Charles Allen describes himself as a ‘writer of history’ rather than a historiographer. He made his mark as an oral historian combining radio series and publications for BBC Radio, beginning with Plain Tales from the Raj (1974-5), but in later years focused on three aspects of Indian history: its Buddhist civilisations, Orientalism and Indian archaeology. His most recent major publications include: Ashoka: the search for India’s lost emperor (2012); The prisoner of Kathmandu: Brian Houghton Hodgson in Nepal, (2015); and Coromandel: a personal history of South India (2017).
Born in the Indian sub-continent, Dilip Hiro was educated in India, Britain and America, where he received a Master’s degree at Virginia Polytechnic & State University. He then settled in London in the mid-1960s, and became a full-time writer, journalist and commentator. He has published 34 books (available in 88 editions at www.amazon.com/books/dilip hiro) and contributed to another 18. Three of his earlier books, including Inside India Today, were re-issued by the publisher in 2013. He is the editor of Babur Nama: Journal of Emperor Babur, a world classic, preserved since 1530. He has also written scripts for theatre, television drama and cinema.
Dr Rosie Llewellyn-Jones
Dr Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, MBE
Studied Urdu and Hindi at the School of Oriental & African Studies and completed her PhD which was subsequently published as :A Fatal Friendship: the Nawabs, the British and the City of Lucknow (OUP Delhi 1985).
She has since written a number of books, including A Very Ingenious Man: Claude Martin in Early Colonial India (OUP 1992) and A Man of the Enlightenment: The Letters of Claude Martin 1766-1800 (Permanent Black 2003). Her biography of the Nawab Wajid Ali Shah The Last King in India published in 2014 was a critical success both in Britain and India. 2017 saw the publication of an edited volume by Mapin Publishers on The Uprising of 1857 illustrated with contemporary photographs from the Alkazi Collection of Photography, Delhi.
Dr Llewellyn-Jones visits India as frequently as possible and was an invited speaker at the Jaipur Literature Festival. She is part time archivist to the Royal Society for Asian Affairs, and is a Council Member of the Royal Asiatic Society. She was awarded an MBE in 2015 for services to the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia (BACSA) and British Indian studies.
Imtiaz Dharker is a poet and artist, and also makes video films. Awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2014, she has received the Cholmondley Award and an Honorary Doctorate from SOAS, and has been Poet in Residence, Cambridge University Library. She has six collections of poems, including Over the Moon and the latest, Luck Is the Hook, all published by Bloodaxe Books UK. She has had eleven solo exhibitions of drawings around the world, and scripts and directs video films, many of them for non-government organisations working in the area of shelter, education and health for women and children.
‘Whether Imtiaz Dharker writes of exile, childhood, politics or grief, her clear-eyed attention brings each subject dazzlingly into focus. She makes it look easy, this clarity and economy, but it is her deft phrasing, wit and grace that create this immediacy.
Reading her, one feels that were there to be a World Laureate, Imtiaz Dharker would be the only candidate.’
Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate
Jaishree Misra has written eight novels published by Penguin and Harper Collins. She also edited an anthology on Motherhood for Zubaan & Save the Children India. Her ninth book, published by Westland-Amazon, is her first work of non-fiction, a personal account of two years spent trying to build a house on the beach in Kerala. She has worked in special needs, broadcast journalism and as a film classifier at the BBFC. She first met Khushwant Singh in the year 2000 when he reviewed her debut novel ‘Ancient Promises’ and wrote a letter telling her how much he enjoyed it. Only much later did she discover that he was similarly kind to ALL writers, and an exceedingly nice man to know.
For more on Jaishree: www.jaishreemisra.com and @JaishreeMisra
John Keay has been writing about India for over forty years. His India: A History (2000, 2010) is the standard narrative account of South Asia, while India Discovered (1981 but still in print) has inspired a generation of research into the ninteenth-century reconstruction of India’s classical past. Also still in print is The Honourable Company (1991), a sweeping history of the English East India Company. He lives in Scotland. His latest work is an intriguing biographical quest – The Tartan Turban: In Search of Alexander Gardner.
Meghnad Desai is a Emeritus Professor at the London a school of Economics and a member of the House of Lords. He is an author of over twenty books
Mihir Bose is an award-winning journalist and author of 30 books. His History of Indian Cricket, the only narrative history of the game, was the first Indian cricket book to win the prestigious English Cricket Society’s Silver Jubilee literary award. Sporting Colours is a study of sport and apartheid. He has also written a History of Bollywood, and The Lost Hero, a biography of Netaji. Indian Spy is being made into a film and he has also just published From Midnight to Glorious Morning?, a midnight’s child’s look at how India has changed. A journalist since 1974, Bose worked for the Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph and was the BBC’s first Sports Editor.
Moni Mohsin was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan. Now based in London, she is a freelance journalist and author of two novels, the prize winning The End of Innocence and Duty Free. Her best selling collection of satirical columns, The Dairy of a Social Butterfly and The Return of the Butterfly, are based on her long running column for the Pakistani weekly, The Friday Times.
‘The book’s greatest triumph is Butterfly’s voice, a pitch-perfect mixture of malapropistic, subcontinental English and colloquial Urdu spoken by her class, perhaps the most authentic example of what Salman Rushdie has term the ‘chutneyfication’ of the English language. Mohsin’s ear is preternaturally tuned to the exactness of its hilarious cadences, idiosyncracies and reinventions. So we get inspired locutions such as ‘Thanks God’, ‘proper-gainda’, ‘bore-bore countries’, ‘thousand-thousand times’, ‘spoil spots’, ‘What cheeks!’ ‘principaled stand’, ‘sweepress’; there’s hardly a sentence in the book that does not contain similar gems. On her husband’s dismay at Bush’s election to a second term: ‘… I was also disappointed. Itna mein hope kar rahi thi, na, keh Carry would win and then we’d get that shweeto-sa, young-sa Edwards with his glossy hairs and Tom Cruise smile. But instead we have to stare at that sarha hua buddha sanda, Chainy.’ The book is being talked of as a kind of subcontinental Bridget Jones’s Diary but Mohsin’s extraordinary achievement in exploiting the contrapuntal irony in the gap between the private and the public gives it a political depth that aligns it more to Rushdie’s Shame. This is a wildly entertaining book but, beware, it also bites.’
Neel Mukherjee on The Diary of a Social Butterfly, Newsweek
Neelima Dalmia Adhar’s father the first Indian owner of The Times Of India was the renowned Marwari industrialist, Ramkrishna Dalmia who had six wives and eighteen children. Her mother, his sixth and youngest wife Dinesh Nandini Dalmia, was from Udaipur. She was an eminent Hindi poetess and novelist and a Padma Bhushan awardee who had to totally reinvent herself to deal with the challenges of the unorthodoxy of her marriage to a staunchly orthodox man. Neelima grew up in an atypical Marwari home with six siblings, three older and three younger, in New Delhi.
She completed her Senior Cambridge from The Convent of Jesus and Mary, before attaining her Bachelor’s degree in Home Science from Lady Irwin College; and a Master’s in Psychology from the Delhi University with a specialization in Personality. She taught Psychology for a short while at the same university to undergraduate students.
Neelima has been inculcated profusely by her mother with a passion for both the spoken and written word and divides her time between writing and pursuing her interest in poetry, philosophy and the paranormal.
Her writings have earned for her the tag of agent provocateur and perhaps, one of India’s most fearless authors.
When she wrote her first book, Father Dearest: The Life and Times of R. K. Dalmia in 2003, it scaled the bestseller list and she was labeled a daredevil ‘family chronicler’ who had exposed some fiercely guarded secrets.
Her second book, a novel, Merchants of Death was published in 2007, which also received wide critical acclaim. It is a story that exposes the underbelly and duplicity of the perceived-to-be chaste, highly religious and overtly orthodox Marwari society. In a sense she had violated the sacred omerta and shattered that bastion of secrecy of her clan, by telling the world what everyone knows, but no one ever speaks about.
The Secret Diary of Kasturba is her third book that promises a fly-on-the-wall peep into the life of the wife of the Mahatma. It was launched in New York in October 2016 and in Delhi the fo;;owing November.
A passionate ‘people-watcher’, she is drawn to oddities and thrives on writing about personalities and human behavior, from the quirky to the mysterious to the bizarre, a subject that she does chillingly close to the bone.
Rachel Dwyer is Professor of Indian Cultures and Cinema at SOAS, University of London. She took her BA in Sanskrit at SOAS, followed by an MPhil in General Linguistics and Comparative Philology at the University of Oxford. Her PhD research at SOAS was on the Gujarati lyrics of Dayaram (1777-1852). She teaches undergraduate and postgraduate courses in cinema and supervises PhD research on Indian cinema.
Professor Dwyer’s main research interest is in Hindi cinema where she has researched and published on film magazines and popular fiction; consumerism and the new middle classes and the middlebrow; love and eroticism (of the wet sari and of the kiss and saying ‘I love you’); visual culture (sets, locations and costumes); religion (Hinduism and Islam); emotions (anger and happiness); Gandhi and the biopic; stars (Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Rishi Kapoor and dynastic stardom); Hinglish and language in cinema. She has written a book in the British Film Institute’s ‘World Directors’ series about one of the great figures of the Hindi film industry, Yash Chopra, with whom she has worked for several years. She later wrote the BFI’s guide to ‘100 Bollywood films’. Her most recent book is ‘Bollywood’s India: Hindi cinema as a guide to modern India’ (published in India as ‘Picture abhi baaki hai’).
Professor Dwyer’s other research interests include the Asian elephant in India, and she has published papers on the elephant in cinema, in literature and religion as well as several reviews and non-academic features.
Professor Dwyer is currently Co-Investigator on the AHRC Network Grant, ‘Soft Power, cinema and the BRICS’, with Professor Stephanie Dennison, University of Leeds.
Rahul Singh was editor of Reader’s Digest, Indian Express and Sunday Observer. He is also author of “Family Planning Success Stories” and “In the Name of the Father”.
Seema Anand is a London based mythologist and narrative practitioner. She is an acknowledged authority on the erotic literatures of the East and their impact on women’s narrative.
As author of The Arts of Seduction Seema believes the stories we tell define our roles and establish our identities and if we are to create change – real sustainable change – it is these stories that we need to change.
Her work on he revival and reproduction of the oral literatures of India is associated with the UNESCO project for Endangered Oral Traditions.
Shrabani Basu is a London-based journalist and author. Her books include the Sunday Times bestseller Victoria & Abdul; The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant, For King and Another Country; Indian Soldiers on the Western Front 1914-18,, Spy Princess; The Life of Noor Inayat Khan and Curry, The Story of Britain’s Favourite Dish.
Her book Victoria & Abdul has been made into a major film by Oscar nominated director Stephen Frears and stars Dame Judi Dench and Ali Fazal.
She is the founder and chair of the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust which campaigned for a memorial for the World War II heroine in London. It was unveiled by Princess Anne on 8 November 2012.
Tessa Blackstone started her career as an academic at the London School of Economics. She went onto become the Master of Birkbeck College for 10 years (1987-97).
In 1987, Tessa Blackstone was awarded a life peerage. She sits on the Labour benches in the Lords. She was Opposition spokeswoman for Education and Science (1988-92), for Treasury matters (1990-91), and principal Opposition spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs (1992-97). After Labour came into power in 1997, she was Minister of State for Education and Employment (1997-2001) and then served in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport as the Minister for the Arts.
Baroness Blackstone is currently Chair of The British Library. She is also Chair of Orbit Housing Group, the British section of the Franco British Council, the British Lung Foundation and the Bar Standards Board. She stepped down as Vice Chancellor of the University of Greenwich in September 2011, as Trustee of the Royal Opera House in June 2014 and as Chair at Great Ormond Street Hospital in 2017.
She has published widely in academic journals and written a number of books, mainly on social and educational policy.
Zareer Masani is the author of Macaulay:Britain’s Liberal Imperialist (Bodley Head, 2013). He has an Oxford history doctorate and is the author of several historical books, including a biography of Indira Gandhi. He has also written a widely acclaimed family memoir, And All Is Said: Memoir of a Home Divided (Penguin, 2013).
Zareer spent two decades as a current affairs producer for BBC Radio 4 and is now a freelance historian and broadcaster. His particular areas of interest include the British Empire, and he is currently researching a book on Indo-British partnership under the Raj.