Against all odds: The Danes in Tranquebar

The year was 1616. The Dutch and the English were bringing home shiploads of goods from the mystical lands of the east. News of India’s riches had spread like wildfire in Europe and everyone wanted to get on the next ship to this golden land. So, by order of the King of Denmark and Norway, admiral Ove Gjedde did just that. The journey however, turned … Continue reading Against all odds: The Danes in Tranquebar

Malik Ambar – The African who built Aurangabad

Trade between Asia and Africa in the 16th century involved precious things like spices, fabric and exotic animals. But often, the cargo included something far more valuable and tragic. Abyssinian Slaves. Purchased from the Ethiopian Empire, these slaves were shipped to large slave markets in the Persian Gulf. Here, wealthy men from Asia and parts of Europe took their pick to add to their household … Continue reading Malik Ambar – The African who built Aurangabad

Not so French Toast

The French have been credited with inventing the most marvellous things including Asprin and Hot Air Balloons. But when it comes to French Toast the credit appears to lie somewhere else entirely. Where exactly? Your guess is as good as mine. Or it could be Ancient Rome, anywhere between the 1st and the 8th centuries. Somewhere within these 800 years, a compilation of Roman recipes … Continue reading Not so French Toast

The Wolves of the Carnatic

In the 18th century, the British established the Madras Presidency on the South Eastern Coast of India. The Carnatic, though part of the presidency, was ruled independently by the Nawab of Arcot, Muhammad Ali Khan Wallajah. He became great friends with the British in the 1750s, after they helped him acquire larger territories by defeating his rivals during the Siege of Arcot. But everything has … Continue reading The Wolves of the Carnatic

Patang – The story of the Indian Kite

“♬Let’s go fly a kite Up to the highest height! Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring ♫” This song from Disney’s Mary Poppins, to me, best describes what kite flying can feel like. If you’ve ever flown one, you know. But this euphoric piece of paper wasn’t always a sport. In fact, old records suggest that kites were developed for very serious … Continue reading Patang – The story of the Indian Kite

Golu – Toying with tradition

Dolls in vibrant colours, stacked on steps that sometimes reach the ceiling, suddenly appear, every year in South Indian Hindu households. After spending most of the year locked up in trunks, protected by moth balls, someone lets them out for ten very special days every autumn. These ten days, called Navaratri or Dussehra, mark an important Hindu festival. In South India, especially in the states … Continue reading Golu – Toying with tradition

Charles XIV John of Sweden – From prisoner in India to King of Sweden

A very long time ago, a young Frenchman came to South India to fight an American war and became a British prisoner. He would one day be appointed king of Sweden. Before confusing you any further, let me tell you how it all happened. In 1775 the Thirteen American Colonies, controlled by the British, declared independence, calling themselves for the first time, the United States … Continue reading Charles XIV John of Sweden – From prisoner in India to King of Sweden

Sadras Fort – Losing the battle to obscurity

The best way to reach Sadras, is to get lost on your way from Chennai to Mahabalipuram or Pondicherry. I, on the other hand, have lived near Sadras Fort all my life.  For years, I passed by its walls on my way to and from school.  The 17th century fort, was just part of the background. Visiting it never struck me as something to do. … Continue reading Sadras Fort – Losing the battle to obscurity

Chennai’s 2000 year old Christian legacy

Temple gopurams and church spires dot Chennai’s skyline, side by side, bearing witness to the centuries old coexistence of Hinduism and Christianity. Christianity reached India over 2000 years ago. But how did something that started somewhere around modern day Palestine, gain such a strong foothold in ancient India? The long saga of Christianity in India, according to Christian tradition, began with St. Thomas, one of … Continue reading Chennai’s 2000 year old Christian legacy