Sharmila`s transition from actress to `begum`

Bhopal: Sharmila Tagore`s transition from an acclaimed Bollywood actress to the matriarch of the former royal family of Bhopal was evident during her recent visit to this City of Lakes, where she settled family feuds and intervening in issues relating of the Haj.

Sharmila, known as Begum Ayesha Sultana to people here, was in Bhopal for the first time since the death of her husband, former India cricket captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, in September.

She stayed here for four days Dec 27-30 and met Pataudi`s sister Saleha Sultan, 71, and Arjuman Ali Khan, husband of another sister Sabiha Sultan, 69, to settle their decades-old property dispute.

After the death of Pataudi`s mother Begum Sajida Sultan, the last nawab begum of Bhopal, the cricketer was recognised as the head of the royal house. However, Saleha and Sabiha have been fighting for what they claim is their share of the ancestral heritage.

Sharmila told reporters that her children, Saif Ali Khan, Saba Ali Khan and Soha Ali Khan and their cousins were keen on an early and amicable settlement.

Saleha`s son Faiz Bin Jung said: "It (the dispute) is a family matter and we will sort it out within the family."

Sharmila also came to know that a Saudi Arabian had been appointed caretaker of two prime properties in Makah and Madina belonging to the nawabs of Bhopal. She ordered an inquiry and formed a four member committee to go to Saudi Arabia and find out the details.

In 1819, when a begum of the Bhopal royal family went for the Haj pilgrimage, she had decided to purchase the houses in Makkah and Madina. The Saudis then granted nationality to a family from Bhopal and deputed them to look after the properties.

Till date, most Hajis from Bhopal stay free of cost in these two buildings that can house 300 people.

"In every issue, Ayesha Sultan (Sharmila) has taken positive and concrete steps. The most important was the committee formed to inquire into rubat going into the hands of Saudi nationals. We hope that all these will bring betterment not only to descendents of Bhopal`s Nawab family but to locals also," historian and author Sayeed Akhtar Hussain told reporters.