I learned of scholar Rajesh Rai, Associate Professor, South Asian Studies Programme, National University of Singapore, when I acquired The Encyclopedia of the Indian Diaspora (University of Hawai’i Press, 2006) of which he was an editor. The tome has become an indispensable, though now somewhat outdated, resource for my personal and professional interests. Dr. Rai specialises in diaspora studies, nationalism, and the postcolonial history and politics of South Asia.
I just finished his first single author book, Indians in Singapore, 1819-1945: Diaspora in the Colonial Port City, a comprehensive study of the Indian diaspora in colonial Singapore. The book draws “from administrative archives, intelligence reports, observer accounts, newspapers, oral testimonies, and community-based records, [and] provides a meticulous historical account of the formation of the diaspora in the colonial port-city, and its socio-political, religious and cultural development from the advent of British colonial rule to the end of the Japanese occupation.”
Dr. Rai offers a multi-layered portrait of the early diaspora. Of particular interest to me were two extended chapters on the Japanese Occupation and the Indian National Army, including the history of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment, a regiment of the Indian National Army led by Bengali revolutionary Subhas Chandra Bose, which was composed largely of teenage volunteers from Malayan rubber estates.
However, Indians in Singapore, 1819-1945 is an academic text and requires a certain fortitude to read. It was very educational and I highly recommend it. Now, where’s Indians in Singapore, 1945-Present, Dr. Rai :)?