By Kamlesh Tripathi
Novels and movies are the best mirror of times for they often spill the beans, whereas history can be contrived and VVIPISM most certainly, imposed.
Nothing has changed. In this scathing and zipping novel ‘Burmese Days’ written by George Orwell way back in 1934, Indians and Burmese are referred as niggers and beggars in some pages: and thus denied membership in a local European club in Upper Burma.
To come to think of it, what has changed in India, even now? Earlier the Britishers used to keep Indians at an arm’s length, and today the VVIP Indians. For you still have special roads and parking areas, grand lounges, devoted policemen, security men and muscle power for the VVIPS. And the list doesn’t end there for you also have several allowances, free passes and free tickets, subsidies only for the VIP race. The only difference is we are not referred as niggers or beggars anymore but as Aam Aadmi.
The book mentions that in British regime when an illiterate domestic servant used to misbehave he was sent to a prison with a chit—15 lashes. And today many VVIPs continue to do the same in the event of dissent.
Perhaps, there was an opportunity for this great writer to write another book on India after the British Imperialism on Indian VVIPISM titled “Indian Days.’ But sad, he is no more.
In the ‘QUOTE-UNQUOTE’ below there is peace 1 and peace 2 that tells the unkind ways in which many Britishers thought about Asians. But since 1934 Indians have moved ahead and so will the Aam Aadmi of India.
“The old type of servant is disappearing,” agreed Mr. Macgregor. “In my young days, when one’s butler was disrespectful, one sent him along to the jail with a chit saying ‘Please give the bearer fifteen lashes’. Ah well, eheu gugaces! Those days are gone forever, I am afraid.”
“Ah, you’re about right there,” said Westfield in his gloomy way. “This country’ll never be fit to live in again. British Raj is finished if you ask me. Lost Dominion and all that. Time we cleared out of it.”
Whereat there was a murmur of agreement from everyone in the room, even from Flory, notoriously a Bolshie in his opinions, even from young Maxwell, who had been barely three years in the country. No Anglo-Indian will ever deny that India is going to the dogs, or ever has denied it—for India, like Punch, never was what it was.
Ellis had meanwhile unpinned the offending notice from behind Mr. Macgregor’s back, and he now held it out to him, saying in his sour way:
“Here, Macgregor, we’ve read this notice, and we all think this idea of electing a native to the club is absolute—–“ Ellis was going to have said ‘absolute balls’, but he remembered Mrs. Lackersteen’s presence and checked himself—“ is absolutely uncalled for. After all, this Club is a place where we come to enjoy ourselves, and we don’t want natives poking about in here. We like to think there’s still one place where we’re free of them. The others all agree with me absolutely.”
He looked around at others. “Hear, hear!” said Mr. Lackersteen gruffly. He knew that his wife would guess that he had been drinking, and he felt that a display of sound sentiment would excuse him.
Mr. Macgregor took the notice with a smile. He saw the ‘B.F.’ pencilled against his name, and privately he thought Ellis’s manner very disrespectful, but he turned the matter off with a joke. He took as great pains to be a good fellow at the Club as he did to keep up his dignity during office hours. “I gather,” he said, “that our friend Ellis does not welcome the society of—ah—his Aryan brother?”
“No, I do not,” said Ellis tartly. “Nor my Mongolian brother, I don’t like niggers, to put it in one word.”
Mr Macgregor stiffened at the word ‘nigger’, which is discountenanced in India. He had no prejudice against Orientals; indeed he was deeply fond of them. Provided they were given no freedom he thought them the most charming people alive. It always pained him to see them wantonly insulted.
“Is it quite playing the game,” he said stiffly, “to call these people niggers—a term they very naturally resent—when they are obviously nothing of the kind? The Burmese are Mongolians, the Indians are Aryans or Dravidians, and all of them are quite distinct—-“
“Oh, rot that!” said Ellis, who was not all awed by Mr. Macgregor’s official status. “Call them niggers or Aryans or what you like. What I’m saying is that we don’t want to see any black hides in this Club. If you put it to the vote you’ll find we’re against it to a man—unless Flory wants his dear pal Veraswami,” he added.
“It’s all very well,” grumbled Ellis, with his forearms on the table, fidgeting with his glass. The dispute with Mr. Macgregor had made him restless again. “It’s all very well, but I stick to what I said. No natives in this Club! It’s by constantly giving way over small things like that that we’ve ruined the Empire. This country’s only rotten with sedition because we’ve been too soft with them. The only possible policy is to treat ‘em like the dirt they are. This is a critical moment, and we want every bit of prestige we can get. We’ve got to hang together and say, ‘We are the masters, and you beggars—‘ “ Ellis pressed his small thumb down as though flattening a grub—“ ‘you beggars keep your place!’”