How a holiday turned into a love affair with India for writer Ed King, culminating in Snapshots of Mumbai, the first in a series of new books
Images by Paul Ward
A holiday back in 2006 triggered Ed King’s love affair with India. “That first taxi ride from the airport,” says the Moseley-born writer. “I remember being hit by the vast similarities and yet the differences from where I grew up. I felt at home, yet alien at the same time. I was immediately fascinated and captivated.”
Perfectly summing up the strange mix was the plethora of British-inspired architecture all around – yet with dozens of monkeys hanging from the masonry. Ed also recalls: “We passed a funeral procession that was familiar in so many ways, except that the body was being carried high above people’s heads.”
In the intervening years, India has become an intricate part of Ed’s life – he has his own house in south Goa. Now he has put his experiences and interactions with the Indian people down in writing in the first of a series of five books. Snapshots of Mumbai was published last month, 73 years on to the day from India’s independence from British colonial rule. The book proves even more timely with the current moral and political focus on India’s torrid history under the British Empire.
MIGHT AND MAJESTY
Ed describes the 204-page coffee table book as “a love letter to the modern-day megacity which encapsulates the might and majesty of India while following the roots of British imperialism”. The anthology of essays and interviews from Mumbai starts with South City, a walking tour through the historical blueprint behind the sprawling metropolis.
Places Behind goes deeper under the surface of prominent areas in Mumbai, such as Dhobi Ghats – the world’s largest outdoor laundromat – and Dharavi, Asia’s biggest slum where the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire was set. Modern Gods, meanwhile, explores three major driving forces behind Mumbai – religion, entertainment and trade.
Interviews sees Ed talk to people about their first-hand experiences of living and working in Mumbai. Interviewees include Saami, a street hawker in Colaba; Ashwin Merchant, deputy director of the Swiss Business Hub, and Naresh Fernandes, a prominent Mumbai-based journalist and writer, who edited Time Out Mumbai when interviewed.
Supporting the text are a series of original images from Birmingham-based photographer Paul Ward, who won the Fashion Photographer category at the 2020 British Photography Awards. The final chapter in Snapshots of Mumbai, titled The Gallery, showcases a series of 12 photographs by Paul which have been on display as stand-alone exhibitions at Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Bilston Art Gallery.
Ed, who initially worked in arts and entertainment before going into journalism and copywriting, said: “Since 2006, I have been back to India virtually every year. I am 42 years old and the Empire and India was never taught in history lessons when I was at school. It has been left to fade away as part of our forgotten history. I wrote Snapshots of Mumbai because I wanted to learn myself about the relationship between Britain and India. Something I hope to pass on in an engaging narrative surrounded by Paul’s beautiful pictures.”
The remaining books in the series will follow Britain’s involvement with India from the trade of the East India Company to the military occupation enforced by the British Crown and cover Kochi, Chennai, Kolkata and Kashmir.