The Year the World was Mine: An Anglophile Hits a Half Century
by Rochelle Almeida
Hamilton Books (2019), 256 pages, ISBN-13: 978-0761871569
People who study and love English literature often dream of visiting England and the homes of famous writers and poets. A professed "Bombay-born Anglophile," Rochelle Almeida (whose byline has appeared in many Christmas issues of The Examiner) makes a detailed to-do list to accomplish this (and much more) when she moves from New York to London ("T'Smoke") for a year. While on a teaching assignment with New York University, she uses the opportunity to fulfil her bucket list of places to visit during her 50th birthday year and her "mid-life crisis." She is truly "smitten by Britain."
Her latest book, entitled The Year The World Was Mine: An Anglophile Hits A Half Century was published by Hamilton Books in Maryland, USA in October 2019. It details her year in London, and her travels and experiences all over Europe. The reader is carried up in her swirl of activities—from walking through the streets of London (a city she adores) to discovering its little-known hidden retreats. We catch glimpses of celebrities she meets, and royalty she runs into. She takes us across the British Isles and the breadth of Europe: to Northern Ireland, Norway, Belgium, Italy, Greece, France, Turkey and Spain - all on a tight budget. As she goes back and forth to her beloved "Old Blighty," in her own words, she "trawls each city with a fine comb." If you have no plans to visit these places, you will, after reading her book.
It is a journey inwards and outwards, as she discovers her own strengths and weaknesses along with her historical and literary explorations. We share her travel delights and nightmares as well as her struggles with 'plantar fasciitis' (an excruciating foot condition) that almost cripples her, but Prof. Almeida is unstoppable. She has goals, and she sets out to accomplish these with careful planning. You will be amused, and will pause often at the incredibly rich detail and metaphors sprinkled all over the book.
An Emeritus Docent at the Metropolitan Museum in New York where she has given Highlights tours for 23 years, Prof. Almeida's appreciation for, and knowledge of, art history are obvious. She introduces us to famous and not-so-famous works of art tucked away in the corners of various cities. During her travels, alone and with family members and friends, she lives in youth hostels, sleeps in bunks, runs into bizarre and interesting characters, makes new friends, and samples unfamiliar foods such as "kedgeree" (smoked haddock pilaf) and "waterzooi" (Belgian Chicken Stew). We are also introduced to her research work with Anglo-Indians who have settled in Great Britain—the outcome of which was her scholarly volume published in 2017 called Britain's Anglo-Indians: The Invisibility of Assimilation.
Those readers who know her personally are familiar with her grit and hard work over the years in establishing a career and a name for herself. After studying at St Agnes School in Byculla, Mumbai, Prof. Almeida attended Elphinstone College. After her Ph.D. in English, she taught at Jai Hind College and the University of Mumbai for several years. She later earned a second doctorate (a D.A. - Doctor of Arts) degree in Multi-Ethnic Literature at St John's University in New York. She has been a Professor of the Humanities in Liberal Studies at New York University for 24 years, and an international freelance writer and travel blogger. She was also elected to the position of Senior Associate Member at St Antony's College, Oxford. She has written several books and won many awards. As a recent Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research Fellow, based at St. Xavier's College in Mumbai for a year, she researched Western Performing Arts in the city.
Most people accomplish the experiences written about in the book through a lifetime; Prof. Almeida did it in a year. And we can be assured that this is far from the end of her story. Her latest book is certainly a rewarding read, whether you are a lover of England and travel, or not.