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John Lang

 | Book Awards 2022 | English Non-fiction

John Lang

A superbly rich account of the life of one of the most interesting characters—John Lang, the Australian lawyer, writer, editor of The Mofussilite newspaper, novelist and wanderer—who lived in mid-19th century British India, and is buried at a cemetery in Landour, Mussoorie.

Full Title: John Lang Wanderer of Hindoostan, Slanderer in Hindoostanee, Lawyer for the Ranee

Author: Amit Ranjan
Publisher: Niyogi Books

Award Category: English Non-fiction
About the Book: 

This book is in pursuit of Alice, whose name rhymes with ‘galluse’. That, however, is another memory, another book, waiting to germinate. John Lang (1816–1864), inebriated on John Exshaw, a cognac, eau de vie, most of his adult life, was a dogged underdog from Sydney; he spared no effort to hurt the John Company (East India Company). He lived in India after the age of 26, and was a prolific writer, journalist,
and lawyer. His novels were too feminist for Victorian comfort, and his white male protagonists are often described by the narrator as in love with India, in despise with England. As a journalist, he was irreverent towards the army and legal systems; modern journalists can take a lesson or two from Mr Lang. As a lawyer, John Lang learnt Persian and Urdu fast to be able to argue cases in lower courts. He fought some important cases for Indians against the Company, and even won some of them. The establishment, however, found a way
to send him to jail. The Rani of Jhansi was impressed and invited him to be her lawyer.

About the Author: 

Amit Ranjan undertook his undergraduate studies at St. Stephen’s College and has MA, MPhil, and PhD from JNU, Delhi. He was a Visiting Fellow at UNSW, Sydney; and a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence at Miami—with eye to the sky, and ear to the ocean. His poetry collection, Find Me Leonard Cohen, I’m Almost Thirty, came out two years ago, and the biography of Dara Shikoh is due out soon. Amit is a lecturer of English at NCERT, Delhi.


One would think this is a book only about John Lang, the 19th-century Australian-turned-Indian, barrister-cum-author-cum-maverick. The
John Lang who was born in Sydney in 1816, studied in England from 1837 to 1841 to become a barrister and sailed off to Calcutta in 1842
to practice law there till 1845. The John Lang who also started the remarkable journal Thee Mofussilite; who relocated—along with his journal—to Ambala in 1846; to Meerut thereafter; then to Agra in 1857 and back to Meerut in 1859, and died in Mussoorie in 1864. The
John Lang who is buried in a rather difficult-to-find grave in Camel’s Back Road cemetery in Landour, Mussoorie.

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