Saturday, October 08, 2005


The Grand Shampoo-bah of London

Sepia Mutiny noted a fascinating article at the BBC this week: a plaque has gone up in London for Sake Dean Mohamed, who it turns out was both the first Indian writer to be published in English and the proprieter of London's first Indian restaurant:

His BBC biography reads like a wonderfully improbable and colorful mixture of professions. Along with the restaurant (which went bust after a couple years), he was also famed as -- I love this -- "The Shampooing Surgeon" of Britain. To wit:

Mahomed had worked for the East India Company, had gone to Ireland and had run away with an Irish girl. The pair set up the Brighton baths and, once reports of cures emerged, he became very successful. He received the ultimate accolade by being appointed Shampooing Surgeon to both George IV and William IV. He was also a writer and was the first Indian to publish a book in English: The Travels of Dean Mahomet, published in 1794. In 1820 he wrote Shampooing; or benefits resulting from the use of the Indian Medicated Vapour Bath which went into three editions. He even had poems written in his honour.

The word shampoo, incidentally, turns out to be of Indian origin. (Who knew?) There's an Oxford UP book on Dean Mahomed, The First Indian Author in English, and his Travels are also in print.

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