Patna: Patna-born Sake Dean Mahomed, who had opened London’s first Indian restaurant ‘Hindoostanee Coffee House’ in 1810, and Bihar’s first ‘prime minister’ Mohammad Yunus who was buried in the UK, were on Saturday fondly remembered in their native city.
The occasion was a special lecture titled ‘Legacy of India in Britain’ delivered by a UK-based doctor and independent researcher, who hails from Bihar, at the prestigious Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library here.
In his presentation, Dr Mohammad S Siddiqui highlighted the heritage buildings and places associated with India in the UK, and shared some of the stories behind them, using archival images.
In his talk, he recalled the legacy of Sake Dean Mahomed, an Indian traveller and surgeon, and entrepreneur who had opened ‘Hindoostanee Coffee House’, the first Indian restaurant in London in 1810.
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”A green plaque has been put by authorities to mark the site where this cafe stood earlier. Heritage is so much respected in the UK, and we (in India) demolish our heritage by judging it and looking at it through a colonial prism,” Siddiqui told PTI.
Mahomed also was a shampooing surgeon to George IV and opened his Indian medicated vapour baths in Brighton in England in 1821, according to an old plaque, an image of which was shared by him during the lecture.
”Sake Dean was born in Patna, and introduced curry cuisine restaurant in Britain,” Siddiqui said.
The UK-based physician, 47, born in Jamui district of Bihar, said, some of the facts that he shared with the audience, left them ”pleasantly shocked”.
”And, many said, they couldn’t believe when I spoke about Mohammad Yunus, the first prime minister or premier of Bihar, who is buried in Brookwood Cemetery in the UK,” he said.
During the British era, Yunus had led a short-lived government in Bihar after the 1937 provincial elections. The post of the province’s prime minister or ‘premier’ later came to be known as chief minister after Independence.
Other topics the doctor touched upon included monuments like Shah Jahan Mosque commissioned by Nawab Shah Jahan Begum of Bhopal, in Woking in Surrey in the UK; houses where Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Raja Ram Mohan Roy had stayed in London, which are still intact with the special blue plaques on them.
A well which was dug at Stoke Row in the UK’s Oxfordshire in the 1860s on the initiative of Maharaja Ishwari Pershad Narayan Singh of Benares for public welfare is intact even today. Yet another heritage site is the cemetery which bears the names Hindu and Muslim persons laid side-by-side, he added.
Siddiqui lamented that many priceless built heritages of Patna were either getting demolished or suffering decay or facing the wrecking ball in the name of development.
”From Patna Collectorate to Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH), so much of heritage is under threat of demolition right now. We must come together and care for our heritage. It is our heritage,” he said.
The Director of the library, Shayesta Bedar, said the talk was very well received by people and more lectures are in the pipeline.
The 130-year-old Khuda Bakhsh library had been at the epicentre of a debate lately as its historic Curzon Reading Room was earlier proposed to be demolished for a double-decker flyover on Ashok Rajpath.
INTACH in April had appealed to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to spare the demolition of the front portion of the campus, saying razing of any part of the celebrated institution will be a ”monumental loss of heritage” not just for Patna but also the entire world.