THE TRAVELS OF DEAN MAHOMET
The Travels of Dean Mahomet is essentially a two part book, with the first part written by Dean Mahomet himself, and provides an autobiographical journal of his travels through India in the eighteenth century. This period was a time during which Europeans were colonizing India and Mahomet’s letters provided a unique account of Indian people and their customs during the initial expansion of the British Empire into India. The story of Dean Mahomet’s travels is told using numerous letters he wrote to a “friend” of his. His account is unique in that it provides a description from the point of view of an Indian working for the English’s colonial regime. Mr. Mahomet’s letters, dating from 1793 through 1794, describe the time period beginning when he volunteered his service to the military. The novel ends with Dean Mahomet’s immigration to Ireland and his integration into life there. Throughout the novel, Dean Mahomet describes the different types of people he meets during his travels, but is able to provide a different perspective than others chronicling the period as a result of his being an insider and an outsider to the Indians. Dean Mahomet goes in to great detail of the people he encounters, as well as the different cultures and lifestyles he experiences in his travels. The book reflects Dean Mahomet’s unique role in the period of imperialism, which has him creating a new identity, drawing upon both his Indian heritage and his assimilation into English culture. What is really interesting is not only that he became a man with two cultural backgrounds, but he also attempted to use this background to bring the Indian culture to Britain.
The second art of the book was written by Michael Fisher, who provides an introductory essay, a brief history of the eighteenth-century India, and the story of Dean Mahomet’s travels and life in Ireland and England after leaving India. In his preface to the book, Mr. Fisher notes that: Travels expose the complex and often alienating attitudes Dean Mahomet’s-and tens of thousands of other Indians in service of the English company, held toward the British conquest. Many felt distanced from cultures of the old regimes which their ancestors had served. All remained apart from the Europeans who hired them. Like Dean Mahomet, each worked in distinct ways to create new social spaces from themselves between these cultures” (Travels, Preface P. XVI)
This quote illustrates for readers how people like Dean Mahomet where both insiders and outsiders, and adapted to embrace the cultures they found themselves in. At no time does Mahomet ever question the presence of the British in India. In fact, he describes his eagerness and enthusiasm when Baker asked him to join his entourage (Letter 2, pp. 36-39). Having left his traditional family at an early age to enter into the service of the British, and growing up a traveling man, Dean Mahomet did not have the opportunity to practice the same cultures as his ancestors. However, his experiences in England and Ireland demonstrate that he was never fully integrated there either. Fortunately Dean Mahomet was able to embrace the varying cultures he found himself in and used his experiences and knowledge learned from both to create a new social space for himself.
In his travel letters, Mahomet seemingly goes to some effort to provide a positive description of India and its culture and tolerance for its differences. Thus, in addition to the usual descriptions of scenery and accounts of various battles, he also describes various religious and cultural practices such as betel nut chewing (Letter 18, pp. 81084; Letter 27, pp. 103-105). In his description of a visit to the Peeaharea, he relates the story of a British Lieutenant of the Artillery who questioned the “profound veneration” the population held for the monument. The British Lieutenant died after...
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