Category Archives: talks

आलेखन व आखणी : वासाहतिक बॉम्बेमध्ये झालेलं सँडहर्स्ट रस्त्याचं बांधकाम, १८९८-१९२५

This is a Marathi translation by Avadhoot of “Plotting & Scheming: Constructing Sandhurst Road in Colonial Bombay, 1898-1925″.

सेंटर फॉर स्टडीज् इन सोशल सायन्सेन (सीएसएसएस), कोलकाता’ इथं ३ मार्च २०१७ रोजी मी दिलेल्या व्याख्यानाचा हा गोषवारा आहे. प्राध्यापक लक्ष्मी सुब्रमण्यमडॉ. प्राची देशपांडे हे इतिहासकार या कार्यक्रमाचे यजमान व अध्यक्ष होते. ‘एम्पायर’स् मेट्रॉपलिस: मनी, टाइम अँड स्पेस इन कलोनिअल बॉम्बे, १८६०-१९२०’ या माझ्या आगामी पुस्तकातील दोन प्रकरणांवर हे व्याख्यान आधारलेलं होतं.

Sandhurst Road Scheme no.3

आशियातील ब्रिटिश साम्राज्याच्या बंदरांवर १८९०च्या दशकाच्या अखेरीला गाठीच्या प्लेगाची साथ पसरली. यामुळं साम्राज्यवादी सत्तेचं प्रभुत्व व नियंत्रण असलेल्या नागरी केंद्रांमधील असुरक्षिततेला नाट्यमय वळण मिळालं. कलकत्ता व मुंबई यांसारखी वासाहतिक शहरं प्रादेशिक व जागतिक पातळीवर लोक, पैसा व यंत्रं यांच्या दळणवळणाची प्रवेशद्वारं होती. वाफेची इंजिनं, रेल्वे आणि वीज यांच्या जाळ्यातून या शहरांचं केंद्रीकरण झालं होतं व त्यांना चालनाही मिळत होती. व्यवसाय आणि राजकारण या दोन्हींचा अंतःप्रवाह व्यापाराचं स्वातंत्र्य व कायद्याचं राज्य असा होता. या शहरांमध्ये वासाहतिक सत्ताधारी, भारतीय उच्चभ्रू आणि नागरी जनता यांच्यात सत्तेचं वाटप झालेलं होतं आणि सत्तासंघर्षही त्यांच्यातच होत असे.

प्लेगच्या साथीमुळं विसाव्या शतकातील मुंबईमध्ये सामाजिकदृष्ट्या व स्थलावकाशदृष्ट्या कोणते बदल झाले याचा शोध घेण्याचा प्रयत्न माझ्या सादरीकरणात केलेला आहे. पूर्व व पश्चिम भागांना जोडणाऱ्या सँडहर्स्ट रस्त्याच्या बांधणीसंदर्भात हा अभ्यास केलेला आहे. १९५५ सालापासून ‘सरदार वल्लभभाई पटेल (एसव्हीपी) मार्ग’ या नावानं ओळखल्या जाणाऱ्या या रस्त्याचं आधीचं नाव मुंबई प्रांताचा ब्रिटिश गव्हर्नर सँडहर्स्ट याच्यावरून ठेवलेलं होतं. १८९६ साली पश्चिम भारतातील गाठीच्या प्लेगची साथ निवारण्यासाठी ‘बॉम्बे इम्प्रूव्हमेन्ट ट्रस्ट’ (बीआयटी) या संस्थेची स्थापना याच सँडहर्स्ट यांनी केली.

Continue reading आलेखन व आखणी : वासाहतिक बॉम्बेमध्ये झालेलं सँडहर्स्ट रस्त्याचं बांधकाम, १८९८-१९२५

Plotting & Scheming: Constructing Sandhurst Road in Colonial Bombay, 1898-1925

Please click here to download my presentation (PDF) to the faculty and students of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences (CSSS) Calcutta/Kolkata on 3 March 2017. My seminar talk was hosted and chaired by historians Professor Lakshmi Subramanian and Dr Prachi Deshpande. It is based on two chapters from my forthcoming book, Empire’s Metropolis: Money, Time & Space in Colonial Bombay, 1860-1920.

Sandhurst Road Scheme no.3

In the late 1890s, an epidemic of bubonic plague swept through the ports of the British Empire in Asia, dramatising the vulnerability of imperial power in its urban centres of command and control. Colonial cities like Calcutta and Bombay served as gateways to regional and global flows of people, money and machines, centralised and accelerated by networks of steam, rail and electricity. Freedom to trade and the rule of law underpinned both business and politics. Within these cities, power was shared and contested between colonial rulers, Indian elites and urban populations.

My presentation explores the social and spatial restructuring of early 20th century Bombay in the wake of the plague epidemic, through a study of the construction of Sandhurst Road, an east-west arterial avenue. Since 1955 known as Sardar Vallabbhai Patel (SVP) Marg, Sandhurst Road was named after the British Governor of Bombay Presidency who tackled the outbreak of bubonic plague in western India in 1896 by establishing the Bombay Improvement Trust (BIT) to “clean up” the city.

Continue reading Plotting & Scheming: Constructing Sandhurst Road in Colonial Bombay, 1898-1925

Plotting & Scheming: Land Acquisition & Market Values in Colonial Bombay City, 1898-1910

On 18 January 2017, I gave this seminar talk and presentation to the Cities Cluster of the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences (FASS) Research Division, National University of Singapore (NUS). The talk was co-sponsored by the Asian Urbanisms Cluster of the NUS Asia Research Institute (ARI) and chaired by Professor Tim Bunnell. This seminar talk is based on  a chapter from my forthcoming book, Empire’s Metropolis: Money, Time & Space in Colonial Bombay, 1860-1920.

poster_18.1.2017

In the late 1890s, an epidemic of bubonic plague swept through the ports of the British Empire in Asia, dramatising the vulnerability of imperial power in its urban centres of command and control. Colonial cities like Singapore and Bombay served as gateways to regional and global flows of people, money and machines, centralised and accelerated by networks of steam, rail and electricity. Freedom to trade and the rule of law underpinned both business and politics. Within these urban centres, power was shared and contested between colonial rulers, Indian elites and urban populations.

My presentation explores the social and spatial restucturing of early 20th century Bombay in the wake of the plague epidemic. In 1898, the British colonial state established the Bombay Improvement Trust (BIT) to “clean up” the city, equipped with draconian powers of compulsory acquisition and land clearance to demolish slums, erect new buildings and build broad boulevards. Within a decade, the BIT emerged as the single largest land-owner in colonial Bombay by seizing and plotting vast tracts into new planning “schemes” – though not without costly legal and technical challenges to its eminent domain from landlords and tenants, temples and mosques, and owners of shops, theatres and quarries.

Arbitrated through Victorian ideas of “market value” and techniques of measurement and valuation in colonial courts, urban environments once valued through overlapping chains of title and use were now awarded hypothetical cash values, driving speculation and generalising a new logic and political economy in colonial Bombay. I will examine this transformation in the urban land market through tribunals and court cases fought against the BIT by Indian claimants, appeals against acquisition and for higher compensation which often dragged on for years. These lengthy arguments and novel interpretations of Anglo-Indian land and property law continue to shape urbanisation in the cities of post-colonial South Asia.

बॉम्बे टाइम: सत्ता, लोकसंस्कृती व अस्मिता, १८७०-१९५५

Towards New Histories of Mumbai, 6-7 January 2017, Department of History, University of Mumbai
Towards New Histories of Mumbai, 6-7 January 2017, Department of History, University of Mumbai

This is a Marathi translation of my talk and presentation “Bombay Time: Power, Public Culture & Identity, 1870-1955″

बॉम्बे टाइम: टर्निंग बॅक द क्लॉक, १८७०-१९५५’ हे माझं सादरीकरण डाउनलोड करण्यासाठी इथं क्लिक करा. आमचे मित्र व मार्गदर्शक प्राध्यापक जिम मॅसेलोस यांच्या सन्मानार्थ मुंबई विद्यापीठाचा इतिहास विभाग, लंडन विद्यापीठातील ‘स्कूल ऑफ ओरिएन्टल अँड आफ्रिकन स्टडीज्’ (एसओएएस) आणि लाइकेस्टर विद्यापीठ यांनी इतिहासकार, अभ्यासक व संशोधकांची एक परिषद शुक्रवार ६ ते शनिवार ७ जानेवारी २०१७ या दिवसांमध्ये मुंबई विद्यापीठाच्या विद्यानगरी आवारामध्ये आयोजित केली होती. प्राध्यापक मंजिरी कामत, प्रशांत किदम्बीरेचल ड्वायर यांनी ही परिषद आयोजित केल्याबद्दल त्यांचे विशेष आभार.

रेल्वे, तारायंत्रं व वाफेवर चालणारी जहाजं यांचं जागतिक जाळं ब्रिटीशशासित भारतात आणि जागतिक पातळीवर १८७०-१८८०च्या दशकांमध्ये पूर्ण झालं. या सर्व संदेशन व वाहतूक मार्गांदरम्यानच्या वेळेसंबंधित इशाऱ्यांचं संयोजन करणंही शक्य झालं, कारण अचूक रेखांशीय वेळ मद्रास व मुंबई अशा शहरांमधून एकाच वेळी त्यांच्या विस्तारीत भौगोलिक व समुद्री सीमांपर्यंत विद्युतमार्गे पाठवण्याचं काम निरीक्षणशाळा करत होत्या. पण शहरातील वेळमापन प्रमाणित करण्याच्या प्रयत्नांना नागरी पर्यावरणातील अनेक दृश्य व श्राव्य कालबाधित चिन्हांना सामोरं जावं लागलं: सार्वजनिक घड्याळं, कारखान्यांचे भोंगे, कार्यालयीन पाळ्या, रेल्वेची वेळापत्रकं, सूर्योदय व सूर्यास्त हे घटक होतेच; शिवाय या महाकाय उपखंडात पूर्वेकडे कलकत्त्यापासून ते पश्चिमेतील कराचीपर्यंत स्थानिक सौरवेळा तासाभरापेक्षाही अधिक अंतरानं बदलत्या होत्या.

वासाहतिक वैज्ञानिक व राज्यसंस्थेनं वेळेच्या बाबतीत एकवाक्यता आणण्यासाठी वारंवार प्रयत्न केले. पण वासाहतिक भारतातील प्रमाणित वेळेसंबंधीच्या अशा ठिगळकामातून वैज्ञानिक, बंदर, रेल्वे व महापालिका प्रशासन यांच्यात परस्पर स्पर्धेचा भाव निर्माण झाला. धार्मिक व नागरी नेते, व्यापारी व नागरी जनता यांनी या प्रमाणकांना सातत्यानं धुडकावून लावलं. मद्रास निरीक्षणशाळेच्या रेखांशानुसार निश्चित केलेल्या ‘प्रमाण वेळे’ला मुंबईतील लोकांनी कठोर विरोध केला. आंतरखंडीय रेल्वे-मार्ग पूर्ण झाल्यावर १८७०च्या दशकात मुंबईसोबत निश्चित करण्यात आलेली ही वेळ ‘रेल्वे टाइम’ म्हणूनही ओळखली जात होती. पण मुंबईतील स्थानिक सौरवेळेपेक्षा किंवा ‘बॉम्बे टाइम’पेक्षा मद्रास निरीक्षणशाळेची ही नवीन प्रमाणित वेळ तीस मिनिटांनी पुढं होती. त्यामुळं विरोध झाल्यावर घाईगडबडीनं ही वेळ मागे घेण्यात आली.

त्यानंतर, १९०५-०६मध्ये सुरू असलेलं स्वदेशी आंदोलन, लोकमान्य टिळकांना झालेली अटक व त्यांच्यावरील खटला या घडामोडींच्या काळात ‘भारतीय प्रमाण वेळ’ अंमलात आली, त्यातून जनक्षोभात वाढच झाली. सरकारनं घड्याळ अर्धा तासाहून अधिक अवधीसाठी मागं फिरवायचा प्रयत्न केल्यावर, सार्वजनिक घड्याळांच्या मनोऱ्यांवर दगडफेक करण्यापासून ते कार्यालयीन कर्मचारी व कारखान्यातील कामगारांनी संप करण्यापर्यंत विविध मार्ग निषेधासाठी अवलंबण्यात आले. त्यानंतर मुंबईमध्ये देशी वेगळेपणा दर्शवण्यासाठी मानचिन्हासारखा ‘बॉम्बे टाइम’चा वापर सुरू झाला. ‘वेळेनं केलेलं अवकाशाचं उच्चाटन’ नाकारण्यासाठी नागरी कालबद्धतेच्या स्थलावकाशातला एक रोजचा प्रतिकार म्हणून हा व्यवहार सुरू होता. भारतीय कामगार व कार्यालयीन कर्मचाऱ्यांसाठी काम सुरू झाल्यावर थोड्या अवधीनं ‘बॉम्बे टाइम’ सुरू होत असे; देशी बँकर व ब्रोकरांना युरोपीय व्यावसायिक बँकांपेक्षा जास्तीचा काही वेळ काम सुरू ठेवता येत असे; आणि अधिकृत भारतीय प्रमाण वेळेपेक्षा भिन्न वेळ दाखवणाऱ्या सार्वजनिक घड्याळ्यांना स्थानिक समाजसेवक व नेते पाठबळ देत असत.

जिम मॅसेलोस यांच्या “बॉम्बे टाइम” (मीरा कोसम्बी संपादित ‘इंटरसेक्शन्स: सोशिओ-कल्चरल ट्रेन्ड्स इन महाराष्ट्र’, हैदराबाद: ओरिएन्ट लॉन्गमन, २०००, पानं १६१-८३) या निबंधाचं पुनर्वाचन मी माझ्या पेपरमध्ये केलं आहे. वासाहतिक मुंबईतील घड्याळी वेळेच्या प्रमाणीकरणासंबंधी मॅसेलोस यांनी केलेलं काम आद्य स्वरूपाचं आहे. मॅसेलोस यांच्या मांडणीला पूरक सखोलता मिळेल अशी मांडणी करायचा प्रयत्न मी प्रस्तुत पेपरद्वारे केला आहे. ‘बॉम्बे टाइम’मुळं शहरातील सामाजिक रचना आणि वेळेची नीती-अर्थव्यवस्था कशा रितीनं बदलली हे शोधायचा प्रयत्न मी केला आहे. तांत्रिक बदलाच्या संदर्भात नागरी जीवनामध्ये घडून येणाऱ्या परिवर्तनासंबंधी मॅसेलोस यांनी दिलेल्या मर्मदृष्टीचा विस्तार करताना मी महानगरपालिकेच्या व सरकारच्या दस्तावेजांमधील नवीन सामग्रीचा विचार केला आहे. दुसऱ्या महायुद्धाच्या काळात व स्वातंत्र्यानंतर ‘बॉम्बे टाइम’चा अंत कसा झाला, त्याचीही मांडणी केली आहे.

Bombay Time: Power, Public Culture & Identity, 1870-1955

Towards New Histories of Mumbai, 6-7 January 2017, Department of History, University of Mumbai
Towards New Histories of Mumbai, 6-7 January 2017, Department of History, University of Mumbai

Please click here to download my presentation (PDF) on “Bombay Time: Turning Back the Clock, 1870-1955″. As a tribute to our friend and mentor Professor Jim Masselos, the Department of History at the University of Mumbai, the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), University of London and the University of Leicester hosted a conclave of historians, scholars and researchers of the city at the Vidyanagari Campus of Mumbai University on Friday 6 to Saturday 7 January 2017. Special thanks to Profs Manjiri Kamat, Prashant Kidambi and Rachel Dwyer for organising this conference.

The completion of global networks of railways, telegraphs and steamships across British India and globally in the 1870­-1880s made possible the coordination of time signals across these lines of communication and transport, as observatories electrically transmitted the precise longitudinal time simultaneously from cities such as Madras and Bombay to their expanding territorial and maritime frontiers. However, the proposal to standardise time-keeping in cities confronted a multitude of visible and audible temporal signs in the urban environment – public clocks, factory sirens, office shifts, railway timetables, sunlight and sunset – as well as across the vast subcontinent, where local solar times varied by more than an hour between Calcutta in the east and Karachi in the west.

Despite repeated attempts to secure uniformity by colonial scientists and the state, a patchwork of temporal standards in colonial India resulted from rivalries between scientists, port, railway and municipal authorities, and persistent defiance of these standards by religious and civic leaders, traders, and the urban public. “Railway Time” or “Mean Time” on the longitude of the Madras Observatory – fixed on the completion of the trans-continental railway link with Bombay in the 1870s – encountered stiff public resistance in Bombay, for whom the new standard was more than 30 minutes ahead of local solar time, or “Bombay Time”, and was hastily withdrawn.

The introduction of “Indian Standard Time” (IST) amidst Lokmanya Tilak’s arrest and trial and the “Swadeshi” agitations in 1905-06 prompted further protest, from the stoning of public clock-towers to strikes by office employees and factory workers, as the state attempted to “turn back the clock” by more than half an hour. Thereafter, “Bombay Time” was observed in the city as an insignia of native difference and everyday resistance, as the “annihilation of space by time” was reversed in the spatial arenas of urban temporality. For Indian workers and office employees, “Bombay Time” could turn up later at work; native bankers and brokers could remain open for trading later than European commercial banks; and local philanthropists and municipal leaders sponsored public clocks at variance with official IST.

My paper revisits Jim Masselos’s essay “Bombay Time” (Meera Kosambi, ed., Intersections: Socio-Cultural Trends in Maharashtra, Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 2000, pp.161–83), seeking to complement and deepen Masselos’s pioneering research into the standardisation of clock time in the colonial city. My paper will explore how “Bombay Time” dramatised the social construction and moral economy of time, extending Masselos’s original insights on the transformation of urban life in the context of technological change with new material from the municipal and state archives, and up to the demise of “Bombay Time” during World War II and after Independence.

The Master of the Game: The Woman Who Wouldn’t Let Donald Trump Mumbai

Click here to download this presentation (PDF) which I gave in the South Asian Studies Programme (SASP) seminar series at the National University of Singapore (NUS). It was held on Wednesday 9 November 2016 in Singapore, just before and after the final results were announced on U.S. Election Day and Donald J. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton to win the U.S. Presidential election. This seminar was co-sponsored by the NUS Asia Research Institute (ARI) and chaired by Prof Annu Jalais.

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This presentation was based on and develops an earlier talk on Donald Trump in Mumbai given at the workshop “Constructing Asia: Materiality, Capital & Labour in the Making of an Urbanising Landscape” organised at ARI on 12–13 May 2016 by Dr Malini Sur and Dr Eli Asher Elinoff, where I presented a talk on “Constructing Trump Tower Mumbai”.

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Mumbai’s real estate is amongst the most expensive per square foot anywhere in the world. Property developers and construction magnates dominate the city’s political economy and public culture, and are portrayed as sovereigns of its skyline, an imagined community whom city newspapers commonly refer to as “the builder-politician nexus”.

Builders’ unique appetites for risk make visible and channel the desires of millions for new and better futures (or to make things “great again”). Both real estate and politics are shadowy domains which demonstrate how money, time and space are sources of social power in the contemporary city. The games of language and number played with them favour those who can challenge norms, wait out long battles, and anticipate changes in the rules.

Rather than seeing those who play them as gamblers, populists or moral failures, we need to understand their business strategies as the materialisation of uncertainty. On the occasion of the U.S. Election Day, my talk will focus on the business of building a luxury high-rise Trump Tower in Mumbai and Donald Trump’s Indian apprentices and opponents, first on the disputed site of a charitable hospital and community housing trust, and later in an old textile mill compound.

This presentation is part of an ongoing ethnographic and archival project on the real estate speculation and property redevelopment in post-industrial Mumbai.

Broadcasting Revolution: “Quit India” & Underground Radio in WWII Bombay

This is the abstract for a workshop paper accepted for the international workshop The Indian Predicament: South Asia in World War II held in June 2016 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel organised by Dr Rotem Geva and Prof Dan Diner through their project Judging Histories: Experience, Judgement and Representation of World War II in an Age of Globalization.

 The Indian Predicament: South Asia in WWII

1942 marked a turning point during World War II in India and Asia, as in rapid succession the Japanese occupied and expelled the British from Malaya, Singapore and Burma, and within colonial India widespread rumours and panic ensued of an impending invasion and demise of the British Empire in India. In August 1942, following the failure of the imperial “Cripps Mission” to solicit nationalist support for the war campaign in exchange for post-war home rule, Gandhi and the Congress Party issued their final, militant call for the British to “Quit India” and for Indians to “Do or Die”.

Portrayed in post-war nationalist historiography as a heroic movement to end colonial rule, “Quit India” was in fact quickly and violently suppressed by a paranoid colonial state, at the height of its fear of internal rebellion and external attack. The “9th Augusters” including Gandhi, Nehru and other leaders, as well as thousands of Congress Party activists were jailed for the subsequent years of WWII until 1945, with significant consequences for post-war politics of Independence and Partition, and the history of anti-colonial nationalism.

Non-Congress politicians and parties such as Jinnah’s Muslim League used the subsequent years to offer competing visions of the future nation-state(s). Younger and radical nationalists like Aruna Asaf Ali, Rammanohar Lohia, and Achyut Patwardhan evaded arrest and internment by escaping underground or abroad, to continue their anti-colonial activities through clandestine and virtual means. While its leadership had disappeared soon after the call to “Quit India”, nationalist resistance and sabotage continued, a mass mobilisation conducted through new technologies of communication and the politicisation of everyday life during WWII in South Asia.

Wireless telecommunication and radio broadcasting grew rapidly prior to WWII in India, with the establishment of All-India Radio in 1936, the creation of the Government Department of Information and Broadcasting in 1941, and the proliferation of licensed and illegal radio transmission and listening sets during WWII. The formation and recruitment of Bose’s Indian National Army (INA) and Provisional Government of Free India in Southeast Asia was communicated to the masses in the sub-continent entirely via “enemy” broadcasts from Japan and Germany, and re-transmitted through amateur and illegal radio operators.

My paper will focus on “Congress Radio” illegal broadcasting from late 1942 to early 1945, based on ongoing research in the wartime police and intelligence archives in Bombay/Mumbai. “Congress Radio” regularly transmitted wartime news and rumours, speeches, songs and poetry with a distinctly radical content, while constantly evading detection or interception by police and military wireless censors both within and outside the city. Studying both the radio intercepts in Marathi, Hindi and Gujarati, and police testimonies of radio operators, engineers and their collaborators, my paper will demonstrate how this emerging field of political communication and popular discourse shaped the everyday experience and understanding of WWII in South Asia beyond the nationalist mythology of “Quit India”.

PhD Dissertation Defense

Listen below to the audio of my talk and presentation at my dissertation defence in the Doctoral Program in History, Anthropology and STS (Science Technology & Society), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on 29 August 2013.

The title of my thesis was Empire’s Metropolis: Money, Time & Space in Colonial Bombay, 1870-1920.

My thesis committee was chaired by anthropologist Professor Michael M.J. Fischer and political scientist Professor Sudipta Kaviraj of Columbia University, and historian Professor Merritt Roe-Smith of MIT were my  additional advisors. I was awarded and graduated my doctorate in September 2013.