Niyogi Books have brought forth an attractive collection of vintage Indian picture postcards, curated along the travel routes of that time, with their newly published title Picturesque India: A Journey in Early Picture Postcards by Sangeeta and Ratnesh Mathur. The book is a unified effort of describing the evolution of postcards, the postal delivery and transportation systems in the backdrop of the evolution of Indian cities in the early 20th century. These picture postcards are an important reminder of India’s past, and not mere nostalgia of a time gone by.
On 18 February 2019, Niyogi Books took the honour of launching the book Picturesque India: A Journey in Early Picture Postcards by Sangeeta and Ratnesh Mathur at The Embassy of the Czech Republic in New Delhi byHis Excellency, the Ambassador of Czech Republic to India, Milan Hovorka. The panel was graced by Dr Malavika Karlekar (Co-editor, Indian Journal of Gender Studies and Curator, Re-presenting Indian Women; A Visual Documentary 1875─1947, at the Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi) and Nirupama Kotru (Joint Secretary and Head-Museums, Ministry of Culture, Govt of India) along with the authors. The launch was dedicated to India – Czech trade and cultural relationship.
The welcome address was given by Trisha De Niyogi, acknowledging the guests and the audience. She laid emphasis on the Indo-Czech relationship. Apart from Bata Shoes, Java Bikes, and Skoda Cars, India is privy to yet another collaboration in the form of this book, wherein most of the postcards were collected in Czech Republic. The long history of Indology in Czech and the numerous visits by many a Indian luminaries, including Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Rabindranath Tagore, and MK Gandhi, throws on the long-standing strong relationship between the two nations.
An enlightening memoir was presented by authors Sangeeta and Ratnesh Mathur through pictorial presentation as they mentioned the book as a visual journey depicting the history of picture postcards which played an important role in India – Czech Republic connections.
His Excellency, the Ambassador of Czech Republic to India, Milan Hovorka was all pleased by the efforts of the authors and the publisher Niyogi Books and stated that it was an emotional moment for all of us and the book will surely strengthen the relations between India and Czech Republic.
Dr Malavika Karlekar stated, ‘Very interesting to see how the authors have traced the correspondence between India and Czech Republic. The pictures in the book speak of a colonial India and connect between India and Czech Republic.’
Lastly, Nirupama Kotru said, ‘A postcard would express a lot of emotions through the text and this book brings a perfect amalgamation of both.’
ABOUT THE BOOK
With the dawn of the twentieth century, at the height of the British Empire, came significant changes in the landscape of India—formation of new capital cities in the plains and summer retreats in the hills, evolution of towns or nagores and pores, growth of cantonment towns with their military and civil lines, development of ports or pattanams and creation of cultural, educational and trading centres, all increasingly well connected by an extensive rail, road and, later on, air network. The 550 postcards featured in this book visually document this growth, while also capturing evidences of earlier times in India’s fascinating polytemporal towns. The postcards are divided across six chapters representing six regions within India and Pakistan, as they were a hundred years ago. Through these picture postcards and the supporting text, readers can vividly imagine what it would have been like to travel by road or rail across India during the period 1896–1947. An attractive and nostalgic record of the topography of the time, these picture postcards are an untapped resource for those interested in the evolution of cities, town planning, architecture, ethnography, sociology or, simply, travel. For deltiologists, information on the picture postcard type, the publisher, photographer or artist and details of the journey that the picture postcard took halfway across the globe would be particularly interesting. Brief notes on India’s leading picture postcard publishing studios and their photographers, who captured more than just the picturesque in this large and diverse land, have been put together at the end of the book as a small tribute.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Sangeeta and Ratnesh Mathur have lived and worked in many cities in Asia and Europe. In 2003, they relocated to the Czech Republic, when Ratnesh joined Infosys to set up their first back office processing centre in Europe. Sangeeta began teaching management students in three of the primary universities in the second largest Czech city of Brno where they lived. They learnt the Czech language and travelled extensively within the Czech Republic and Europe, visiting the historic sights, museums, antique shops, and attending hobby club meetings for philately, postcards, cartography, etc. in more than twenty European towns, to search for the historic links between India and these European towns and to collect antiquarian printed material relating to the visual history of India and its towns. They began expanding their collection, adding antiquarian books on India, Indian picture postcards, maps, city plans and views, God prints, travel and film posters, stamps, trade and matchbox labels, antiques in glass and porcelain, coins, princely state insignia and weapons, with a specific aim of creating a museum back in India.