Surat – Fall of a Port, Rise of a Prince by Moin Mir

About the book –

The ships of the East India Company first docked at India’s shores in Surat in the early 17th century. In time, the Company through astute politics and superior naval power would become masters of this great port, but not with the objective of building on its legacy as India’s emporia of maritime trade but with the single minded goal of destroying its trading prowess. And they did this by overcoming the local princes and fostering corrupt practices. By 1800 the port had been completely annexed and a Treaty signed with the Nawab that would guarantee his family’s security from generation to generation.

But the Company violated the treaty by stopping the family’s income, usurping the palaces, estates, jewellery and all that was part of the private estates of the Nawab, leaving the infant granddaughters of the last Nawab on the brink of destitution.

In a riveting counterattack Meer Jafar Ali Khan, father of the two infant girls stood to defy an Empire and expose the corrupt practices of the Company in Victorian England. Spearheading a legal offensive that would shatter the Company’s reputation, Meer Jafar Ali Khan’s campaign for justice generated great heat and debate in British Parliament. Fighting against all odds this prince won it all back for his daughters and found true love in Victorian England.

Read an extract from the book –

As the 30 of May 1844 approached, Jafar, Scott and Lutfullah accelerated the process of fine-tuning Jafar’s presentation to the Chairman. The night before, Jafar sat with Scott. There were nerves. The meeting was with the man who controlled the destiny of 200 million Hindustanis. Sitting in the lobby of 7 Sloane Street as they watched the porter dim the gas lights, Jafar saw his past. He thought of Kamandiyah, and of ‘the good English’: Sir John Malcolm, who had orchestrated his wedding; of his father, Afzal-ud-deen the helpless; of his fading wife and his little daughters. The thought of Arbuthnot, too, came unbidden and made him even more determined. That afternoon he had received a message from Rose. She wanted to see his carriage charge towards East India House: Marianne too wanted to capture this moment, and record it in her diary. Jafar was amused and ordered the detour which meant swinging past the ladies at the Strand, where they would be standing.

On the morning of 30 May 1844 Jafar wore his lucky colour: a crimson cloak over a cream Hindustani round-necked shirt, with white tapering trousers. He carefully twirled the edges of his moustache and draped a black cashmere shawl on his right shoulder. Departing Sloane Street the carriage kept to its plan and sped past the Strand where Marianne and Rose duly noted this dash to his destination. Swirling then towards Leadenhall Street the carriage, making up for lost time because of the detour, tore along the thoroughfare and reached its destination on time. East India House was a palace, imposing in size with six gigantic pillars at the front entrance and a great statue of the Sovereign on top of the triangular fascia held up by the pillars. It had a great number of apartments, huge halls and long corridors. Taking a few deep breaths Jafar and his team walked up the stone steps to meet with the prime movers of the government of Hindustan.

On their arrival, the team was ushered in by two state attendants to a large room with huge windows, red drapes and a large gas chandelier. Sitting behind a large Victorian rosewood desk was Captain John Shepherd, the Chairman, and standing by a temporarily dormant fireplace, smoking a pipe, was Sir Henry Wilcock, the Deputy Chairman, who understood Persian well. Shepherd, 52 years old, wore a navy blue suit. Both Company officials greeted Jafar with courtesy and took their seats. Scott and Lutfullah then translated Jafar’s compliments and greetings.

The book was released by Mr. Shashi Tharoor, Member of Parliament –

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1 year ago

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