Friday, May 20, 2011

A Passage to the British Raj

Every time I have been asked the question 'If you could travel back in time to any period, which era would you prefer?', my answer has been the same. 1858 to 1947, India. In other words, the period of the British Raj that took over from the East India Company to rule the 'jewel in the crown' of the British Empire - India. When the British Raj formally ended, there were two nation states - India and Pakistan - carved out of it through a devastating Partition that killed almost a million in what was one of the largest displacements of people in human history. 

Partition is an event that haunts relations between India and Pakistan till today, an event that lead to as much suffering as it enabled freedom.Therefore understanding the British Raj, in my opinion, goes a long way in understanding the present situation and relationship between the two countries. Indeed the impact of the Raj on India is profound, both negative and positive and for anyone who loves studying history, this time period is a remarkably rich canvas to learn about. 

There are several brilliant books, both fiction and non-fiction, films, incredible photographs and videos from and based on the Raj. The material available is just inexhaustible. I've been on a British Raj reading spree of late, and when I'm not reading books and articles, I'm engrossed in remembering dates and events that lead to Independence and Partition. 

A Passage to the British Raj is my small project of sorts, an attempt to chronicle and compile a host of material - books (A Passage to India, Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire, The Far Pavilions, The Siege of Krishnapur, Train to Pakistan, The Discovery of India etc), photos, videos, articles etc - that tell the story of the era preceding India's 'tryst with destiny' which can be viewed by anyone interested in the subject.

* This will include book reviews (for useful recommendations, check India- Book Recommendations), movie reviews, excerpts from books, snippets from articles, links to interesting  websites, quotes, photographs and just about anything history and literature-wise relevant to the British Raj. I hope to post as and when something interesting comes my way and hopefully, once a week. 

* This isn't a reading challenge, but I welcome everyone who is interested to learn more about the British Raj and the Indian independence movement to join this little project. 

* You can read things I post, read books/watch movies related to the Raj and review them, share interesting links or information you find, post them on your blog as part of A Passage to the British Raj (as long as you make sure to link to this post).

* Feel free to get involved as per your convenience and leave a comment here to let me know. You do not need to be an expert on the history of the British Raj nor do you need to know a lot on the subject, as long as you're interested in reading about it now. 

* Most crucially, there is no minimum/maximum reading limit or deadline, so enjoy this journey!

Finally, there are several interpretations, sometimes poles apart, of the history of British India and the birth of India and Pakistan. My interest lies solely in reading and trying to understand all sides of the picture. I don't claim to be an expert, merely someone who has a passion to understand the history that made her country. 

That's just about everything and I do hope you will all join me in this exciting passage to the British Raj. Spread the word!


ASponge said...

Once again, Kals further establishes herself as a remarkable individual, whose intellectual curiosity knows no bounds. This post is also so well-written, composed with better diction and flair than most native English speakers could ever dream to write.

I wish I had time to read the source material along with everyone else, but I really look forward to following along Kals' passage, and I would encourage anyone to jump along for the ride. It's hard to imagine there could be a Partition when you have such a well-intentioned, unifying figure like Kals to sprinkle goodness on the world.

Good luck. This should be a wonderful adventure!

Joanne said...

Hello, Kals -- I, too, am very interested lately in books that happen to have India as a setting. While I'm not sure how accurate they are (as they ARE works of fiction); nevertheless, they all paint of portrait of a beautiful country. (Zemindar by Valerie Fitzgerald was excellent). I also have The Shadow of the Moon and The Far Pavilions by M. M Kaye on my TBR list. I'll be stopping by to see what else you review here. Happy reading!

Savanna said...

Kals, this is going to be so fascinating! This period in Indian history has always intrigued me, thanks to books like The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, but I've only ever really gotten glimpses of it from the British perspective. I can't wait to follow along with you on your journey!

Mel u said...

Great post and topic-A couple of months ago I began reading and posting on South Asia Short Stories with a focus on stories about the 1947 partition and the 1971 War in Bangladesh (a consequence of the partition)-I have posted on stories by some of the leading authors of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. I recently posted on the very last short story of Tagore, "A Muslim Woman" written in 1941 but almost a prophecy of the events soon to come-I have been a participant in your "Tagore Thursday" and will try to find away to support your project-we should try to find away to cross link our projects-to the limited extent I can I try to explicate the cultural background of the stories I read-my project is now a life long one-

Kals said...

ASponge - Thanks so much for the very kind words! I hope people enjoy taking part in this project.

JoAnne - Thank you so much! It's okay if they are fiction, because I'm sure they still capture the spirit and flavour of India, even if they aren't exactly accurate. Feel free to post your reviews with the 'A Passage to the British Raj' tag and I'll be sure to link your reviews here as well :)

Savanna - Thanks a lot! Those are incidentally books I haven't read. I should get to them soon. I hope you enjoy being part of this little project :)

Mel U - First, congrats on taking up such a wonderful and enormously important topic! I'm looking forward to cross linking our projects. I've always loved your enthusiasm for Tagore and I'm glad we share a lot more things in common! I will be sure to link any relevant posts from your blog here to the project and you could also use the 'A Passage to the British Raj' tag when you post :)

'Life long project' is exactly how I'd describe my interest to keep studying about the Raj and the birth of India and Pakistan. I'm very glad to see your interest in this project too, thanks!

Tanu said...

What a great idea!I am looking forward to your posts. This post reminded me of "Cracking India" by Bapsi Sidhwa. I think I will read that book next. :)

Swapna Raghu Sanand said...

Beautifully written. My answer would be the same too and that's why I just devour whatever interesting or informative books i can find on the British Raj.

Kals said...

Tanu - Thanks so much! I hope you can join in sometime :)

Swapna - Nice to see you here after a long time and I'm glad you liked this post :) Feel free to join in with the project whenever you read about the Raj.

Booksnyc said...

I can't wait to read your posts on this topic - Indian history is fascinating and, although I don't know nearly as much about it as you, I have to agree that the British Raj period in particular seems fascinating!

Kals said...

Booksync - Thanks so much! Indeed it is fascinating and I hope you can join us too :)

Song said...

I'm here through the link provided by Mel U on twitter. This sounds like an interesting challenge. I've read The Far Pavilions and The Shadow of the Moon (also my M M Kaye). I haven't read anything else concerned with the British Raj. I would take part in this if I didn't have a whole bunch of other books lined up.

But I'd love to keep popping in and checking the progress of the challenge.

Btw, you have an interesting blog, and it really feels great to come across a fellow Indian book blogger!:) All the best with the challenge!

Kals said...

Risa - Thanks so much for the comment and for following my blog! I'm very glad to meet an Indian book blogger as well - not many of us around here :)

I do hope your reading load decreases and you can make space for books on the Raj. Have fun following this challenge and join us whenever you can :)

Mel u said...

Kals-I posted today on two Short Stories by writers from Bangladesh (one story from 1920 and one 1958) that I thing are directly related to issues of your project-here is my link

Two Bangladesh Stories Related to the British Raj


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