipur.He could not make anything out of this, but nevertheless he took the train to Jaipur. There he was received at the station by the liveried employees of the Maharaja of Jaipur, who asked him whether he would like to see Jaipur on the Maharaja's Rolls Royce, or the Maharaja' buggy. He opted for the buggy, which took him on a round of the Pink City.
He was then taken to the Palace,where he had a sumptuous lunch in the suite which he was given, and then rested. 

In the evening he was summoned to the suite of Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru and met him there. He naturally asked Sir Tej what this was all about. Sir Tej replied that he and the Barrister had been engaged in an arbitration case between the Maharaja of Jaipur and the Maharaja of Jodhpur. Sir Tej then said that Abbasi would not be able to understand the case as it was too complicated for him, so his job was to hear the proceedings in the day, and to entertain people by reciting Urdu shairi in the evenings.

The arbitration lasted about 2 weeks,and resulted in resolution of the dispute. A grand darbar was then held, attended by both the Maharajahs. In this darbar it was announced that 'Ala Wakeel Saheb' Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru was granted Rs. 5000 as fees and 500 asharfis (gold sovereigns), and 'Ala Wakeel Saheb' Barrister Abbasi was also granted the same.

In this way Barrister Abbasi earned an amount which was fabulous for those times, and he tided over his financial crisis. This just shows the magnanimity of Sir Tej who wanted to help the Barrister, without making him feel he is getting a handout.


  1. what a large hearted man, sapru had been

  2. Wonderful story..!!! No one knows when destiny change!!!