Tuesday, March 28, 2006

India: Or, I am posting a lot because I spent 3 hours grading papers this afternoon and I deserve it.

A friend and I are planning a trip to India this summer. We both big nerds who want to actually research India (more than just reading a travel guide) before we go. We are at the stage of planning where it just hit us that India is a Really Big Country.

This week, I finally started reading a history book about British imperialism in India. I borrowed it from the library three weeks ago (in fact, I didn't even start reading it until the day after it was due), but kept putting it off in favor of the New Yorker or just drowsing to music. Guess what? It's fascinating!

I'm only on page fifty-something, and here are some things I've learned:

1. Several major cities in India were founded as such by the British East India Company. These became centers of commerce and government. Madras, Calcutta, Bombay.

Note: A reader emailed the following,
mumbai (vombay), kolkota (calcutta) and chennai (madras) have existed before british india. they grew big as they exist today because of british rule and trade. of course, british (bloody!) rechristened the names.

To clarify my original posting, I never intended to suggest that these cities did not exist at all prior to the British arriving.

2. The word "thug" comes from a phenomenon in India called thugi, in which roving bands of thugs would befriend travellers for several days, then suddenly turn on them and sacrifice them to the goddess Kali. It was abolished and eradicated in the 1930's by the British. (Some claim that the whole thing is a conspiracy theory arising from British paranoia).

3. Kashmir came to be coupled with Jammu when the British defeated the Sikhs in 1846. They offered the Sikhs a fairly generous settlement at the end of the war, but demanded a large sum of money. The ruler of Jammu bailed out the Sikhs in exchange for Kashmir, and the rest is history (or current events).

9 Comments:

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1:33 AM  
Anonymous H.W.C. said...

Have you read Bombay Maximum City by Suketu Mehta? His pithy comments and tendency towards, "this is Bombay in a nutshell" commentary irks me, but it's still a great read on a contemporary South Asian megalopolis. And he name-checks Levittown AND Jackson Heights!

8:51 AM  
Blogger Bharath Hemachandran said...

I hope you do make that trip to India. I just randomly stumbled onto your blog and what had written interested me. I know you mentioned that you did not want to read any touristy kind of stuff, but this article on wikipedia has some wonderful stuff on it!

Read it at your leisure. Hope you have a good un!

3:01 PM  
Blogger Mast Ram said...

You have a very good blog!!

Keep up the Good work!!!

I did not know some of the facts myself!!!

5:31 PM  
Blogger ms. frizzle said...

It's not that I don't want to read ANY touristy stuff - you kind of have to read some of it before travelling - it's that I want to read other stuff as well, to have more context for deciding where to go.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Jorge said...

Hi - if you are remotely interested, I wrote a brief paper on India called, "The Jews of India" - they have a fascinating story in that land. It is a Word file - it is a small summary paper written for my cousin before he headed to India. Unfortunately he never made it to the land. My e-mail is desertdew@cox.net
Keep up your good work!

12:30 AM  
Blogger new toofan said...

india is a big country.to know what india is u would hav to travel by trains and locl buse.u hav to be vary of some vested interest who like to fool others,but genuine ppl do exist
mumbai,or delhi is a good entry point.staying in 2 or 3 star hotel is good

5:02 AM  
Blogger Nishant Sah said...

I just stumbled by ur blog... good to see ur interest in India... welcome to india wenever u have the time... It is a country i bet u will never understand unless u see it for yourself...

6:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

history is what the historians write. and the truth of this statement comes out when one reveals the distorted knowledge of great civilizations and their long histories of colonialism and suffering from history books written from the imperialistic perspective. it is not new for imperial leaders claiming all credits for building their colonies instead of having the courage and honesty to acknowledge their sole appropriation and exploitation of societies as a whole by crafty and dishonest governance. like claiming to having built the big cities of india whereas the fact is that they already existed as very big trade centers and were the reasons that the british first came as traders. being in the 21st century our minimum responsibility as social beings should be to verify the authenticity of the historic facts and then comment on such issues.

4:51 PM  

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