How Bombay’s Parsis cracked the opium trade

A glimpse into the life and times of some of the real Bahram Modis of the 19th 12 Time Passages century is currently on display at Mumbai’s National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA). Titled Across Oceans & Flowing Silks: From Canton to Bombay, the exhibition is all about the Parsi participation in the opium trade — and the fabulous wealth it generated, which eventually went into building the city of Mumbai (including the structure that is now the NGMA).

“The Parsis succeeded because they operated from Bombay, where the East India Company had less control. In Calcutta, where it was omnipresent, Indian businessmen like Dwarkanath Tagore made investments in opium, but failed.” In the 18th century, when the British were focused on trade between the continents, the first moves to promote trade within Asia were initiated by the Dutch. 

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