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


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

The Plains of Madhya Pradesh.

Empty platforms in nameless towns flashing by. I made these notes in my diary as I crossed the state of Madhya Pradesh on the SC DNR Express from Nagpur to Allahabad.  07:20 Monday 17/2Mist over the fields in the cool of dawn vanish in moments as the sun rises.A man in an orange jacket standing… Continue reading The Plains of Madhya Pradesh.


Along the sandstone terrace beside the Kali temple and out into the sunlight beside the Ganges… Dawn on Manikarnika Ghat. A cold breeze blows down the Ganges, chopping the water of the river with tiny wavelets and flapping the orange triangular flags adorning the riverside temples. It eddies around the funeral pyres burning down at… Continue reading THE CHAI WALLAH’S KITCHEN