Sake Dean Mahomed was a man of many firsts. He started the first Indian restaurant in England, wrote the first book in English by an Indian, and treated royalty as customers in his steam bath business.
Google has honored Sake Dean Mahomed with a Google Doodle on January 15, 2019. “On this day in 1794, he became the first Indian author to publish a book in English and later, to open an Indian restaurant in England—ushering in what would become one of Great Britain’s most popular cuisines,” Google wrote.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Sake Dean Mahomed Was a Soldier for the East India Company
According to Muslim Heritage, Sake Dean Mahomed was born in 1759 and died in 1851. He was “a great success in his day” who started out as a “soldier in the East India Company’s Bengal Regiment.” Born in India, he left that country at age 25.
The site reports that Mahomed settled in Ireland in 1785 “in the service of captain Baker with whom he worked for many years.” In India, reports BBC, Mahomed was “born of minor nobility.”
However, he wasn’t content with simply working for someone else, and he soon showed his entrepreneurial spirit. According to Brighton and Hove Untold, Mahomed worked as “a trainee surgeon” in the Army. “He emigrated to Ireland in 1786 to study English, where he met and married an Irish girl named Jane Daly,” the site reports.
2. He Published the First Book in English by an Indian
While he was in Ireland, Sake Dean Mahomed tried his hand at writing. His book, written while he was in Ireland, was called The Travels of Dean Mahomet, and, according to Brighton and Hove Untold, it “was the first book published by an Indian in English.”
You can read the book here. According to Aramco World, Michael H. Fisher, a professor of history at Oberlin College in Ohio, was instrumental in the publication of Mahomed’a memoir, bringing new attention to the pioneering man. Also instrumental, according to the site: Rozina Visram, who wrote the book, Ayahs, Lascars and Princes: The Story of Indians in Britain 1700–1947.
According to a preface published by University of California Press, Mahomed “composed his book Travels in 1793–94 as ‘a series of letters to a friend,’ recounting to the Europeans among whom he lived the world of India from which he came. He began his autobiographical travel narrative with his wrenching departure in 1769 from his childhood home among the Muslim elite of north India.”
3. Sake Mahomed Opened a Curry Restaurant
Sake Mahomed was determined to bring the spices and flavors of India to England. After saving his money, he was able to start his own restaurant, according to Forgotten Newsmakers.
The restaurant was called the Hindoostane Coffee House, and, the site reports, it was located on London’s west side and was considered a “curry house.” Times of India reports that a guide called the restaurant “a place for nobility to enjoy hookah and Indian dishes of the highest perfection.” It was the first of its kind.
Unfortunately, the restaurant didn’t make it, lasting only a couple years, but Sake Mahomed didn’t give up. He moved with his wife to Brighton and simply started a new venture, BBC reports.
4. Sake Dean Mahomed Started a Steam Bath Business
Perhaps London wasn’t ready for curry – yet. That would take some time. Sake Dean Mahomed decided to give a steam bath business a try instead.
According to the BBC, the steam bath he started was similar to modern spas and was considered a “fashionable leisure activity” that could cure the ailments of the time. Soon, his business was frequented by royals – including, two Kings, George IV and William IV.
In so doing, he was considered to have accomplished a “triple first” as an Indian man in England in that era. Called “Mahomed’s Baths,” the business provided head massages in addition to steam baths, reports The Times of India.
5. Mahomed’s Father Died in Battle
According to Aramco World, Mahomed deal with tragedy in his lifetime, becoming raised in a colonial world.
“His father was a subedar, a military rank roughly equal to lieutenant, the second highest permitted to Indians under British colonial rule,” the site reports. His father died in battle when he was a boy.
His birthplace was Patna, Bengal Presidency, British India, Times of India reports.