The Bacsa Journal ‘Chowkidar’

Bacsa has been described as ‘the liveliest Society for the dead’ and we certainly live up to our reputation through our journal.

Just after Bacsa’s second public meeting its founder, Theon Wilkinson, MBE, told the Editor that he had received a large amount of correspondence from people who had served in undivided India. It was exactly thirty years after Indian Independence, and there were still many people with direct experience of governing and working in the sub-continent, and elsewhere in South Asia who had retired to Britain, were still active in mind and body, and wanted to support the new Association and to tell it of their own lives in the East.

So Chowkidar was born. It was cut on a stencil with a typewriter, inked, and then run off on a Gestetner.  How ancient all these words seem today, when Chowkidar is written on an iMac, colour images are scanned in, and the whole thing goes off to the printers by dropbox.

So what's in it?

For an example see the leading article in the current issue. Or dip into any of the past issues of Chowkidar all of which from 1997 to 2017 are available on line. Anything that is interesting and connected, even if tenuously, to graves and cemeteries in South Asia is within the journal’s remit.  We cover everywhere that the East India Company set its foot and where its servants died and were buried.  From ports en route to India, like St. Helena; to electric telegraph stations in the Middle East (Bahrein); to small British consular posts (Jeddah) and right around the globe to the Treaty Ports of China, there will be graves.  And Chowkidar wants to know about them and will publish lively stories about them. Do not worry if you have problems putting pen to paper – we can edit what you send us into entertaining and factual copy.

Continuity

Many of the editorial features from the early issues remain.  If a thing works well then change is unnecessary. Contributors, both members and non-members, always provide queries for the ‘Can You Help?’ column, and more often than not, the answer is yes, we can certainly help.  ‘Mail Box’ is a round-up of visits, projects, ideas and newspaper reports from the previous six months.  The book review section is popular, many of the books reviewed are by Bacsa members, and we review non-mainstream books dealing with the British experience in South Asia that normally would not get a mention anywhere else.  We do not publish so much on family history or genealogy unless it is tied to a tomb.  Our sister organisation, Fibis (Families in British India Society) is better equipped to deal with this and to advise on tracing ancestors buried in the East.

Why call it ‘Chowkidar’?

Chowkidar is a Hindustani word meaning ‘watchman’  - someone who is employed as a security guard in the Indian subcontinent. Many buildings have a resident chowkidar who lives on the premises, but chowkidars are also employed to look after cemeteries and in these cases will usually be found in an adjoining gatehouse. They are usually male, but there are female chowkidars too.  It seemed appropriate that an association set up to preserve, where possible, old European graves in the East, would act as a kind of chowkidar as indicated by its logo, and the journal was named accordingly.

Chowkidar Journal Cover

Imperial India: Find your Ancestors

This is the title of a 14 day tour, 17th-30th October 2018, led by Dr Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, MBE (editor of our Journal Chowkidar).  It will trace the history of the British Raj from its last capital Delhi to its original captal Calcutta, including visits to Meerut, Lucknow, Cawnpore, Serampore and Chandernagore.

The tour is organised by Indus Experiences a long established tour company based in Harrow, and is limited to 18 people, so an early decision to go may be advisable.

To book or for further information on the tour please contact the company:
tel: 0208 901 7320
email: yasin@indusexperiences.co.uk.

The company donates £25 for each person joining the tour.

For further information on tours the company can offer see its website: https://www.indusexperiences.co.uk