Introduction to the Two Centuries of Indian Print project

The ‘Two Centuries of Indian Print’ project is the start of a major programme to share the wealth of Indian printed books held by the British Library dating from 1713 to 1914. The British Library’s collection spans at least 22 South Asian languages and millions of pages, and is the most significant held anywhere outside the Subcontinent. Many of the books are unique and many are also in delicate condition due to their age, so the mass digitisation of these items will not only make them widely available to people around the world, but will also help preserve the fragile originals for future generations.

To find out more about the project watch this video or you can read more details on the project website

AliaCarterAlia Carter (pictured left) is Project Manager.


This pilot project, which centres around the digitisation of 4,000 early printed books in Bengali, started in April 2016 and is due to finish April 2018.  Many of the books in the pilot project are rare or unique to the British Library.


Layli Uddin, the project curator, has also organised a series of seminars related to the project, which are open to anyone to attend:

8 May 2017: Christopher D. Bahl (PhD student, SOAS, London), “Cultural Entrepôts and Histories of Circulation: The Arabic Manuscripts of the Royal Library of Bijapur”

22 May 2017: Professor Kamran Asdar Ali (University of Texas, Austin), “Of Communists and Conspiracy: The Rawalpindi Case in Pakistan”

5 June 2017: Radha Kapuria (PhD student, King’s College London), “Musicians and Dancers in 19th Century Punjab: A Brief Social History”

12 June 2017: Simon Leese (PhD student, SOAS, London), “Visions of the Arabic Hejaz: Memory and the Poetics of Devotion in 18th and 19thcentury North India”

View a detailed programme and find out more about these events.

No advance booking is required, and the sessions are free to attend. For further information, please contact Dr Layli Uddin, Project Curator of Two Centuries of Indian Print.

Location and Time: Foyle Learning Centre, British Library, 5:30-7:00pm



The British in India – exhibition at Ealing Road Library

ALAG are proud to be associated with the Indo-British Heritage Trust to bring you a vibrant and informative exhibition celebrating over 400 years of the relationship between India and Britain.

IBHT exhibition 2

The exhibition panels can be viewed at Ealing Road Library during opening hours. ALAG would like to thank the Indo-British Heritage Trust, Brent Museum and Brent Libraries for their on-going support.

If you are interested in Indo – British history then look out for the following books written by Kusoom Vadgama and available to borrow from Brent Libraries:


Kanai Datta R.I.P

ALAG members were saddened by the recent death of long-standing member Kanai Datta, on Sunday 23rd October 2016.

Kanai first gained an MA in Bengali from Calcutta University and during his distinguished career as a Chartered Librarian, Kanai  worked for the British Library and the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta.  He then worked for many years for Tower Hamlets Libraries where he developed a successful schools service and authored and translated many bilingual children’s books. He was very well regarded by the Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets and by everyone that he worked with..

After retiring, Kanai  founded Grantha Neer, a specialist firm which supplied books from and / or about both Bangladesh and India.  Kanai was instrumental in developing the CILLA cataloguing service in South Asian languages, for libraries in the UK and Europe.   Supplying catalogued books in the UK particularly, has helped the British library network to build a stock of recently-published South Asian books that is perhaps unique in the world.  The South Asian language books supplied by Grantha Neer  over the last 25+ years are still available today in UK public libraries and provide reading for pleasure, for education and for research.


Kanai has indeed left a legacy for future generations to enjoy and will never be forgotten by those who had the privilege to know and work with him. Aruna Shah, founder member of ALAG said this of Kanai:

He was an extraordinary man. There are many in the community and friends and colleagues who will mourn deeply his passing away as his was a life of service, kindness and compassion. 

I met Kanai in the early 1980s, professionally and we became good friends amidst the growth of Asian Librarianship in the UK. His contributions to Bengali culture, language and literature generally and the development of readers’ services in Tower Hamlets Libraries were immense. Kanai was a good friend to us and we will sadly miss him at our ALAG meetings. He always made it a point to attend the Group’s meetings till his health permitted. He got along well with people, avoided confrontation and had a great sense of humour. May he rest in peace.




Lord Noon: Ready-meal entrepreneur and philanthropist whose vast empire earned him the nickname “Curry King”

Lord Gulam Noon, who has died aged 79, emerged from an impoverished upbringing in Mumbai to make his fortune in the UK – and ascend to the House of Lords.

Dubbed the “Curry King”, he headed the world’s largest factory for ready-made Indian and ethnic food, which today produces 564 different recipes and prepares 2.4 million meals a week for supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Ocado and Waitrose, as well as for its own label. He is also credited with making chicken tikka masala Britain’s favourite dish.

pg-46-noon-paDespite his immense wealth, estimated at £75m, Lord Noon never forgot his Indian roots – but was dedicated to the country that gave him his chance in life. “I always quote the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that you must be loyal to the country in which you live,” he explained. “I have always said that this is the best country in the world.” He was a supporter of numerous charities and good causes, and his philanthropy led to him being appointed a life peer, Baron Noon of St John’s Wood, in January 2011.

Sadly, Lord Noon passed away on 27th October 2015 – ALAG members send their condolences to his family and know that his generosity, determination and universal appeal will be greatly missed but will continue through the many projects that he sponsored both in India and the UK, through the Noon Foundation.

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