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Hicky, Maria and Warren

The travails of Hicky - the ‘Papa of the Indian press’
So many events converged to destroy the life of this hapless character, a bloke named James Augustus Hicky of Calcutta. The Nuncomar case, the ill-gotten gains of Maria - the lovely wife of Warren Hastings, the machinations of Phillip Francis and his paramour Catherine, the fury of Elijah Impey - the chief justice of the Supreme Court and most of all, the ire of Warren Hastings, the Governor General. Hicky was unfortunate to get involved with all these illustrious people though he went about it craftily and with gusto, by bringing out his own newspaper and speaking often and publically about their misdeeds.
We will get into some amount of detail as we go on, and to set the scene, we go back in time to the environs around Fort Williams of Old Calcutta, where the British EIC had established themselves following the black hole incident and the Battle of Plassey. The period we will get to covers the last three decades of the 18th cen…

Utopia and Malabar

I am sure many will wonder what earthly connection Utopia and Malabar would or could ever have had. Admittedly, Kerala is quite literate according to many indicators and is/was a model state and so on, but with the news that can be read on today’s newspapers and seen on TV, many would agree that Kerala is now trending in the negative direction. Anyway instead of digressing, let me get back to the topic which is - the connection between Utopia and Malabar, and before you curl your brows in a quizzical look, there was apparently one (I should admit right at the outset that this is a quick and superficial study).
But before we dive into the topic, what is Utopia? In principle it is Greek for ‘Good place’. The literary term Utopia was coined from this Greek word by Sir Thomas More for his 1516 book Utopia, an earthly paradise. It is supposedly an egalitarian place like John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’ portrays, where there is total harmony between humans and nature, where mankind had few nee…

Time for a cup of tea…

The British, India and tea

It has been a while since I wrote, for I was busy on the home front with yet another move. I did not have to move far this time, and did what many in America do, I downsized. In simple terms I moved to a smaller home without a backyard and many of those other extra amenities, in order to make our life after office hours a bit more manageable. Unlike what most people think, we have to do most of the work ourselves when it come to the shifting and leave only the final furniture moving to the big and the brawny lads and their truck. So as you can imagine, it was a back breaking affair for the last three weeks  and at long last, we are somewhat settled, looking forward to a new neighborhood, and hopefully a new relaxed routine. After all that tiring work, I guess I deserve a stimulating beverage, but naturally, a cup of tea, brewed the Indian way, with milk and sugar.
I did traverse this path in another direction some years ago, looking at the tea shops in Kera…

Tales from a partition

The great India Pakistan Divide
My curiosity about this matter was piqued when my friend sent me the famous BS Kesavan photograph pertaining to the division of books between India and Pakistan during the partition. Upon a detailed study of the Caravan article connected to it, it was clear that no division of books had occurred. On the other hand, the matter did extend itself in bizarre ways to many other fields. Like in a messy divorce, the situation became acrimonious and resulted in many stupid actions. It is worthwhile to take a look. This is not a study of the horrors of that partition, or a recounting of the many harrowing tales of violence, but the paths followed by the bureaucracies of the two new countries in divvying up the assets at partition.
Like many in India, I too heard stories of those days from my grandmother and grand aunts, both of whom had spent awhile in places like Karachi and Lahore when their husbands used to work in the British Railways and army. One of them h…