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1988: Maisie Wright's letters from India reveal everyday Bombay life

Mid Sussex Times October 28 1988


The adventures of a very different type of memsahib have been published in a book.

Under Malabar Hill is a collection of letters which may Maisy Wright penned to family and friends between 1928 and 1933, describing her life in India. The collection includes accounts of weddings, joyous religious ceremonies and vicious communal riots. The humdrum details of the lives of ordinary Indians are also portrayed with a keen eye for detail, the jam packed trains, and the maddening crowds of the bizarres. "Under Malabar Hill is," says Maisie, now 84, who lives in South Street, Cuckfield, "an attempt to redress a common view of the British abroad".

Maisie Wright reads 'Under Malabar Hill' in 1988

The book shows very different side of life. "Films like ‘Heat and dust’, and ‘Passage to India’, show us up in rather a poor light", she feels. But there were a lot of people trying to do good for the Indians.

After a Cambridge education, Maisie left England in 1928 for Bombay, then a three month boat trip away. On arrival Maisie soon found out that she was a 'quite raw' 24-year-old. Her work at the Bombay University women's settlement, teaching Indian women social work, was demanding.

"I loved India it was so exciting, exotic and very interesting too," she recalls. Her feelings for the country are clear from the text which includes descriptions of off-the-beaten track trips to see ruined temples and cities and deserted beaches.

The teacher returned to England in 1933 for what was intended to be a period of leave. But in her absence her job was filled by an Indian woman, and Maisie never returned.

Looking back on her letters she feels she might not now be as critical of the Indians as she was then. Maisie Wright has written two books on Cuckfield and now 'Under Malabar Hill' which is available from Halcyon bookshop, in Haywards Heath Broadway, and from Smiths in South Road. It costs £7.50



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