Sikhs in Shanghai Flickr Photostream Monday, Apr 21 2014 

On my Facebook page, Twitter and now Flickr, the Sikhs in Shanghai visual history (and some other odds & ends, too) continues.


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Ranjit Singh , Lotus , Ventura Thursday, Apr 17 2014 

After British annexation of Punjab, Sikhs were employed in the various regiments of the British army in India, China and other colonies. Their skill as cavalry soldiers was well demonstrated in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s court in the Sikh empire.  Reading of Ranjit Singh’s reign, his military strategy and acumen one has to admire how he managed to keep his kingdom, keep the British away somewhat till his death in 1839 and of course unifying the several Sikh confederacies. He also kept a harem. Mistresses, 46 wives, dancing girls.

Reading one account describing the court and camp of Ranjit Singh, there’s a story of a beautiful Kashmiri girl called Lotus (Kamal?). Ranjit Singh was besotted with her and thought his love was equally and passionately returned. Ventura, an Italian officer in his military was incredulous. Ranjit Singh firm in his belief wagered with Ventura promising no obstacles or punishment from Ranjit Singh if Ventura succeeded in impressing Lotus.

Sadly for Ranjit Singh, Ventura won, for Lotus was quite willing to be with him and as with her affections transferred from the royal gardens to the Italian’s seraglio..  Stories of King & harems.

A picture of the dancing girls (from a 1800s  book I am reading) who entertained Ranjit Singh’s court:


Sikhs in Shanghai on Scroll Tuesday, Apr 15 2014 

My piece on Sikhs in Shanghai was published on Scroll website. Here’s the link to the article:



Progress at snail’s pace Wednesday, Apr 9 2014 

In an earlier post I wrote about my interest in putting together a book on the Shanghai Sikhs. I have started writing and must say it has been a slow process. There were couple of sections (yes, my book has a skeletal structure divided into sections, etc) that required further reading and research. So, that’s the reason for the ambling.  There’s a rainbow somewhere and I am looking for it and will find it, perhaps, not on a rainy morning but in sunny skies.

But, before I start rambling a little too much, here’s a photograph (circa, 1937) from a college library that piqued my curiosity. What do you think is going on? 


Shanghai Photo Postcard. More picturesque with the Sikh policeman. Wednesday, Apr 2 2014 

Shanghai Photo Postcard. More picturesque with the Sikh policeman.

From New York Public Library digital collection on Shanghai.

Voyage from India to China Wednesday, Mar 26 2014 

For Sikhs recruited for policing in early twentieth century in Shanghai’s International Settlement, sea voyage from Calcutta to Hong Kong via Singapore, thence to Shanghai took at least 14-16 days. Given the weather gods were kind over South China Seas. Why Calcutta and not Bombay? There’s no definitive answer to that as some may have boarded a steamer in Bombay but Calcutta was a natural choice as here passenger steamers to China were more frequent and also because the distance in nautical miles to China was less when compared to Bombay.

From Punjab to Calcutta: Train (and maybe a bullock cart ride from the village to Lahore/Ludhiana/Amritsar)

Calcutta to Hong Kong via Singapore. Steamer. Singapore for refueling. 14 days.

Hong Kong to Shanghai : Steamer 2 days.

Now, this is just one sea route. Other possible routes were from Calcutta/Bombay to Malay, Singapore, Japan, Philippines, Ceylon and not necessarily directly to Shanghai. It could be from Penang, Singapore, Kobe, Yokohama, Manila, Colombo to Canton, TsingTao, etc.


Poems on Shanghai (1907) Monday, Mar 17 2014 

Here’s a verse that caught my eye. It was a poetic prediction and related to Public Gardens in Old Shanghai. A “sign” that was purely racial banning entry to Chinese and “dogs” hung on its gates. Quite similar to signs in British India that implicitly or explicitly banned Indians at clubs or other places.  Perhaps, the poet, one Robert William Little, foresaw the fate of the glorified foreigner.

Verse from poem, ‘Amalgamation:’

“I said I’ll go into the Public Garden:-

A tall policeman warned me from the gate;

“Reserved for Chinese,” when I asked his pardon

Was all that he would state.

Little also wrote on the Bund, the North China Daily News, Shanghai Mercury, an itty-bitty line mentioning the Sikh policeman, etc.

Check the poems here at:

More on the sign that hung on the gates of Public Gardens in Shanghai International Settlement here:

Guide to Tientsin (1907) Thursday, Mar 6 2014 

 Browsing for information on British Concession in Tientsin  (today’s Tianjin), I came across this mini guide published in 1907. It does not have much on the Indian community that flourished here but provides a framework and layout of the Tientsin area & businesses including few pictures devoted to Astor House Hotel. Not surprising as the guide was presented by this “well-known, first-class hotel” located in the British Concession. Click on the link below to view the guide book.


Muslims in Shanghai. Friday morning prayers in a mausoleum. Tuesday, Mar 4 2014 

In Year 2011, I visited a Islamic maqbara in Shanghai (Puxi area) and had the opportunity to listen in on their Friday prayers. A maqbara is a tomb. In YuYuan, there is a historical mosque. Muslims too were present in Old Shanghai. From India, Bohras and Ismailis made their mark but left no tracks. That’s how it is with Old Shanghai. Faded histories.

Canadian Steamship Shanghai guide Thursday, Feb 27 2014 

Canadian Steamship Shanghai guide

Via Flickr

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