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Dinner with the Tatas: Letters from a Frenchwoman document life in Bombay as the 20th century dawned

An excerpt from ‘Marguerite de Bure: Indian Chronicles, Letters from a French Woman in Bombay 1902-1904’, translated from the French by Elsa S Mathews.

Marguerite de Bure (née Rousselet) was born in Orléans, France in 1872. She was the oldest of the five siblings. As a young girl, she grew up reading her uncle Louis Rousselet’s travelogue to India – India and its Native Princes. Inspired by the etchings made by her uncle, she nurtured the dream of travelling to India someday. It is said that she waited till the age of 30 to meet someone who would take her there.

She was introduced to Pierre de Bure, an officer in the French Merchant Navy (Messageries Maritimes) by family friends. They married in 1902 and soon left for Bombay where Pierre was posted for the next two years. In the letters written between 1902-1904, to her family and friends Marguerite documents the lifestyle, customs and social relations that she observes around her.

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