Tag Archives: India

From 19th century India emerge the oldest thugs

The name of the book really intrigued me so I picked it up. “Old Thugs” or Puranay Thug پرانے ٹھگ made me smile. I think the first time I heard the word “thug” was probably in some hip hop song from ages ago. I honestly don’t quite remember. While I used to read quite a lot of Urdu fiction for children at the time, I somehow didn’t make the connection until now. I haven’t looked up the origins of the word, but when I saw the words Thug and ٹھگ juxtaposed in the book, I was taken aback. Maybe I was shocked, or pleasantly surprised. I don’t know which, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that this book that talks about the culture and the stories of thugs in sub-continent, this window into our land’s fascinating past, had suddenly also connected with a word that’s so commonly used today that I had just assumed, in my own ignorance if I may add, was a purely foreign construct. Never could I have imagined it was in 19th century India that the word “thug” was entered in official papers for the first time. Whether you think of time or space, it’s a small world after all.

I have shared a small excerpt from Raza Ali Abidi’s book below. These few lines shall take you to that moment in our history when a man claimed to be a thug for the first time


Old Thugs - Raza Ali Abidi

Also check out the story behind the beginning of this blog in its first post, The Treasures Forgotten

The Yellow Waistcoat

Ruling Princes and Chiefs of India


India wears a yellow waistcoat, longer than is usual, reaching from the chin to the feet, like a gabardine. It is old, in places thread-bare, but is of good old silk. The colour suits the sun of the East, perhaps a better and more harmonious colour than the red of the coat, which is always overlapping, as though trying to hide the old waistcoat. The coat is fustian and patchy – the pieces have been sewn in heedlessly, in haphazard fashion. It looks, as if it had been often let out, and suggests the idea that if it had to be taken in, or buckled tight, it would rend with a sound like the tearing of calico. It is like the red Salu on which Viceroys and Governors are wont to talk, cheap stuff, with no good natural foundation. It won’t wash, and some think it will not last. Much money has been spent on keeping the red coat in repair – nothing has been spent on the old yellow waistcoat, yet the latter will last longer than the red coat with its aggressively flapping tails.”

An excerpt from “Ruling Princes and Chiefs of India