Picture Postcards From 18961947

These postcards tell a tale of India and Pakistan, the way they were a hundred years ago
A postcard depicting a scene from Rawal Pindi Bazaar
A postcard depicting a scene from Rawal Pindi Bazaar

With the advent of the 20th century came significant changes in the landscape of India&mdashnew capital cities in the plains and summer retreats in the hills, the evolution of towns and cantonments, cultural centres and educational hubs, all wellconnected by an extensive rail and road network.The 550 postcards featured in Picturesque India A Journey in Early Picture Postcards (1896-1947) (Niyogi Books, @INR1,995) document this growth visually, while also capturing evidences of earlier times. For the authors, Sangeeta and Ratnesh Mathur, it was a labour of love. Having lived all over Asia and Europe, they gradually built a personal collection of Indian memorabilia in the initial years of their travels. In 2003, they relocated to the Czech Republic and started expanding their collection with the specific aim of creating a museum back home. That&rsquos when they started adding picture postcards, among other objects, but with their focus remaining on the visual history of India and its towns. The museum is a work in progress, but the Mathurs have already launched a digital one at indiavisual.com. The book is divided into six chapters, representing six regions within India and Pakistan as they were a hundred years ago. The postcards are stunning in their sheer variety. But so are the journeys some of them have been on, spreading the fragrance of India to every corner of the globe. They are also an aching reminder of a time when communication wasn&rsquot instantaneous and &lsquopost&rsquo had an entirely different meaning.

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