Posted by: cochinblogger | August 11, 2010

Multinational Trifecta: Englishman, Indian, American

Independence Day, August 15, is fast approaching. Most of us born after 1947 haven’t the foggiest notion of what it must have been like to be governed by a foreign power; we take our freedom for granted. As a corrective, I give below an excerpt from a book I’ve referred to earlier in this blog, A Marriage to India by Frieda Das (see right sidebar bottom for a link to the book). The incident is set in the 1920s. The multinational trifecta of Englishman, Indian, and American (Frieda was American) reminded me of the multicolored trifecta on the Indian national flag: saffron, green, and white.

“One morning on a shopping tour I entered an Indian-managed dry-goods shop in Bombay during a hot, quiet hour. I walked noiselessly on rubber-soled shoes. In the cool dim interior there was one single shopper, an English officer, with his back turned towards me. The air around him fairly reeked with the most martial swearing. He had sent the shop assistant outside for a special cool drink, but the man had not returned quickly enough to suit him. I was aghast and indignant; it was the first instance I had witnessed of unfeeling abuse of an Indian by a white. I am certain no Englishman would ever dream of speaking like that in a shop managed by his own race. Hearing my voice addressing a clerk, he whirled around, jerked off his helmet and started to apologize: ‘I did not hear you — I had no idea …’ I made no reply, but looked through him. He had the grace to flush a deeper red than his ordinary whiskey-and-soda color.”

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