The Yale Chronicles

a tasting menu

Enter the magical world of 1670s. Traders are flocking to Madras, the world trade center, seeking the inimitable textiles. Bales of eye-popping hues and limited quantities of delicate ‘under-wears that last but a night’ for the upper classes are leaving Madras shores by shiploads. Watch the second sons of Barons, Dukes and Lords board Indiamen alongside sailors and traders as the ship sails away from a desolate, plague-torn London, consumed by the great fire. The East India Company sends it’s best and brightest to snap up bargains: rewarding them with titles and hierarchies, simultaneously constraining them with strict administrative rules.

Not just the English East India Company, but also the Dutch and the French East India Companies are vying for spices and cloth – each trying to establish sole trade privileges with the multiple kingdoms and the mighty maharajas. Connect with Iranians, Moors (Mussalmans), Sephardi Jews, Armenians, Portuguese, Gentues (Gentiles/Hindus), English and Frenchmen as they make Madras their home, and trade in the colorful bazaars outside the fledgling Fort St. George. A handful of enterprising English ladies too are captivated by the allure of the bewitching market. Watch them all haggle and trade in a babble of world tongues, in the common language of business.

Meet the weavers, the “washermen” (dyers), the “painters” and the Chief Merchants. These are the men and women who make the wheels of commerce turn. Welcome to villages that existed four centuries ago. Walk for a while in the steps of young Ramu and Kittu faced with the quandary of changing times. Then as now, making choices between old traditions and new adventures is fraught with danger and heartbreak; the shadows of doubt and guilt lingering amidst the exhilarating thrills.

Experience crisscrossing currents between human ambition and hunger for power as they haunt the restless graves of men who once ruled their worlds. Engage in challenges, battles and wars: the standard scripts for history. Marvel at tender shoots of love emerging in the most unlikely places. Encounter Danger. Take Risk. Discover the source of opulent wealth adorning the durbar halls and royal palaces. Join the stampede of zealous seekers on the banks of River Krishna, intent upon possessing the biggest and best diamonds that literally sit under the surface of the red Golconda soil. You may be the one to discover the 186 carat Koh-i Nūr, the 787 carat Great Mogul Diamond, the 340 carat Nizām Diamond, or the blue 115 carat Hope Diamond… Who can say? Find it, smuggle it through “interlopers”, and it’s yours… forever.

Gaze into this crucible of exotic excitement where extraordinary characters are created – their lives intersecting in surprising ways, creating bonds and outcomes that will outlast time. Meet remarkable men like Elihu Yale, who touched three continents in their lifetime, when the fastest mode of transport was the horse, the palanquin or the ship at the mercy of its sail-wind. Greet exquisite women brimming with beauty, grace and passion as they drive the ambitions of their men, and when thwarted, see them rise in awesome fury, a fusillade of envy blinding their gentle ways.

Homeward bound? Tarry a while in Siam: soak in the history and let the sparkle of rubies and emeralds ignite your passions. More adventure? Onwards to the brave new world of America… Encounter men and women toiling in harsh conditions, the zeal of their religious fervor burning bright. Engage in their daring dreams.

“All the world's a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts...

Centuries after the men and women you meet in these pages have exited the world stage, you can still reach out and touch something of magnificence; something that they built together: a monument of consequence beyond their wildest dreams.

Be still. Perhaps the breath of their forgotten stories will caress your gentle soul. Revel in the miracle that owes its existence to all three continents: blessed to stand as long as the pyramids do…

Enjoy the journey.