This paper examines the mid-eighteenth century historical memoir of Mohammad Ali Hazin Lāhiji and the auto-biographical travel narrative of 'Abd al-Karim Kashmiri as a way to understand a shared tradition of cultural conceptions and textual borrowing, even in the midst of different attributions of historical meaning and valuations within that culture. Hazin often serves as an iconic figure, representative of the changing relationship between Iran and Hindustan in the eighteenth century. Reading Hazin's memoir in relation to Kashmiri's travels with Nadir Shah's army from Delhi to Iran on his way to hajj problematizes this dominant reading. Underneath diverging and sometimes conflicting claims in these texts, history is represented in a way that evinces similar ideas of home, country, and ideal political rule in the context of travel and exile.
This response essay engages with the themes of space, sociality, and sources (of pleasure and of scholarship) in Sanjay Subrahmanyam’s article in this issue, “The Hidden Face of Surat.” I reflect on how the Persianate adab that was a dominant cultural form in this port city might cause us to mitigate our analytical concepts when approaching phenomena from different historical contexts. I propose historical inquiry as a form of translation, to look for ways of understanding difference and engaging across it that may or may not be the same as European cosmopolitanism.