Britain’s long engagement with India means many families have historical links across generations, holding memories and memorabilia about seminal events in the subcontinent – one such family will soon return an item linked with the ancient Jantar Mantar in Jaipur.
Based in Rugby, Warwickshire, the Shore family has lived across India since the mid-18th century. The foremost among them was John Shore, who was the governor-general of India from 1793 to 1797. Many were born in India and died there, including in the 1857 uprising.
“India is our home, really. It is in our bones, our hearts. We always felt alien in England,” says Iain Shore, former army officer, married to Gujarat-origin Kshama, who he believes “is more English than I am”. He prefers to describe his family as Scottish-Irish rather than British.
One of Shore’s ancestors, Major Arthur Garrett of the Royal Engineers, was a keen astronomer. He was appointed assistant state engineer of the erstwhile Jaipur State by architect Samuel Swinton Jacob, who was director of the Public Works Department and built the iconic Albert Hall in central Jaipur.
Garrett was given the specific task of restoring the Jantar Mantar built by Sawai Jai Singh in the early 18th century. It was in a state of damage and disrepair in the early 19th century. Garrett, who is known for his books on irrigation and dams in India, commenced the work in May 1901, completed it in February 1902 and restored the heritage site to largely what it is today.
“After my maternal grandfather's death, I received various family ‘treasures’, among which were ‘Uncle Arthur's’ drawing instruments. My sister and I will present these to the director of the Albert Hall Museum in Jaipur,” Shore told Hindustan Times.
“It seems a more fitting repository for them to be with the structures with which they are associated, than to languish in a drawer at home,” he added. Shore’s sister, Sandra-Suzanne Filmer, was born in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu.
Also on the agenda of Shore’s visit is commemorating 100 years of the death of his father, Frank Shore, also an army officer, who died in Saharanpur in 1916. He discovered his father’s grave in a neglected state during a visit in 2014 and restored it with local help.
“The Commonwealth War Graves Commission had tried, and failed, to locate the grave, one of two in that cemetery in which they were interested, so they will be coming to the Commemoration, and will take over maintenance of his grave thereafter. We cannot thank them enough,” Shore said.
Born in Tanzania, Kshama Shore was a senior official in Britain’s revenue and customs department until retirement, and was honoured with an OBE in 2012 for her work in encouraging people to file tax returns. She is on the committee of Shri Krishna Mandir in Coventry.
Recalling his family’s 250-years links with India, Shore said: “Neither of my parents went back to India after 1944: they were dismayed by the terrible events of Partition, and by the descent of Pakistan into seemingly intractable pseudo-religious stupidity and disastrous corruption.”
“But they were later buoyed by India's climb to progress and modernity after the neo-communist dalliances of Nehru had been discredited and ditched by his successors,” he added.
Shore said family and cultural interests draw them most often to India, where he says he shouts at people for dropping litter, and takes the management of tourist sites to task for service failures. He gave a speech in 2014 at Humayun's tomb in New Delhi to the site's workers and management on the importance of service delivery to national well-being.