Wednesday, 22 December 2010

I feel like a pompous, ignorant, uneducated fool.

At least I can comfort my self that yes; I did know that England at one point ruled India. Why, when and how is the bit I am not too sure on.

It is easy to throw my anger at my school, why did I not have a decent history lesson or a decent any lesson for that matter. Why was every class dominated by unruly pupils, the worst culprit being now quite big in the porn industry and the other culprits riding the benefit systems.

Its easy to blame the school and then I could blame the TV maybe they should stop running all these documentaries about forensic evidence of Christ and how a tennis racket is made and run something that might educate us Brits in something that happened not so long ago.

Exactly what did I learn in History? I cannot think of a single thing not one, vague recollections of medieval torture. I remember the great British plague and the great British fire every thing in history seams to be the Great British something. But what about the great British reign of India?

There have been hints of it as I grew up I guess, Mary Poppins for example, how the British economy was built on the East India Trading Company, Pirates of the Caribbean and also spotting Indian fabrics in stately homes.

I have a theory. Maybe what I did learn in history disturbed me so much I just blotted it out of my mind to protect my self from the cruelty of early Britain. I mean if having a king who killed his wife’s and divided religion even more wasn’t bad enough. But the truth is I have not had any formal lessons in any thing to do with the British Empire.

Recently a friend in India stated that that the Indians have a soft spot for the English because of the reign. It made me think. Why the soft spot? What on earth did we do except exploit recourses, labour and divide and rule with some devastating consequences. And of course shoot men, women children and tigers.

I guess there are always the trains, science and languages and it certainly made the stuffed animal collection grow in the Natural History museum, but really, was it worth it? To me it looks like the English came, wrecked, hung on for far too long and ran away with their tail between their legs.

I have not yet studied it fully and I know it will not be a pleasant learning, and what I have so far have found has made me feel uncomfortable being a Brit who is enjoying learning about Indian culture to find that possibly a late ancestor was overseas pinching ivory and exploiting the land and its people. Not a nice feeling.

My boyfriend is constantly reminding me of the fact that I am not Indian; I have never understood that until now, “of course I know I’m not Indian! what do you mean?” I ask him.

The rose tinted glasses have not slipped from my Indian closet, they are not firmly on my nose either, and however they have fallen off at my English one. And it has certainly stirred up some horrid memories from my school days!


  1. It seems to me, though of course I'm no expert, that there is a complicated relationship between India and English things. There is the frustration of the way the British looked down and demeaned the culture and took it away in many ways, but there is also a lasting impression of England that people have grown up with and cherished. It's familiar and comforting in some ways. It is far more complicated than the American/British relationship, probably because that rule happened much longer ago.

    History classes in school are always srongly biased. There is a message they are looking for you to take away. They don't want to focus attention on the bad things done by their own country. My history lessons were full, full, full of early American history because the town I grew up in was where the first battle of the Revolutionary War took place.

    Just remember, whatever you learn of history, you are not responsible for what your ancestors did, whether it was good or bad.

  2. I never learnt anything in History that didnt have something to do with England.. I mean away from British shores, like the wars and all that stuff. We never learnt anything about the terror the British reigned on many many foreign lands. Its funny about the soft spot, every Indian Ive known (even second generation British) have hated 'the British' (I think maybe its a white thing though)
    PS I love your new profile pic :)

  3. Ameena you are wrong.You would not find Indians hating British .The only time Indians dislike british is when they are reading Modern history.

  4. my opinion is the relationship that Indians have with the language english has almost nothing to do with liking british.

    not that they hate the british.

    the reasons behind english becoming an indian language are

    1. some familiarity with the language because of colonial history.
    2. india has many languages. language and culture issues are always emotive in india. it would have been created big political problem if govt. was seen to be forcing one of the indian languages over others. english in a sense was the neutral choice.
    3. english became de facto international language, so it is one of the necessary tool if you are pursuing higher studies or have to be in contact with people of other languages.

    for that matter , there was a lot of opposition against teaching english in school. now the debate has been set aside finally - mainly because now english is not thought to be the language of past colonial rulers.

    - basu

  5. I assure you Ela.. I am not wrong.. the statement wasnt an opinion or a second hand story.. it was first hand experience

  6. Lot of Educated Indians Hate Brit, ( Now after seeing the Serial Jansi Ki rani - My daughter also started hating White people). More than Britishers , Hindus hate Muslims. Do you know thousands of Hindu women were taken as sex slaves by Muslims as per their Holy books (Quran :24.33 , Bukhari 3.34.432)

  7. Here are some highlights
    *In 1700, India and China had 25% each of world GDP. That got reduced to 5% each, due to British looting and Opium wars
    *It is estimated that $10 trillion was looted from India by the British and the UK Industrial revolution was financed by plunder from India.
    *The british deliberately destroyed the Indian cotton industry so that they can create a market for UK clothes. Weavers had their hands cut off
    *There is and was much more poverty in regions that had been longer under british rule.
    *British let Irrigation canals go to ruin
    *British banned native schools and literacy dropped from 25% to 6% in areas under direct british rule. In regions under Maharajahs ( Indirect british rule ), Literacy rate was 15%.
    *British stole Kohinoor diamond from Puri Jagannath temple.
    *British due to over-taxation and deliberate policy created famines like Irish famine every 5 years, and Indian population actually fell during british rule. Rice was deliberately exported during famines to kill off Indians.
    *In 1770, British by over-taxation created a famine in Bengal and killed off 10 mil out of 30 mil.
    *Winston Churchill deliberately starved to death 3 million Bengalis in 1943, by withholding rice. Is this any different from Hitler killing millions of Jews.
    *Since the british method of killing was indirect, they are not hated so much. In comparison, muslims killed 100 million Hindus by sword.
    *Pakistan was deliberately created by British so that they could retain a base in South Asia. In Gilgit in 1947, Major Brown, later knighted, unleashed the taliban on his sleeping Hindu and Sikh soldiers and massacred his own men.
    *We now feel it is karma, that UK imported Pakistani muslims who are taking to jihadi terror in UK

  8. @anon if you read properly the verse that you quoted, there is no mention of.. muslims, take sex slaves from hindus.. the verse tells the muslims to free any slaves they have by marrying them and making them wives
    as for the hadith you mention I do not see the same as what you suggest.. the hadith is involved with a form of contraception...
    Just wanted to clear that up there

  9. Ameena I am not going into religious scriptures but its true that hindu woman suffered a lot at the hands of muslim invaders but lets not start a war on hindu muslim on someones elase blog. Yeah Ilnians hate britishers only when they read raj history or watch serials based on that time. Other times we dont. This is what I meant.

  10. Ela, the religious scripture comment wasnt based on your comment :) on the anon comment. I think hindu women suffered much at the hands of the british which is what I think this post was started with the idea of. Thats my comments over ;)

  11. The british for all their faults did not do forcible conversion, temple destruction and abduction of women like the muslims and were seen as the lesser evil.

  12. As a indian who is very much aware of india's history and who has lived and studied in the UK for many yrs, i can say, with no reservations, that the general population does not hate the brits... despite the various atrocities... some of which were listed by barani...

    i would be lying if i said that there was never a time when i hated the english for their imperialisitic history, blatant robbery that they had committed in many countries, including india... but more so, for their belittling attitude towards the natives who were part of a much older, grander and richer civilisation...

    but most of the brits i met in the UK, were very apologetic... and infact were quite embarassed bout their country's past exploits... with understanding, comes reconciliation i suppose... and yes, there is a strong connection between the UK and India... not sure if it could be termed as a soft-spot... i'd reckon it's more complicated than that... but a shared history, democracy and cricket has ensured that there is enough respect on both sides of the fence...

    i do agree that the mughals and turks (not muslims per se) are hated far more than the brits ever were... their atrocities far-outweighed wat the brits ever did in their 400yr rule of the subcontinent... the islamic rulers destroyed many 1000 temples, universities, committed genocide in such large scales that would make the nazis look humane, and indulged in rampant looting, conversion by sword, rape etc... in short, they tried to annhilate our culture using all violent means at their disposal...

    even today there is a sense of apprehension towards the burgeoning muslim population in india... that if given enough power and an apthetic govt. they might start imposing islamic culture on us once again... and quite frankly we do consider the hindu culture as far more superior to the islamic one, just on the basis of being more open-minded, peaceful and less dogmatic...