Carving a Niche in the Oceanic World
M. Raisur Rahman
THE CALL OF THE SEA: KACHCHHI TRADERS IN MUSCAT AND ZANZIBAR, C. 1800-1880 by Chhaya Goswami Orient Blackswan, 2012, 343 pp., 725
October 2012, volume 36, No 10

Without seaborne activities, human existence is inconceivable. Oceans, seas, waterways, shipbuilding, banking, exploration, navigation and various other activities and sciences are just a few areas that we come to learn of through maritime history. At the core, this branch of knowledge is about entrepreneurial undertakings and seafaring communities. Intercoastal trade has facilitated exchange of commodities across the planet but equally important, if not more, have been the cultural, social and intellectual interchanges across communities otherwise divided by the oceanic immensity. One such community from India that has earned an unequalled name in this regard are the Kachchhis. The region of Kachchh in the Arabian Ocean and part of modern-day Gujarat has had a long history. Its extensive coastline and accessible ports linked it with regional trade, but more eminently with the larger Indian Ocean world. Kachchh has the distinction of being at the helm of the Indian Ocean trade, creating a network of sea-trade between eastern Africa, western India and the Red Sea. Kachchhis-the residents of this region-who made a niche for themselves in the oceanic world, are now synonymous with entrepreneurship, business acumen, and exceptional mercantile abilities.

Continue reading this review