Monday, September 10, 2012

Living like the Raj

This post is written by Bruce Dobie, a special guest on the Smiles for India blog.

Ok, I confess to a certain Anglo sensibility. And yes, a historian would fault me for looking at India through the lens of the occuping British. But, hey, they were here for a long time, and the history is an astonishing one. Plus, I just like it. Before coming, I read "Freedom at Midnight," by Dominique LaPierre, which chronicles the dismantling of British rule in 1947 as the Indians gain their independence in 1947. It's a helluva read—really a look at British rule more than anything.

And so, much as I once went to the King David Hotel when I visited Jerusalem, from which the British managed affairs of that country, so too did I want to visit the Imperial Hotel in New Delhi, which is YE SIMILARLY AULDE BRITISH HOTEL here.


Hannah and I went and were not disappointed. The bar is called the "1911," so named for the year in which the British moved the capital of India to New Delhi from Calcutta. Moving the capital involved vast royal theater as George, joined by Queen Mary, came to proclaim Delhi the capital in a series of parades, balls, speeches, and so forth. As soon as you walk in the sumptuous Imperial Hotel, that history is all over the walls (photographs, documents, paintings). It's really a museum in itself.

From our bar stools at the 1911 bar (I mistakenly had a gin martini that, upon paying, I learned set me back $22), I saw yet another interesting framed something-or-other in a highly leathered back-room, and so I set off there to find these framed medals, dozens of them, which recognized service to British soldiers for various deeds. "Lahore, 1913," "Bombay, 1899," that sort of thing is what the medals said. The fabric of the medals themselves was so rich. I said to Hannah, "Go look at those."

She came back, saying, "So J. Crew."

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