On 15 January, 2019 Google Doodle commemorates the 260th birth anniversary of the renowned Anglo-Indian traveller and entrepreneur Sake Dean Mahomed, who is credited to have introduced Indian cuisine and shampoo baths to Europe and the rest of the Western world.
Mahomed was born in Patna, Bihar in the erstwhile Bengal Presidency on 15 January, 1759. After he grew up, he was recruited in the army of the British East India Company as a trainee surgeon. In the year 1786 Mahomed emigrated to Ireland to study English and remained some time at Cork. Eight years later, in 1794 Mahomed wrote and published his first book, titled The Travels of Dean Mahomet, where he mentioned many Indian cities and chronicled his experiences and first-witness accounts of military conflicts and Britain's conquest in the Indian subcontinent. The book is enriched with fascinating tales of how the Indian rulers and people, in general, played a crucial role in establishing a friendly-cum-negotiated relationship with the Company and as a result also with the Crown.
This book is considered the first English book written and published by an Indian, and hence becomes a milestone in introducing India and its culture to the West. After moving to England in 1810, Mahomed added another feather to his cap by opening the Hindostanee Coffee House, which is known as Britain's first Indian restaurant, in Central London's George Street, near Portman Square. The restaurant was no ordinary eating joint; it provided Indian luxuries to the English nobles in the highest form — from chillum hookahs to delectable Indian culinary delights cooked and presented to perfection, as mentioned in The Epicure’s Almanack, an early London restaurant guide. Hindostanee Coffee House could be rightly called the foundation stone of Britain's love for Indian food. The frolicking Indian food and hotel industry in England definitely owes a lot to Mahomed.
Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, Mahomed had to close his restaurant venture in 1812, only to come up with something bigger and completely novel to the English society. In 1814, he, along with his family, moved to Brighton and opened a spa named Mahomed's Baths which offered premium vapour massage baths for the public in England. Their technique — which they coined as "shampooing" was derived from the Indian word 'champooi' which literally translated to head massage — was a combination of thermal steam bath followed by a therapeutic massage. He advertised this new treatment in the local papers with the caption: "The Indian Medicated Vapour Bath (type of Turkish bath), a cure to many diseases and giving full relief when everything fails; particularly Rheumatic and paralytic, gout, stiff joints, old sprains, lame less, aches and pains in the joints", as mentioned in a free copy of The Travels of Dean Mahomet listed in University of California Press' website.
Soon people came swarming in and good word about Mahomed's spa treatment spread out all across Europe. So much, that the English nobility started becoming regulars at his spa and Mahomed was fondly given the title of Dr Brighton. He also published a book — titled Shampooing; Or, Benefits Resulting from the Use of the Indian Medicated Vapour Bath... Containing a Brief But Comprehensive View of the Effects Produced by the Use of the Warm Bath, in Comparison with Steam or Vapour Bathing.. — that was a list of testimonials of his patients-cum-customers. In 1822, King George IV and William IV, impressed by Mahomed's success, appointed him as their personal shampooing surgeon.
Mahomed breathed his last in 1851 and was buried at St Nicholas Church in Brighton. A portrait of this multi-faceted personality finds a place at the Brighton Museum commemorating his immense contribution in establishing friendly relations between the two great nations of India and Britain.
Updated Date: Jan 15, 2019 11:13:38 IST