The times of the Raj, since its establishment in India in the late 18th century, has been the subject of many an Indophile’s book- seminal amongst them are those of Charles Allen, Kipling, Dalrymple, Philip Mason, Forster etc. Themes for their writings, ranged from military to familial to the mutiny to piquant sketches of daily life posted in the backwoods of India. From the culinary (Origin of the word tiffin and recipes of babalog) or cultural (Husband-hunters of the era), the Raj days have inspired many an author to spend time researching tomes, memoirs, diaries and gazettes!
The Raj on the Move: Story of the Dak Bungalow, Roli Books, also sketches Kipling country but the here the muse is the architectural landscape of the era, dotted with the quintessential charming Dak Bungalows, re-christened- the PWD Rest houses. These guest houses found in the back of the beyond, housed weary civil administration and military officers and their memsahibs on their many travels.
Writer, researcher, Rajika Bhandari painstakingly retraces the steps of the peripatetic Raj officials and traverses the history of these buildings from the Post house to the Guest house, fishes out the chicken dominated cuisine and the staple Khansaama in all shapes, sizes and moods! The book also dishes out to the reader, first hand account of the travellers, anecdotes gleaned from those recorded in the Visitor’s Book, bracketed within chapters.
The book is a storehouse of carefully curated authentic information on a novel subject of the deeply mined Raj era theme. Bhandari’s masterstroke is in the research and the woman-hours she evidently spent combing the 4-page Bibilography is corroborated by the attention to detail in the read! Read it as travelogue to the bastions of the British outposts, as a glimpse into the life of the Burah Sahib, minus the servile tone of the brown man- only of a genuine enthusiasm of travelling back in time!
The Raj on the Move: Story of the Dak Bungalow