Thursday, 26 November 2009

Dehra Dun

Ok I am now in this crazy Indian City on my way to Mussoorie on the Hannibal Fogg trail. Flight from UK was OK- Delhi was a nightmare and I had to leave by train at dawn to come here- 12 hours- but in second class AC so it was OK. Dehra Dun is dirty, sprawling and wild- and I kind of like it, but I am really looking forward to getting to Mussoorie which is where the real trail begins. However one strange thing happened to me at the bus station where I went to inquire about getting up to the hill stations. A rather elderly man with obviously dyed hair engaged me in abstruse conversation about the 'British in India'. He spoke in an exaggeratedly verbose way that suggested he was showing me how educated he was- which worked because he used words I had only a vague idea what they meant. Anyway after lecturing me about the largely malign influence of the British- fair enough I thought being ignorant of this subject myself- he said, "I can tell you are an educated gentleman, a cut above the rest. Please come and visit my shop." Ot Oh. That old chestnut. But having nothing to do, and a desire to see just how far he would try and push me to buy some knick knack or other, I went with him.

The shop was a seedy old bookshop off the second main street after the railway station. The window was stacked with computer software manuals, but in the back of the shop he had large numbers of reprinted anthropological texts written by British administrators in the early 20th century. We sat down on two stools and he shouted through a dirty curtain to the back of the shop for tea. The conversation was all over the place until I mentioned Hannibal Fogg. He looked at me with horror (no kidding) and said- you are the second person to ask about him in one week! And get this- he sold a hannibal fogg book (which I thought were all unavailable) to this 'young female backpacker not unattractive, antipodean I suspect' as he put it. I was so intrigued i even bought a map and guide to Mussorie off him. He had no more details of interest except he said he could get me 'numerous copies of the work of Hannibal Fogg'!!!! Incredible. i said I would be back in a week from Mussoorie to buy whatever he had. when I told him about the Tibetan hibernation secrets I was looking for he poh poohed it by saying 'that is fakir trickery my friend, nothing serious'. I didn't believe him. So a good start to the journey!


  1. Hi Martin,

    I have to say I'm surprised to find this blog. I first heard about Hannibal Fogg a few years ago, in connection with studying the literature of 'The Great Game', but an internet search at the time yielded no results. Then recently I was searching on-line for material about the Victorian-era explorer Richard Burton and saw the Hannibal Fogg website!.

    In any case, like I said, a few years ago I first read Peter Hopkirk's fantastic book, The Great Game, about the struggle between the British and the Russians for dominance in Central Asia. I became so interested in this topic that I decided to immerse myself in the "Great Game literature". Hopkirk's book has a great Bibliography at the end, so that was my starting point. However, I soon found that many of these books were out-of-print and very pricey!

    Luckily at the time I was in a relationship with a woman who was a University professor, and she had access, through the university library system, to books from all over the country. Through her, I was able to look at all kinds of rare and out-of-print texts.

    Of course, I soon found out that these books were not nearly as interesting to read (for me, anyway) as Hopkirk's work, so I ended up skimming large portions, really just glancing through significant amounts of text. I would have 5 or 6 books out at a time, so after a while it all started to blend together. This is why I can't remember the exact text I saw it in, but I know for sure I saw a mention of Hannibal Fogg in one of those books.

    The way I remember it, Fogg was mentioned in a discussion of several people who had been spies for the British government but who, for one reason or another, had been 'disowned' later on. What got my attention about Fogg-- even though the mention was very brief-- was that the author made much of the fact that the actual causes of the 'scapegoating' were shrouded in mystery.

    In the section on 'the Purge' on the Fogg website, it says,

    "In 1921, having made enemies in the British political establishment, Fogg was accused of being a spy for the German Kaiser Wilhelm II.... Current historians universally agree that Fogg was essentially made a scapegoat, as a way of hiding political mistakes of the time. He was stripped of his titles, property and, in the Purge that followed, his works were gathered up and incinerated en masse..."

    But in the book I read it made it sound like Fogg had intentionally allowed all this to happen, and that he was possibly even given large sums of money by the British to go through the whole ordeal (which would explain where the money came from for later travels).

    Furthermore, the author implied that Fogg had discovered some important 'secrets' that the British government wanted to keep hidden from the public. Whether these were political secrets or not, it didn't say, only that they were connected somehow with Fogg's travels in Central Asia.

    In any case, the reference to 'political mistakes' and 'enemies' on the Fogg website doesn't seem to go deep enough into what really happened. Whether anyone knows the truth, I don't know, I haven't been able to contact the people from the site.

    Unfortunately I really cannot remember where I saw this reference, and I'm no longer involved with the university professor-- not exactly an amicable break-up-- so even if I wanted to I wouldn't be able to go back and research where I originally found it.

    Anyway, maybe this helps with your search. I'm looking forward to hearing what you discover. Any questions, you can contact me publicly or privately, I'd be glad to help in any way.


    Eduardo Jacobson