Friday, September 7, 2012

Bastards of the Raj

Last few days have been rather interesting, for professional reasons I got an opportunity to spend a lot of time with some budding leaders & some national/international ones. Coming from a very liberal household, ‘ Nationalism ‘, ‘ Hindutva ‘ ‘ Religious fanatics ‘  are all pretty strange to me. But as life is a compilation of amazing experiences, the last few days have surely got me thinking in many ways.

One of the topics was the British ‘Raj’, and our thoughts about it. In my humble opinion the only reason majority of ‘ Desi Crowd ‘ is so angry with the ‘ English ‘ is that the ‘ Father of the Nation ‘ never disclosed his love towards ‘ Our Mother wearing the Crown ‘ (the intelligent will understand the metaphorical pun intended, the fanatics can shoot me if they want). 
Yup I am bravely referring to the man on every Indian currency note, Son of a senior Govt (yup his dad worked for the ‘ Raj ‘) official, educated in a fine law school in London. In fact all that he wanted in that train Cabin in south Africa was to be treated like a ‘Gentle Man‘ (a British concept).

So why do the history books make the breakup sound like a major achievement. Like seriously our constitution (which we apparently live by in India) Is a cut & paste of what Thomas Babiton Macaulay a British poet and politician penned down with a bottle of sherry on his way to the ‘ Indian sub continent ‘.
This is where the ‘hindu rashtra’ fanatics would start jumping up & down, claiming that its not true, and we all should wear saffron n speak Hindi. Well what about the rest of the country which is not ‘ Uttar Pradesh ‘ & ‘ Bihar ‘.  Yes there are other amazing languages in India too. But the way we communicate officially interstate wise is English. 

Lets just say you were proud to be Indian, well in that case since ‘ India ‘ is a very British concept (just like ‘ Hinduism ‘ yup you saffron fanatics, this term was first researched by a English scholar Sir John Woodroffe, who found its mention in some sanskrit literature ' Rajataranginis ' written by a Kashmiri gentleman Kalhana ), you could not be anti – English. Starting from the constitution all the way to Cricket, it has imprints of foreign influence. No matter how proud we are of our Independence movement, we cannot say the British left, governments might come and go, but cultures remain.
What we Indians love most ‘ Tea ‘ n ‘ Cricket ‘, could we be more British?
So why the anger? My guess is, the anger is towards the ‘ Raj ‘ our mother who never claimed us after we killed our Father. We feel like ‘ Karan ‘ (Mahabharat reference), the lack of belonging to the huge empire made us grow angry. Grow a fake pride against the inventor of most of our definitions.

‘ God save the queen, and once she is saved, please ask her to save us ‘.


  1. a few things:
    1) is there some more context to the blog? as in, are you responding to some assertion, and do you perceive a widespread hatred towards the Brits? I ask because to me there is much complexity. On the one hand we rail against the Brits--like you say--but are also fascinated by them in so many ways: who doesn't wish to get settled in UK? English is not so much a functional language but more so an aspirational language in India etc

    2) But what you do point to is quite fascinating: the nature of India's relationship with Britain. Until very late in the day (late 20s, early 30s) Indian leadership considered Indians to be citizens of the Commonwealth and therefore subjects of the Queen/King. Now, what UK had created in India was a deeply hierarchical society (on top of already existing hierarchies) that hinged on exploitation of resources, including labour. Still, they were also seen to be in the business to provide us education, modern ways of living etc, you know, civilization. It is only later, and not only in India but around the world, that colonialism comes to be considered fundamentally discriminatory and its exploitative nature--and not the 'civilizational' aspects--become front and centre of analysis and with it, of politics. This is when properly anti-colonial movements begin, and when notions of 'Swadeshi', or 'decolonization' emerge. (having said that, 1857 was a revolt very much against the firangis, so there was a history here already too, but it was for the restoration of the old order (monarchies) and not for a republic).

    As far as anger is concerned, the rage against the raj is for some, including Franz Fanon, a liberatory force to purge the scars of racism (much more so in Africa). Here's Fanon: "violence is a cleansing force. It frees the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; it makes him fearless and restores his self-respect.'
    Point is, even rage is a legitimate feeling, whether or not one subscribes to it.

  2. @Rohit , well was one of those bus rides where one gets stuck with crazies discussion the ' aweomeness of India ' which I agree is a phenomenal phenomena, but then they get carried away into false pride

    1. yes, yes. THAT is chauvinism served up with sense of misplaced pride based upon mythification of history. (what 'sone ki chidia', saala life expectancy tab 14 saal bhi nahi tha).

  3. I completely agree with the fact that English has a long way to go in our country. It can be a language, a topic of debate,attraction towards fair complexion, desire to settle abroad or getting married to a 'firang'.Love it or hate, accept or ignore, English is their to stay. It's not just the youth singing 'One love', 'Dhoom Again' or 'Kiss Me baby', but even the masses prefer a half-brit heroine with a terrible hindi accent over our desi heroines. Whether one understands English or has a preference for hollywood films, still one goes to watch James Bond,Titanic and X-Men
    to get the eye-candy.A girl from an orthodox family prefers to wear jeans instead of 'salwar-suit' considering the latter to be 'outdated' and 'old-fashioned'.And all those cursing the 'firangi' language would never allow their children to take 'Hindi' or 'Sanskrit' as a career.How many parents would like their children to be masters in ancient vedas that are considered to be our cultural heritage?The bitter truth is English is our national language, it's what
    connects everyone from diverse cultures speaking alien languages.And let me say it without feeling ashamed that our country never got independence from the British rule. The real truth is the East India Company was not in a position to handle the Indian population and therefore left India.If we get deeper into the facts India and Pakistan are dominion states under British government.As an Indian I completely respect the sacrifices of our freedom fighters and salute them for their courage and love for their motherland. But the freedom we got was not a result of their struggle.It was a clever move of the East India Company.A decision that's an example of their excellent foresightedness.Coming back to the topic of the relevance of English language their is not much to say except for the fact the love for the language and its influnece is their to stay.

  4. Valid points and an apt headline! Its probably bcoz of the way we've been taught - that India is great (even though we've copied (and are still copying) each and everything from British/US) and that the Brits were a******s.