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The Raj on the Move – Rajika Bhandari

 

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I have always been in love with books written on British/Indian history. They make a fascinating read of the life and times of the strangers who came to our country and made it their own and left a huge mark on who we are today. One of the most amazing legacies of that time is the Indian railways and the architecture surrounding the routes, like the train stations and Circuit houses which are full of amazing stories. So when I found a book that covered these topics I knew I had to read it. “The Raj on the Move” by Rajika Bhandari is a surprisingly well researched account of the “Dak Bungalows/Circuit Houses” from the Pre-Independence era. Built by the British in the 1840’s as an endeavor to have a centralized resting place for the weary British civil servants & their families traveling the length and breadth of the vast country to do their jobs. These Dak Bungalows had a lot of tales surrounding them, and Rajika retraces the steps of these travelers and their families by reviving old memories with the stories of a distant past. She covers the beautiful architecture unique to these houses, conducive to the location & the climate. Talks about the resident ghosts of the “Damoh Circuit Home” and also mentions the legend of the mad Khansama (cook) “Bernard the Terrible” who served cold food and leathery chapattis to “Babu Jagjivan Ram” as a punishment for being late. She also discusses the famed Anglo-Indian cooking style of Dak Bungalows which included the legendary ‘Country Captain Chicken, Chicken Cutlets and Railway Mutton Curry, which are still quite popular in coffee houses and restaurants in some parts of the country. The memoirs left behind by the Memsahibs and Burra Sahibs; the entries in the visitors log books and the stories associated with these forgotten places have been woven together into this lucidly written book. It is an absolute must for Raj history buffs like me who want to learn more about the lives and travels of the sahibs.

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