Colaba, the southernmost tip of Mumbai—a bustling locality with the Gateway of India, the famous Taj Mahal Hotel, and Colaba Causeway, a shopper’s paradise—is the city’s most iconic neighbourhood. But barely 200 years ago, it was a rocky, jackal-infested island, separated from the rest of the great metropolis by a temperamental creek.
In this compelling biography, Shabnam Minwalla, journalist, author and long-time resident of the area, tells the tale of the unexpected forces that reshaped land and sea; and allowed this remote corner of Bombay-Mumbai to evolve into one of its liveliest, quirkiest neighbourhoods. Trying to figure out the exact area limits, she unravels accounts of colonial rivalries and dowry negotiations, and of shrewd industrialists who transformed the doomed island into the centre of trade during the cotton boom of the 1860s. She navigates the sometimes charming, sometimes seedy streets to track the area’s evolution from a retreat for British soldiers and sailors to a coveted residential area for the English and Indians alike. She digs into her childhood memories to introduce us to the eccentric Parsis of Cusrow Baug, the warm yet persistent shopkeepers and hawkers of the Causeway, the industrious Sindhis who pioneered co-operative housing societies, the colourful musicians, theatre artists and writers who frequented her corner of Colaba, and the Arabs who come there every year to witness the city’s monsoons. And in a moving section, she records how the neighbourhood rose like a phoenix from the ashes after the 26/11 terrorist attack.
Combining a remarkable flair for storytelling with sound journalistic groundwork, and drawing upon three generations of family memory, Shabnam paints an intimate and dynamic portrait of a great and fabled neighbourhood.
This title will be available by 15 Feb 2019.
Almost all of the Himalaya had been mapped by the time the Great Game—in which the British and Russian Empires fought for control of Central and Southern Asia—reached its zenith in the latter half of the 19th century. Only Tibet remained unknown and unexplored, zealously guarded and closed off to everyone. Britain sent a number of spies into this forbidden land, disguised as pilgrims and wanderers, outfitted with secret survey equipment and not much else. These intrepid explorers were tasked with collecting topographical knowledge, and information about the culture and customs of Tibet.
Among the many who were sent was Kinthup, a tailor who went as a monk’s companion to confirm that the Tsangpo and the Brahmaputra were the same river. In an arduous mission that lasted four years, Kinthup had many adventures—he was even sold as a slave by the monk—before he returned, having succeeded, only to find that the officers who had sent him, and the family he left behind, were all dead.
Sarat Chandra Das, a schoolmaster, also went on a clandestine mission. He came back in two years, having compiled extensive data and carrying a trove of ancient manuscripts and documents. He went on to become a renowned Tibetologist and Buddhist scholar. All the people who had helped and hosted him in Tibet were either imprisoned or put to death.
Bells of Shangri-La brings to vivid life the journeys and adventures of Kinthup, Sarat Chandra Das and others, including Eric Bailey, an officer who was part of the British invasion of Tibet in 1903, and who later followed in Kinthup’s footsteps to the Tsangpo. Weaving biography with precise historical knowledge, and the memories of his own treks over some of the trails covered by these travellers, Parimal Bhattacharya writes in the great tradition of Peter Hopkirk and Peter Matthiessen to create a sparkling, unprecedented work of non-fiction.
Under Something of a Cloud spans a lifetime of Dom Moraes’ work to select the very best of his travel writing. Featured in this volume is a vividly recollected childhood tour of Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia and Australia with his father, Frank Moraes, and his mother, Beryl, who was then rapidly sliding into madness; a darkly comic account of a trip to the Sikkim-Tibet border, amidst rumours that the Chinese would soon attack India; and a thrilling adventure among the Dani tribe in Indonesia who, at that time, were reputed to be cannibals.
Also included here are Moraes’ sojourns among dacoits in the Chambal valley, one of whom, Lacchi, he helped spring from police custody; the account of a heartwrenching meeting with a man in Bhagalpur in Bihar who had acid poured into his eyes by the police; and encounters with women victims in Ahmedabad, soon after the riots in 2002, which left him shattered.
With a keen sense for atmosphere, colour, understated wit and unfailing empathy for the underdog, Dom Moraes brings to life people and places like few other writers anywhere can. Not only will fans of the author love Under Something of a Cloud, it will also appeal to readers of world-class travel writing and connoisseurs of timeless prose.
The origin of New Delhi can be traced to the Coronation Durbar in December 1911, where Emperor George V announced the transfer of the capital of the British Empire in India from Calcutta to Delhi.
Swapna Liddle traces in fascinating detail the events that led up to that historic day: the deliberations over the choice of location; the roles played by the Viceroy, Lord Hardinge, and the two principal architects, Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker; and, finally, the naming of the capital as ‘New Delhi’—to distinguish it from the old city of Shahjahanabad.
Even as the new capital took shape, it was Connaught Place that gave life to the city. Designed as a shopping and commercial centre for the elite—both British and Indian—it boasted of the most exclusive shops, cinemas and restaurants.
While many of the old familiar haunts like Gaylord, Volga and Regal Cinema have shut their doors, Connaught Place continues to reinvent itself with shiny new multiplexes, branded stores and restaurants taking their place. A guidebook of the early 1940s described Connaught Place as ‘indeed the most fashionable shopping centre…and, undoubtedly the most progressive part of the most progressive town in the country.’ The crowds that continue to throng its corridors, both young and old, visitors to the city and residents alike, bear testimony to the statement.
Rare photographs and illustrations add to its value as a classic amongst city biographies, in keeping with Liddle’s earlier book, Chandni Chowk: The Mughal City of Old Delhi.
A chance comment in 1974 fired Peter Brook and Jean-Claude Carrière with the idea of producing a play based on the epic. Together they travelled across India, searching for all possible theatrical forms of the great poem. The result was an epic play—9 hours with two intermissions—later made into a film and a TV series, which has become a landmark in theatre. Another result was this delightful book made from the notes that Carriere jotted down during his travels, whose charm is enhanced by his piquant illustrations that run through the pages.
The ‘sacred frenzy’ of Theyyam in a Kerala village and the intricacies of Kathakali are interwoven with their encounters with the aged Shankaracharya of Kanchipuram, a ‘one-in-three saint’, and the legendary Satyajit Ray in Kolkata. Here they also meet Professor P. Lal, who has been working for twenty years on translating the Mahabharata into English. It is vignettes like these that make their search for the epic into a journey that shows India, through Carrière’s words and sketches, in a way it has never been seen before.
When Dervla Murphy was ten, she was given a bicycle and an atlas, and soon—inspired by her correspondence with a Sikh pen pal—she was secretly planning a trip to India. At the age of thirty-one, in 1963, she finally set off, and this astonishing book is based on the daily diary she kept while riding through the Balkans, Iran, Afghanistan and—over the Himalayas—into Pakistan and India. A lone woman on a bicycle (with a revolver in her trouser pocket) was an unknown occurrence and a focus of enormous interest wherever she went. Undaunted by snow in alarming quantities, floods and robbery, using her .25 pistol on starving wolves and to scare off predatory men, and relying on the generosity of nomads, she not only finished her epic journey, but also pioneered a form of adventure travel that has inspired generations. Over half a century after it was first published, Full Tilt remains a hugely popular classic of travel writing.
When Mark Shand, an aristocratic playboy and travel writer, decided that what he needed was an elephant, it wasn’t long before he started getting phone calls from India, offering elephants for sale. With the help of a Maratha nobleman, he purchased Tara, a young, scrawny female, and travelled with her—and a retinue of friends, old and new—for more than 800 kilometres across India, from Konark to the Sonepur Mela—the world’s oldest elephant market.
From Bhim, a drink-racked mahout, he learnt the skills of elephant driving. From his friend Aditya Patankar, he learnt about the culture and attitudes of India. And with Tara, his new companion, he fell in love. So much so, that decades after their travelling days were over, Mark Shand was still fund-raising and campaigning on behalf of Indian elephants, becoming one of the most high-profile conservationists in the world.
Travels On My Elephant is the story of an epic journey across the dusty back roads of India, as Mark Shand and his party astound, amuse and puzzle all those they encounter on the way. It is also a vivid portrayal of a cheerfully chaotic India and the memorable, touching account of Tara’s transformation from a sad beggar to the star attraction, and Mark Shand’s loyal companion.
In the 1970s, Sarah Lloyd, a landscape architect from England, was at a railway station in Calcutta when she met Pritam Singh—nicknamed Jungli by his mother—a Nihang Sikh with a ‘powerful face that instantly compelled’ her. Soon after, Sarah travelled to Amarkot, Jungli’s village near Amritsar, and started living with him and his extended family—his stepfather, Pitaji; his mother, Mataji; Balwant, Jungli’s brother, who came and went; and his unhappily married sister, Rajinder.
As she observed—and battled—the routines of an alien life, and tried to fit some of the moulds set out for her, Sarah came to understand Jungli better—his generosity of spirit, his idealism, his beliefs, and his unquestioning love for her—even as she realized her own ambivalence about him. She also learnt to deal with his temper, his bouts of despair, and his addiction to opium.
After Mataji threw Jungli out, the couple moved to Chandinagar in UP, where Jungli worked at a Sikh dera. There they lived in a one-room hut, cheek by jowl with families even poorer than them, each one dependent on Santji, the dictatorial saint who ran the dera. And it was there that she inevitably, finally ended their relationship.
An account of an unlikely love, and a rare and unusual portrait of rural India, An Indian Attachment is a compelling read: forthright, spare and—in its psychologically complex examination of desire and disillusionment—timeless.
One of the world’s great travel writers, Dervla Murphy, and her young daughter, Rachel—with little money, no taste for luxury and few concrete plans—meander their way slowly south from Bombay to the southernmost point of India, Cape Comorin, in 1973. Interested in everything they see, but only truly enchanted by people, they stay in fishermen’s huts and no-star hotels, travelling in packed-out buses, on foot and by boat. But instead of pressing ever onwards, they double back to the place they liked most, the hill province of Coorg, and settle down to live there for two months. In this book, Dervla Murphy creates an extraordinarily affectionate portrait of these cardamom-scented, spiritually and agriculturally self-sufficient highlands.
One winter in the mid-1970s, Dervla Murphy, her six-year-old daughter Rachel and Hallam, a hardy mule, walked into Baltistan close to Pakistan-held Kashmir—the frozen heart of the Western Himalayas. For three months they travelled along the perilous Indus Gorge and into nearby valleys, making a mockery of fear, trekking through the forbidding Karakoram mountains and lodging with the Balts, who farm one of the remotest regions on earth. Despite the hardship, Dervla never forgot the point of travel, retaining enthusiasm for her magnificent surroundings and using her sense of humour to bring out the best in her hosts, who were often locked into the melancholic mood of mid-winter.
This hair-raising, quirky and vivid account of their adventure is a classic of travel writing.