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

23072016-BlueMosque3 Courtesy: LBB
14 August 2019

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

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

A photo of Kakira Sugar Works (Uganda) in 1957 (Courtesy: Tide of Fortune: A family tale, by Manubhai Madhvani) Courtesy: Tide of Fortune: A family tale, by Manubhai Madhvani
26 July 2018

Modi on the India-Africa Dhow Route

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Rwanda and Uganda, en route to the BRICS Conference in South Africa (July 25-27), is significant as it is a rebolstering of ties with these East African landlocked nations through their Indian diasporas, ties that will be cemented further by cooperation in defence, finance, education and other sectors. The Bombay Presidency once played a key role in the development of this region

Prime Minister Modi with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu taking a leisurely stroll along Olga beach in northern Israel, on the last day of the Indian PM's historic visit in July 2017. Courtesy: Flickr/MEA India
11 January 2018

Soft power of Israel’s Indian Jews

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu’s official visit to India from January 14 to 19 will lay accent on the many commercial ties that bind the two countries. Equally important, if less visible, is Israel’s Indian Jewish diaspora, that has benefited greatly ever since full diplomatic relations were established

'Kwan Tai Kung, the Great Warrior King, is the main deity in the Chinese Temple on Nawab Tank Road. In the Chinese religious hierarchy he is on par with Confucius, the great teacher and philosopher. Courtesy: flickr
6 December 2017

Bombay’s Chinese cultural links

Bombay city has always had a soft corner for everything Chinese. It was a taste created by the early Parsi merchants, who profited significantly from the cotton and opium trade with China in the second half of the 19th century. There is no confirmed date on when the Chinese first came to Bombay, bringing with them some unmatched skills, besides their cuisine. But today, it’s a reinvigorated economic engagement: Chinese goods flood Mumbai’s markets. Chinese companies and a bank are setting up base, while Indian conglomerates, in turn, are acquiring a growing presence in China

2223080434_38c7f3dee1 Courtesy: Flickr
1 November 2017

Indian Chinese diaspora: from Calcutta to Toronto

The 200-year-old history of the Indian Chinese population – currently 3,000 – in Calcutta and Bombay shows how the two civilisations were deeply connected. Buddhism and trade forged the link in the ancient past, but a forgotten aspect is the more recent, once vibrant Chinese presence in India. The bustling China Towns of yore fell silent after the 1962 India-China war that impelled the migration of the Indian Chinese to Canada, Hong Kong and Australia. Revisiting this period can offer many lessons in cultural assimilation and diplomacy in the more fractious present