chapter  3
13 Pages

Indian travel writing in the age of empire

Mobility and cosmopolitan nationalism
WithPramod K. Nayar

This chapter examines a wide variety of Indian travel writing from the 1870–1940 period. It suggests that a discrepant mobility and history of the world emerges from the travelogue when the imperial subject traverses the globe. It studies the work on Jagatjit Singh, Lala Baijnath, D.F. Karaka, G.P. Pillai and others who travelled not only within England but also to other parts of the world: Russia, Australia, and the USA.

I argue that mobility across cultures and geographical spaces subjects enabled colonial subjects to fashion themselves in different ways other than the one envisaged for them by the Empire. The travellers exhibit in their writing a “vernacular cosmopolitanism” and, finally, a cosmopolitanism imbued with a national identity as well.

In the process, the Indian traveller exhibits a sense of enchantment with the English/European land, but is alerted to the discrepancies and fractures in, say, English society. The imperial subject traveller, then, is not merely one in awe of the imperial center but one who is sympathetic to the subalterns in Europe and the connections between Europe’s imperial grandeur and the contradictions of colonial exploitation or class privileges.