the globalised dawoodi bohras of mumbai Courtesy: SBUT
25 March 2021

The globalised Dawoodi Bohras of Bombay

The Mumbai-headquartered Dawoodi Bohra community has a rich legacy of business, overseas maritime trade, and, today, a strong global community network that connects its 1 million faithful, wherever they are, in real time. The community's strength is its network, even 1,000 years ago, even without technology.

resized again pk 2 Courtesy: Wikimedia commons & gloriabyculla.wordpress
28 January 2021

Premchund Roychand, 1863’s Big Bull

On 21 January, the Bombay Stock Exchange index crossed the 50,000 mark – the first-ever in its 146-year history. A similar stock market boom occurred in 1863. It was led by the city’s legendary stock-bullion-cotton broker, Premchund Roychand. Unlike today’s Bad Boy Billionaires, Roychand settled all his dues after which he earned back his fortune. Well-known as the sole donor of Mumbai University’s Rajabai Clock Tower, he not only met all pending philanthropic commitments made before the 1865 crash but continued giving more.

INS_Viraat_front_view Courtesy: Wikipedia
1 October 2020

INS Viraat sails away

Five days before World Maritime Day last week, the former Flag Ship of India’s Western Fleet headquartered in Mumbai – the Aircraft Carrier INS Viraat or R 22 – was towed away to the ship-breaking yard in Alang, Gujarat. This brought down the curtains on Viraat’s glorious career of 58 years at sea. The Indian Navy is awaiting the commissioning of a new aircraft carrier ‘Vikrant’, named after the Indian Navy’s first carrier. Just as it will one day induct another new carrier and name it after the Viraat.

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

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

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

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

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

Plague 3 Courtesy: Welcome Collection/Capt.C. Moss
25 March 2020

Policy dilemmas from the Bombay plague of 1896

A pandemic tests governments' performance against four policy dilemmas; from preventing panic and economic collapse to calibrating the severity of response and controlling the narrative. The writer harks back to the agonies of the Bombay plague of 1896 and the dilemmas left unresolved

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

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

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