Indian independence: UCC marks anniversary

Fri, Jan 27, 2012, 00:00

THE RIVER Lee was compared to the river Ganges by a travel writer from India who visited Ireland 200 years ago.

This historical description of Cork was cited yesterday when Indian students of University College Cork marked 82 years since their country’s declaration of independence with a reception at the college.

The Indian National Conference of January 26th, 1930 resolved to fight for complete self-rule, independent of the British empire.

Travel writer Abu Taleb Khan wrote of the beauty of Cork’s “gentle slopes”, which compared favourably to the “Bay of Genoa” and the “Straits of Constantinople”. Khan was a celebrated 18th-century writer whose accounts of Cork were published in The Travels of Mirza Abu Taleb Khan(London, 1814).

Students came in the traditional sari, the oldest form of Indian dress for women, or the salwar khameez, a long tunic worn over loose-fitting pants.

The reception was hosted in honour of UCC’s 50 Indian students. Their numbers are complemented by four long-term academic staff and six post-doctorate graduates working in the science and medical fields.

“The vast majority of Indian students are working on PhDs, and many are based in the Tyndall National Institute,” said Christopher Shepard, co-ordinator of international student recruitment at UCC.

Khan’s historical account of Cork traces the city’s Indian links back to emigrant Dean Mahomet, who arrived in 1784 and lived in Tivoli.

The industrious Indian community probably made use of the city’s strategic location as a trading port during the rise of the popular orientalism and exoticism of the East.