By Fanny Parkes,William Dalrymple
Fanny Parkes lived in India among 1822 and 1846 and used to be the fitting commute author brave, indefatigably curious and determinedly autonomous. Her journals hint her transformation from prim memsahib to eccentric, sitar-playing Indophile, fluent in Urdu, serious of British rule and passionate in her appreciation of Indian tradition. Fanny is fascinated with the trial of thugs, the decorating of a Hindu bride and swears by way of the efficacy of opium on complications. To learn her is to get as shut as you will to a real photograph of early colonial India the sacred and the profane, the violent and the attractive, the straight-laced sahibs and the White Mughals’ who fell in love with India, married Indian better halves and outfitted bridges among the 2 cultures.
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Additional info for Begums, Thugs and White Mughals. The Journals of Fanny Parkes
The world described by Fanny – especially the syncretic culture of Lucknow and Delhi, and its satellite at Khāsganj – was far more hybrid, and had far less clearly defined ethnic, national and religious borders, than we have been conditioned to expect, either by the conventional Imperial history books written in Britain before 1947, or by the nationalist historiography of post-Independence India. It was a world where British mercenaries married Mughal princesses and where Anglo-Indian women entered the harems of Nawabi Avadh, where Muslims attended Hindu ceremonies and vice versa.
Ther. 64° – Another calm, and another battue: the gentlemen returned from the watery plain with great éclat, bringing seven albatross, thirty pintados, a Cape hen, and two garnets. One of the albatross, which was stuffed for me, measured fifty-three inches from head to tail, and nine feet ten inches across the wings. [ … ] September 23 – A school of twenty or thirty whales passed near the ship; it was almost a calm; they were constantly on the surface, frolicking and spouting away. They were, the sailors said, of the spermaceti order, which are smaller in size, and do not spout so high as the larger race.
There are many writers of the period to which such strictures could be applied, but it seems misguided in the extreme to see Parkes as any sort of gung-ho colonialist. Fanny was a passionate lover of India and, though a woman of her time, in her writing and her travels did her best to understand and build bridges across the colonial divide. As Colin Thubron has pointed out, ‘To define the genre [of travel writing] as an act of domination – rather than of understanding, respect or even catharsis – is simplistic.
Begums, Thugs and White Mughals. The Journals of Fanny Parkes by Fanny Parkes,William Dalrymple