Doomed

I just fought with a 80-year-old woman, and rather determinedly at that. About colonialism. I’m sort of shocked by how pointless an argument it was, and how violently we fought despite the randomness.

I wish I could argue blame it on the seriously dissatisfying Sula Chenin Blanc. Or that I was provoked by the fact that one minute after she described how she’d feel her stomach clench and spine straighten at the sound of “God Save the Queen” and how she’d thought “Jana Gana Mana” was a rubbish tune when she first heard it, she looked at a British woman and said, “All British people were bastards, I’m sorry to say.” But dammit, she’s 80.

Did I think of that about 40 minutes ago? No. I pointed out, gently I hope, that the Indian colonial experience wasn’t precisely the most brutal. At which she asked me if I’ve read “The Blood Never Dried“. And I replied, yes and did she remember the chapters on Ireland or Malaysia or even China. (Incidentally, it’s a very good book and I’ll admit it, I loved the way her jaw dropped when I said I’d read it.) Then she said, “And what are these benefits that you think the British left us with?” And I launched into… well, a long list that began with the Indian Railways and ended with the language in which she and I were conversing. Then it got ugly. Especially when I started rattling off tales of Belgian colonisers and she pointed out all I knew of history was from books. By the end of it, I think both of us had steam shooting out of our ears.

This episode has left me with the following insights:

1. I should never have willingly enrolled in a graduate degree that specialised in postcolonialism. If not for the reason that it proved to be entirely useless, then for the welfare and continued survival of Bombay’s elderly, Anglicised population.

2. If I have got my glass of alcoholic beverage refilled, I should really zip my mouth.

3. I really shouldn’t ever get out of the house, particularly for something like a party.

4. If that little old lady says prayers and if there is a god, I’m going to rot in hell.

Sigh.

12 thoughts on “Doomed”

  1. My great grand mother was the opposite. (born in 1898-2002)
    I think she was one of those parsis who supported the raj.
    Also she believe real girl didn’t wear jeans or even salwars.
    They had to wear dresses.

    1. Which brings me to the conclusion that I’m basically wired to argue violently with little old ladies, regardless of their socio-political persuasions.

      Definitely doomed.

  2. especially after another gross holiday that is st paddy’s – a travesty that grew out of the unholy nexus of church, state and anglo-american parochialism, i’m all for kicking all britons regardless of orientation in the seats of their pants. and i trust my irish comrades in arm will gladly lend me a hand, aye? all i can say is that the british colonial experience in India was not benign (even relatively) by any stretch of anyone’s imagination.

    it troubles me that the only problem with the above dialogue you reportedly by your own admission had, was that you should’ve been cognizant of the lady’s age. disturbing.

    1. Well, the next time you’re feeling your postcolonial angst, why don’t you exchange notes with your Irish mates? Their British colonial experience and ours has some variations, to put it lightly.

      I’ve had this conversation with someone before on this blog so I’ll keep it short this time: I’m not saying the British were filled with smurfy warmth for India, but there’s a lot of constructive work that they did in India that we’d be idiots to ignore. Particularly considering what we’ve done in areas like infrastructure as a free, democratic country.

      As for being disturbing, I’ll take that gladly.

      1. wow, are you honestly going to give me that hoary line about the railways and the lovely train stations, and the telegraph that put an end to famine (created by modern agriculture and mercantile capitalism in the first place!) and all that? there is absolutely no reason to acknowledge the gift of modernity bequeathed to us by western civilization. talk about the gift that keeps on giving! i’m not even going to do the diatribe against modern civilization or delve into the nuke disaster blowing up , it’s too easy. also for the record, i’m not one to fetishize rationality, and the glorious age of reason, so.

        on the other hand, if we can dispense with the post-enlightenment claptrap, here are some of the choicest bequests of british colonialism – the radcliffe line, tibet, east pakistan/bangladesh (south asia in general), israel (thank you disraeli!) – the middle east in general, assisting the boers in the boer war thus rescucitating apartheid and keeping it alive for a century, colonial aspirations that precipitated two world wars! literally every current major world problem can be specifically connected to the brit colonial experience by less than six steps to kevin bacon!

        way to be a colonial apologist, anon. just when i let my defenses down and begin to think you’re kind of alright. disturbing is fine, icky isn’t.

        as for the irish, i’ll just leave this here – http://www.syracusenewtimes.com/newyork/article-4796-immigrant-songs.html

  3. Since you’re enjoying putting words in my mouth so much, it would be a shame to get in the way. Just one thing: in the future, whatever the state of your defenses, it might be a plan to perhaps actually figure out what is being said before going on a rampage, sorry, articulating your argument. Yours, Icky.

  4. Dear Icky,

    I wonder what else you could possibly mean when you write something as direct as – ‘Particularly considering what we’ve done in areas like infrastructure as a free, democratic country’?

    How is any post colonial entity ‘free’ in the most liberal sense of the word? Furthermore, it is hard to get things done in a democracy, feel free to go live in China, btw, who think a country is basically a corporation. And honestly, the Indian subcontinent was basically a glorified factory for a few hundred years. I surmise it wasn’t hard to get things done (like building infrastructure) under the auspices of Queen Victoria, CEO, British Empire. A multi party democracy is not exactly the best way to create innovative infrastructure if that’s your quibble.

    as for them building the infrastructure that we supposedly reap the benefits of – how curiously stockhom syndromish of you. you seem to be inordinately grateful to the brits for building the wheels greased by the blood of the indian proletariat (yay, marxist imagery!). now that’s putting words in your mouth.

    I like putting words and things in mouths. Very gratifying to do. I’m sure far less salutary things have entered your mouth than my words.

    sincerely, sub-altern phallic marxist iconography.

    1. No, you weren’t wondering what else I could have meant. Actually, you were just looking to a) rant more, and b) offensive. Both of which you’ve achieved and while the first might have been conducive to a conversation (despite the naïvete of and blinkers attached to the argument), the second certainly isn’t.

  5. yeah i feel bad for saying what i did, and i’d retract it too, but you don’t seem to have a delete option anywhere. but come on, dude, quit being such a d bag! god, if i had a nickel for everytime some conservative/conservadem/moderate tool posited the argument along the lines of how colonialism brought forth the light of western rationality into the heathen oriental heart of darkness. jesus!

    we have another imperial war a brewin as we speak btw. more unnecessary franco-american military intervention for oil.

    i honestly do wish you’d define your terms so i knew what exactly you were getting at, if not my interpretation of it. saying i’m putting words in your mouth is a terribly insipid defense. it’s a complete non-starter. so what if you’ve already had ‘this conversation’ on your blog? it’s a subtle diss to me, you’re essentially saying that i’m kinda not worthy to have this discussion with again.

    in other words, your stonewall prompted my rant :)

  6. Idea ab initio of making people slave, ruling them itself in brutal in nature, you dont need canvass of pain, violence or brutality etc to say our Britisher were less brutal then elsewhere…also i think if u get chance pl do read subaltern writer of indian history…i dont object to nostalgia associated with british rule in india but pl do accept Making nation slave, depriving them chance to rule themselves etc there can be nothing brutal then this……Its like mera malik phir bhee doosaro say acha hay typ attitude…..sorry

  7. Idea ab initio of making people slave, ruling them is brutal in nature, you dont need canvass of pain, violence or brutality etc to say our Britisher were less brutal then elsewhere…also i think if u get chance pl do read subaltern writer of indian history…i dont object to nostalgia associated with british rule in india but pl do accept Making nation slave, depriving them chance to rule themselves etc there can be nothing brutal then this……Its like mera malik phir bhee doosaro say acha hay typ attitude…..sorry

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