The discovery of several historical letters, some addressed to my maternal grandmother, spanning the duration of the early part of the last century was fortuitous indeed. Further to this serendipitous discovery, in 2005 I began several years of research on the ICS officers of the British Raj; the statesmen, politicians, political freedom fighters and governors of that time. The fascinating social history of that particularly volatile period and all the documents I had chanced upon compelled me to put pen to paper and create ‘The Rusted Trunk.’ I wished to be true to the material I had discovered and therefore did not ‘weave’ a tale out of the information I had gleaned from varied sources. Instead I have been a mere reporter and tried to be as accurate as possible and put before you some pages of political British Raj history, that uniquely involves my family to some extent, that had been missing all these years.
The book which traces the life and times of my maternal grandfather Syed Manzur Murshed is peppered with humorous anecdotes – accounts gleaned from personal sources. The protagonist’s experiences in the Civil Services during the Raj, provides a unique window into the intermingling of the British I.C.S. officers, who were effectively rulers, with their Indian counterparts. Thus the twain did indeed meet and even during a period of political turmoil and transition, the I.C.S. became close to many whom they governed and served.
Personal encounters of the protagonist with the freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, the Nobel Prize winning poet, Rabindranath Tagore, and the founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah are also depicted. The book is expected to have a universal appeal as it also has a beautiful love story at its heart.
I hope you will enjoy reading ‘The Rusted Trunk’ which has been written with much care and attention and is particularly special to my heart because it is my first foray into writing and also has such personal significance. I shall include below a passage from the original draft of the book ,which did not make its way to the final proof copy, in order to give a glimpse into the social lives of the ‘white sahibs’ of the days of old as they lived it in India.
“On special occasions a more elaborate tea would be laid out in the main lawn, an excuse for a garden party, under a striped red and white awning. The table would be decorated with the flowers of the season; fruits such as gooseberries, currants, peaches, plums, were displayed, partly as decoration. Iced lemonade, ices, cakes, sandwiches and hot tea were spread out with the stuffing in sandwiches indicated by a thin ‘string’ of the main ingredient or vegetable used - for instance, a long infinitesimally narrow string of cucumber was used to tie the sandwich to indicate ‘vegetarian, cucumber sandwich.’ The khansamas had found a way of baking continental snacks and dry desserts using the local choolha - adapting it in a specific way to bake assortments of scones, biscuits and tea-cakes. ‘Hukumdar’ was the oft heard expression; a derivative used by some of the domestic staff of the phrase ‘who comes there.’”
Happy New Year and have a wonderful 2012!