The City of Nawabs has a long and rich history of noteworthy personalities. Here is one of them, a living icon of our times – the woman who has been called the iconic face of Indian womanhood in post-Independence India.
Petite, graceful, confident, determined, tireless! There are many words that can be used to describe the charming Begum Hamida Habibullah, who has just turned 100. She has recently celebrated her 100th birthday in her hometown Lucknow with cake-cutting, confetti, speeches, songs, and loads of nostalgia.
Her majestic house, which is now considered a heritage landmark, is the Habibullah Estate in Hazratganj, Lucknow.
Begum Hamida Habibullah is an ex-MP of the Rajya Sabha, former Minister of State for Tourism & Civil Defence and currently President of Avadh Degree College. She was married to the Late Major General Enaith Habibullah, Founder Commandant of the National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla. The couple have one son, two daughters, three grandsons, two granddaughters and nine great-grandsons. She is happiest when she spends time with her family.
Hamida excelled in academics and topped the Senior Cambridge examinations from Osmania University. She learnt a lot in her classrooms, but it was her trip to London as a teenager that changed her views about life. She really took to English society and lifestyle, and wanted to stay back and do her higher studies at Cambridge University. But her mother had already settled her marriage in the Habibullah family the Taluqedars of Saidanpur, Bara Banki, in Uttar Pradesh, and she had to return.
In 1938, she married the young, dashing man who, in later years, became the illustrious Major General Enaith Habibullah. She did go back to London to do a two-year teachers’ training course from White Lands College, Putney. On her return, she played a major role in furthering women’s education in the region and became the president of the Avadh Girls Degree College (AGDC), Lucknow’s first English degree College for girls.
“My mother-in-law (Inam Habibullah) was passionate about girls’ education and she supported me in completing my studies. She prepared me to carry forward her great work in the field of education and upliftment of women,” Hamida says.
She served as an elected Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from Haidergarh, was State Minister of Social and Harijan Welfare, National Integration & Civil Defence from 1971-73, and Tourism Minister from 1971-74. The turning point for Begum came with the passing away of her husband in 1990. For a while it seemed like everything had come to a naught, a standstill. For a brief period, she even moved to Delhi to be with her daughter. But Lucknow has always pulled at her heart strings and she couldn’t stay away. She took control after a while and returned to helping people and taking an interest in their lives.
Hamida manages many community-centric activities however, she always took time out to travel and spend quality time with friends and family. Her manicured hands, perfectly styled hairdo, the elegant pearl jewellery, and the hospitality, everything seems so much in sync.
Uttar Hamara wishes Begum Hamida’s long life! She is indeed a matchless centurion, still going strong.