Sifra Lentin

Sifra Lentin

Bombay History Fellow

Sifra Lentin is Fellow, Bombay History Studies. She was Visiting Fellow 2018 at the Herbert Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at University of Pennsylvania for a project on Karachi’s Jews. Her latest Gateway House policy report on “India and the SCO, Bound by Buddhism” (November 2020) proposed how India could leverage her soft power as the holy land of Buddhism in this multilateral grouping.  Her “Mumbai-Shanghai Sister Cities” report (May 2017): proposed recommendations on how sister city relationships between these two cities can be made to work. She has also written a number of books, namely, Bombay’s International Linkages (Gateway House, 2019); Our Legacy: The Dwarkadas Family of Bombay (2018), and A Salute to the Sword Arm – A photo Essay on the Western Fleet (Western Naval Command, 2007). Her work has also appeared in edited volumes: “The Jewish Presence in Bombay” in India’s Jewish Heritage: Ritual, Art, & Life-Cycle (Marg Publication, 2002), “Shalom India” published in One India One People’s book Know India Better (2006), “The Jewish presence in Mumbai: their contribution to the city’s economic, social and cultural fabric”, in Mumbai—Socio-Cultural Perspectives: Contribution of Ethnic Groups & Communities (Primus Books, 2017).

Sifra graduated in English Literature from Elphinstone College, Mumbai, and went on to complete her Bachelor’s in General Law (BGL) from Government Law College, Mumbai.  Her earlier career was in journalism with a focus on Bombay and South Asian Jewish history. Most notably, she wrote a popular thrice-weekly column for Mid-Day “Vintage Mumbai” from 1995 to 1997 and a five-part Partition series for Reuters on the golden jubilee of Indian Independence in 1997. She is on the Board of Trustees of the Sir Jacob Sassoon School (Byculla, Mumbai).

Expertise

History, Bombay

Last modified: April 2, 2020

Recent projects

The dashing Actor Prithviraj Kapoor as the Greek King Alexander in Sikander (1941). Prithviraj is spoken of by Hindi movie industry insiders as being a Hindu Pathan, as he spoke fluent Pushto and hailed from Peshawar. Courtesy: Sifra Lentin
30 January 2020 Gateway House

The Khans of Bombay’s Hindi film industry

Bombay’s Hindi film industry has welcomed Pathan talent – venerated actor Dilip Kumar, scriptwriter Salim Khan and musician Adnan Sami Khan are some prominent examples. Many of them originally came from undivided India’s Pathan homelands in what is today’s Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, entering the industry at an opportune time. Today, their descendants wear the Khan name with pride

IMG_9756 Courtesy: Gateway House
12 December 2019 Gateway House

Bombay’s Pathans: living by a code

Bombay’s Pathan community was most visible from the 19th century until India’s partition in 1947. Taking to hard labour with a natural ease, they worked mostly in mills and as security staff. Others went into business. Their numbers have thinned now, but they have retained their cultural identity, holding fast to feudal codes of conduct
23072016-BlueMosque3 Courtesy: LBB
14 August 2019 Gateway House

The Persian merchants of Bombay

Bombay’s trade with the Persian Empire grew rapidly in the 19th century because of regular steamship services between the city and prominent Iranian ports such as Bushire. The wealthy and public-spirited Persian merchants, who settled in Bombay, endowed their community with a religious and social infrastructure, in use even today
imgonline-com-ua-resize-OkFHvLMWvTcPfSEl Courtesy: Shutterstock
18 July 2019 Gateway House

Bombay’s Irani cafes

The Irani cafés of Mumbai are a unique part of the city’s history. Founded about 120 years ago by Zoroastrian and Shia immigrants from Iran, they catered principally to workers in mills and factories. The few that remain are a reminder of a well- assimilated cultural, particularly culinary, link between India and Iran
nehru Courtesy: Free Press Journal
2 May 2019 Gateway House

Tracing Indian merchants in Japan

Japanese Emperor Naruhito’s coronation on May 1, marking the dawn of the Reiwa Era, is a milestone also for the Indian merchant diaspora, which began arriving during the reign of the Meiji Emperor in the 1870s. The strength of the India-Japan bilateral relationship lies in the 150-year-old narratives of these family-run firms and the success of many Indo-Japanese  collaborations
IMG_20190411_090307__01__01_Norita SAN (1) Courtesy: Gateway House
11 April 2019 Gateway House

Japan’s Buddhist trail in Bombay

At the turn of the 20th century, British India was home to about 3,000 Japanese expatriates, and Bombay and its presidency had well-established trade ties with Imperial Japan – until the Second World War brought it all to an end. The city never regained its substantial Japanese resident population, but the few monuments that remain point to rich political and religious linkages
Image Credit: Dr. Jehangir Sorabjee
Raw cotton being weighed. Japanese firms began going to the cotton growing hinterland of Bombay by the early 20th century. These direct purchases fueled a massive export trade between Bombay and Japan. Courtesy: Dr. Jehangir Sorabjee
20 March 2019 Gateway House

Imperial Japan’s trade with Bombay

Prior to the Second World War, Bombay had established merchant networks with several Japanese port cities and they drove an enormous global trade in cotton and textiles between the Indian subcontinent and Imperial Japan. Business has become a renewed priority for both countries today, offering fresh opportunities for collaboration