Pune in the late 19th century – Through the eyes of New York Times
The New York Times Archives on nytimes.com is a great source of articles published in the New York Times, dating back to 1851. I have often referred to this repository to look back and browse information (and the way it was covered in those days…) about various events and periods over the past century and half.
In this brief blog post, I would like to point the readers to a few interesting articles from these archives about Pune (or ‘Poona’ as it was known back then by the British) from the late 19th century. Overall, I felt that the New York Times towed the British ‘view’ of India (I guess that was to be expected…). They also had some correspondents based in India at that time who contributed to the stories as well.
[NOTE – You might have to sign-in into nytimes.com to access these articles.]
The late 19th century was tumultuous period in Pune’s history. The end of the century saw the most horrific epidemic the city has ever witnessed – the plague epidemic. Just when it couldn’t get any worse, it did. A severe drought hit the region. This double tragedy resulted in thousands of deaths. The local population was enraged with the way in which the British authorities handled the crisis. This eventually culminated in the assassination of Pune Commissioner Rand, by the Chaphekar brothers on the night of 22 June 1897. These events are very well captured in a famous Marathi movie ‘22 June 1897’ – directed Nachiket & Jayu Patwardhan (imdb link). Initially, I didn’t find any reference to this incident in the archives. Thanks to Yogesh Khandke for pointing this link out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caphekar_brothers This wikipedia article references a couple New York Times articles related to this incident. (Apparently, I had missed out on this search since Poona was referred to as ‘Poonah’ in these articles.)
The New York Times did discuss the plague crisis through multiple articles:
Lokmanya Tilak and his work were not covered by NY Times in the 19th century; but do find coverage in the early decades of the 20th century.
Here are few other topics that were covered.
Wrangler Paranjape becoming the first Indian to get the honor of ‘Wrangler’ at Cambridge, UK:
The work that Pandita Ramabai did in Pune in the late 19th century.
The graduation of Anandibai Joshi, the first Indian woman doctor, who got her degree at Philadelphia in 1886.
A petition filed by the wife of Sardar Natu against the British Government for holding Natu and his brother in detention.
Some ordinary observations that provide glimpses into the British Army life in Pune/India, are also mentioned. These include references about horse racing, golf and other pursuits of the British officers.
Hope you find these historical perspectives interesting. I find history that ‘lives’ through the articles of an era gone by, to be more interesting, more alive, more fascinating…than mundane history books. I hope that someday, we can also have access to free online archives of Indian Newspapers.