Traveling Through India

One of the lasting marks left by the British on the Indian sub-continent was a road and rail system. In the 1920s, car travel in India required the traveler to plan their route in advance. Gas stations were not widespread and those wishing to travel throughout India had to coordinate their stops with the train schedules. At the train stops the travelers would pick up gasoline that had been transported there via train. 

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 10

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 10

Car breakdowns could very well happen when traveling India. Being knowledgeable about the vehicle and being able to repair damage with spare parts was crucial. India for the Motorist: A Guide for the Tourist and Resident advised that in the event of more serious damage, travelers would have to go to the nearest telegram office to send a message to the “nearest motor firm” to seek assistance. In addition to gasoline and spare car parts, food was also kept in the vehicle. In India for the Motorist, travelers were urged to carry “army rations” and a “Berkefield water filter” along with their thermoses, frying pans, and enameled iron dishes for cooking and eating. The Major and his family can be seen traveling through India in their Phoenix 8/10 car in the photographs at left. The family's luggage and spare tire can be seen, showing that they were trying to be prepared for the journey.

While food needed to be considered by the travelers, lodging existed throughout India. Various bungalows, known as dâks, were sporadically positioned on the roads as a rest stop for travelers. Here a chef would be available to cook for the guests with the food they brought. Also, the rooms were equipped with charpoys, a traditional woven bed. On the right is a photograph, from the Clarence W. Sorensen Collection - Safety Negatives Collection from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, that illustrates what a charpoy might look like for various travelers. 

In addition to dâk bungalows, hotels were scattered throughout India. While these hotels had many of the amenities travelers had come to expect, if a hotel did not meet guests’ standards, most train stations had sleeping quarters as an alternative. The train stations also allowed guests to call in advance and order food to be prepared in time for their arrival.

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 2

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 2

The Major and his family made many similar stops on their trips, such as one at Dera Ismail Kahn after the Third Afghan War. Dera Ismail Kahn, in modern day Afghanistan, was the headquarters of the Derajat Brigade, an Indian brigade formed after the Indian Rebellion in 1857. Dera Ismail Kahn was a segregated city. Two bazaars existed, one for the 11,486 Hindus and another for the 18,662 Muslims living in the city. Following Afghanistan gaining independence in the Afghan War of 1919, Hindus living in Dera Ismail Khan immigrated to India, while Muslims moved from India to the newly created Afghanistan. The photograph album page to the left shows some snapshots of what Dera Ismail Kahn looked like between 1912 and 1913.