And so I came, at last, to my final destination in India: the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata. I had wandered through the stone garden of the Park Street Cemetery, sat quietly in the grand neo-Gothic St. Paul’s Cathedral and walked along busy, crowded Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Road to the gardens of the Maidan. The… Continue reading MONUMENT
…the tomb of Nithar, lies reflected in the shimmering pool. In Allahabad I find a secret garden. I have been walking for hours: exploring the parks of the city’s centre, the exquisite domed buildings of the University, the sad, barricaded, derelict cathedral. I have fallen asleep on a concrete bench beneath a shady tree in… Continue reading JAHANGIR’S GARDEN
It is sometimes said that Britain obtained its empire in a fit of absentmindedness. It wasn’t so much a desire to conquer and rule that motivated the British. Rather, it was more of a slow acquisition of territories by default: a kind of global game of pickup sticks where the sticks were colonies, countries and… Continue reading JOHN COMPANY
There is a simplicity and decency in a military burial, even in its plainest form… I am not the first Blakiston in India. My ancestor, Major John Blakiston, served as an officer in both the British Army and with the East India Company from 1802 until 1814. His book Twelve Years Military Adventures in Three… Continue reading CAPTAIN BLAKISTON’S WAR.
…their brick bones stripped of stucco skin. Beyond the pedimented gateway, the roar of traffic on Park Street fades to a low, susurating murmur. The flagstone path is slippery with moss and from the gentle rain tapping on the blue and red umbrella that the gatekeeper has lent me. The path runs directly from the… Continue reading GARDEN OF STONE
But all was not well in the empire. The Moghuls came from Central Asia. Descended from Genghis Khan and Tamburlaine, they swept down from the steppes in the sixteenth century, conquering all who stood in their way. Adept horsemen, ruthless warriors, they lived in the saddle and took no prisoners. And they founded the greatest… Continue reading THE GREAT MOGHULS
The air is humid and a few spots of rain begin to fall. Morning at Howrah Station. As the Doon Express pulls into Platform 5, I look out through a scratched and grimy perspex window at the sun, rising pale and wan, through a haze of smoke and mist. Porters shift loads of hessian-wrapped freight… Continue reading OH, KOLKATA!
Her long dress is bright amid the sea of black dresses… It is raining on Park Street. Outside the big plate glass window of the Barista Café, the black tarmac of the street gleams beneath the rush of tyres and bright yellow taxis. People hurry past on the pavement beneath undulating waves of umbrellas. The… Continue reading LADY IN RED
And the dawn comes up like thunder, outta China, ‘crost the bay… – Rudyard Kipling, Mandalay Travelling is a series of vignettes and coincidences. As you move through landscapes and cross continents, you see things that remind you of home. You see familiar faces in crowds of complete strangers. Doppelgangers appear and disappear on platforms… Continue reading FROM FAIRLIE TO HOWRAH
He anoints my hands with a fragrant oil and bids me welcome… “Allāhu ‘akbar; lā ‘ilāha ‘illā-llāh…”(Allah is greater; there is no deity but Allah ) – Muzzeim’s call to prayer It is quiet inside the mosque. The roar of traffic out on Chowringhee Road, though still audible, is nothing more than a low murmur.… Continue reading TIPU SULTAN’S MOSQUE