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.