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Arts/Society When (Mark) Twain Walked Baroda's Streets

spnadmin

1947-2014 (Archived)
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When Twain walked Baroda's streets

This year is the 175th birth anniversary of Mark Twain, his death centenary year, and 125th year of the publishing of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain has an interesting Gujarat connection - 110 years ago he visited Baroda and wrote about his royal adventures in the Banyan city.

When Twain walked Baroda's streets - Ahmedabad - City - The Times of India

AHMEDABAD: Samuel Langhorne Clemens aka Mark Twain, often described as ‘The father of American literature’, visited Vadodara in 1900 to deliver a lecture in Darbar hall of Laxmivilas palace on an invitation from Sir Sayajirao Gaekwad, the then ruler of Baroda state.

Twain describes Gaekwad as being fluent in English and a fine and cultivated gentleman. Sayajirao was 32 years old then and Twain wrote in his travelogue, ‘Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World’: “The prince is an educated gentleman. His culture is European. He has been in Europe five times.”

Twain arrived in Baroda with his daughter Clera on January 31 and was received by the “prince’s carriage drawn by picture-book horses with glossy, arched necks” and staffed by three footmen.

Then the Twains were shown around the town, with its ancient houses, bazaars, lavish new palace, which Twain remarked as a “mix of modern American-European...wholly foreign to India”. The old palace (Laxmivilas), he said, was “oriental and charming, and in consonance with the country”. Twain spoke here before an audience of around 300 guests and found the hall “unsuitable for public speaking on account of echoes, but it is a good place to hold durbars and regulate the affairs of a kingdom, and that is what it is for. If I had it I would have a durbar every day, instead of twice a year”.

Delighted with the bazaars, he wrote: “The swarm of ragged and noisy humanity under the horses’ feet and everywhere, and the pervading reek and fume and smell! It was all wonderful and delightful.”

Twain also rode an elephant and had one important grievance about his royal host. “But we did not see the treasury of crown jewels, and that was a disappointment, for in mass and richness it ranks only second in India. We failed to see the jewels, but we saw the gold cannon and the silver one.”
 

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spnadmin

1947-2014 (Archived)
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I just want to add that my mother rode an elephant when she was in India in 1942. That is part of the romance.
 

spnadmin

1947-2014 (Archived)
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Tejwant ji

My mother and father met in Persia, now Iraq and Iran, as American GI's during World War II. They both stopped off in India on the way to the Gulf where they were stationed for a few weeks.


My father left from New Orleans and through the Panama Canal ultimately reaching Persian. My mother left from Seattle, stopping at San Francisco, and then to India. Then on to Persia. At that time the Persian Gulf Command was set up by the British, but American forces were supplying transportation and logistical support to the Russians, by land over the mountains, behind the German lines.

For my father India was a place to a pathological hatred for camels. He saw abject poverty side by side with glorious gardens and architecture. My father always extolled the perfectly manicured gardens that were like something from a mystical world, and spoke of the beauty of Indian women who seemed to glide in their saris on a summer's night.

While in India my mother's recollections were of market places, camels, and elephant rides. Somewhere I have a picture of her perched just above an elephant's head. She was born and raised the daughter of farmers in Illinois. That may explain it.

The other humorous thing about my mothers travels in India pertain to Sikhs. When I told her that I was now a Sikh she said: I remember seeing them in India but I never knew what that meant. Why do I think this is humorous? How can a person spend more than a month in a foreign country and not try to get the answer to such a question?

So that is it. If I remember anything more I will tell you.
 

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