Saturday, 9 June 2012
Amitav Ghosh's The Hungry Tide is a fascinating study set in a little known area off the easternmost coast of India, in the Bay of Bengal, known as the Sundarbans.Tidal floods, attacks by deadly tigers makes life precarious in this place. The three main characters in the novel are Piyali Roy an American of Indian origin, a marine biologist who is searching for a rare endangered river dolphin. She engages an illiterate fisherman Fokir, who takes her on his boat.Her translator is a Delhi business man Kanai Dutt. The novel has myths, political intrigues, and personal stories of conflict, the ravaging tide a perfect backdrop to this amazing tale. What caught my interest however were the strong links between Scotland and India in that area. Station names like Canning, a town named Emilybari after a British woman. The novel also mentions the Hamilton estate and I had to delve to find out more. The fascinating facts and I quote from Wikipedia: "Sir Daniel Mackinnon Hamilton (1860–1939) was a Scottish businessman who made Bengal his second home. He established a zamindari in Gosaba, where he experimented with programmes of rural and social upliftment. He was a visionary and builder of rural reconstruction programmes at a time when the Indian national movement was gaining momentum, and gave importance to rural upliftment and self help.He became the chief of Mackinnon Mackenzie in Calcutta in the early twentieth century. In 1903 he bought land of "... about 9000 acres in Gosaba and had it reclaimed by felling the woods and raising embankment on the riverside". His involvement with Gosaba was motivated by his desire to improve the living conditions of the poverty stricken people of British India. He introduced the cooperative system in Gosaba, and in all of Sunderbans, and thus educated the people to share responsibility. His championing of the cooperative society in the Sunderbans ran parallel with the growth of the cooperative movement in India. "
There are so many connections between Scotland and India that more needs to be done to record them, raise awareness, whether in fiction or non-fiction.
I got in touch with Amitav Ghosh on his blog and commented on the twin histories of Scotland and India. He was kind enough to reply:
Thanks Leela – one day I will post excerpts from the memoir of Sir Daniel Hamilton in Balmacarra that one of his relatives sent me. It is a fascinating document.
From one of the readers of own book 'Bombay Baby'I got a wonderfully touching email and I quote :
I've just finished reading "Bombay Baby" early this morning and I
loved it especially the connections between Scotland and India because
I have some of them too. ... I was in India for 4 months over the winter - 3 months doing voluntary work with teenagers in Ladakh then I went to Kashmir where my dad was
during World War 2 when he had malaria for the 9th time. He was in
India for 5 years with the RAF and loved it. I then went to Kolkata
where my Mum was born in 1923 to find the hospital in Howrah and the
baptist church where she was baptised. She was only there till she was
2 years old but her father was there for 30 years working in a Jute
Mill (he was from Forfar- lots of people from Dundee worked in the
Kolkata Jute Mills) His Jute Mill was closed down but I did find my
Mums places. There are so many Scottish street names etc in Kolkata
as you probably know.I love India, the people and the family
connections are important for me.
Are you writing another book? If so when might it be ready?
Please keep me informed and thanks again Leela. Keep up the good
work and best wishes.
Irene Mc Coll
“That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you're not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald
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