Among the Anglo-Indians

While working as a travel editor, I was lucky enough to commission quite a few pieces from Stephen McClarence on India, including one on a 2,300-mile trip across the country that appeared in an anthology of railway journeys (Sunrise on the Southbound Sleeper). I’ve since heard the marvellous radio programme his wife, Clare Jenkins, made for the BBC on the railway town of Jhansi, and its Anglo-Indian community (who are mostly descendants of British men and Indian women). So I’m looking forward to the project in which, together, McClarence and Jenkins bring town and community to book: Teatime at Peggy’s, which is due to be published by Bradt on June 7.

Over 15 years, the couple made regular visits to Jhansi, in Uttar Pradesh, which inspired Bhowani Junction, John Masters’ 1954 tale of Anglo-Indian life during Partition. There they spent hours with Peggy Cantem – “Aunty Peggy” as she was known locally, the daughter and widow of railwaymen and overseer of the European cemetery – and her friends, hearing of dances, amateur dramatics, May Queen balls and meals of Mulligatawny soup. Their book, Bradt promises, will be “a warm, humorous and evocative celebration of the eccentric, time-warped and fast-disappearing Alice-in-Wonderland world of one of India’s most endangered communities”.

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