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: September 27, 2021

Recent projects

800px-Emergency_hospital_during_Influenza_epidemic,_Camp_Funston,_Kansas_-_NCP_1603 Courtesy: Wikipedia
17 September 2020 Gateway House

The 1918 ‘flu: India’s worst pandemic

The 20th century’s worst pandemic – Spanish Flu – erupted in March 1918 in Camp Funston (Kansas, U.S.) during the Great War. Much like Covid-19 it spread globally at an astonishing pace. Its Second Autumnal Wave took about 30 million lives in four months, half of those in India. It’s sheer virulence and high mortality makes this virus the correct analogy for Covid-19
Sifra - final Courtesy: Gateway House
25 June 2020 Gateway House

Mumbai-Shanghai: two COVID-19 stories

The sister cities of Mumbai and Shanghai have a shared history, population size, and economic significance. On 29 May, a roundtable between the Shanghai Institute of International Studies and Gateway House encouraged discussion on strategies to battle COVID-19, and kick-start city economies after a lockdown. Here are some workable solutions.
A postcard by Clifton & Co., c. 1903, showing a ward with patients and two medical personnel taken in a Plague Hospital in Bombay. Courtesy: Burrough's Wellcome archive
7 May 2020 Gateway House

Lessons from the Bombay Plague

To tackle Covid19 the Indian government has invoked the colonial-era Epidemics Act of 1897, originally enacted to tackle the Bombay Plague of 1896. The plague wreaked havoc across Bombay and presented some of the same challenges the government faces today, including a migrant labour exodus. History teaches by examples - here is a glance in to the past
p7 Courtesy: Lovneet Bhatt
2 April 2020 Gateway House

Afghan Hindus & Sikhs under attack

The 25 March 2020 attack on a Sikh gurudwara in Kabul focused world attention on the plight of Afghanistan’s indigenous Sikh and Hindu minorities, the target of both local lawless elements and religious fundamentalists. They once were a significant part of Afghanistan’s principally Muslim population and a mark of its cultural syncretism and religious pluralism
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