Parting sentiments

November 8 2013

“But whether it is to-morrow, or a day a little more remote, there will be one sense in which the British will never quit India, and that is a spiritual sense. With all our faults of omission and commission, our occasional outbursts of temper, our frequent lack of imagination, we gave India peace, and it was not the peace of the desert; we gave India law, and it was not the law of the strong; and in the final judgment, we gave India liberty, for it was the ideals of Milton, of Locke, of Wilberforce, Mill, Bright and Gladstone that first kindled the Indian mind to an understanding of what liberty really is. Long after we have left, the students of the future will be opening the golden pages of the Areopagitica, and thrilling, as all young men should thrill, to the revolutionary music of Shelley. The ghost of Byron will brood in the quadrangles of universities yet unbuilt, and in the council chambers there will be heard the echo of the distant cadences of Burke. These things we gave to India, as we gave them to the rest of the world, and maybe it is in India that they will have their finest flowering. In the fulfilment of such a hope lies much of the future happiness of mankind.

Bombay
Spring, 1944”

___

Beverley Nichols, Verdict on India, conclusion, Jonathan Cape, 1944.

Many English people thought like this, and so did some Indians, such as Nirad C Chaudhuri. The book is available on Kindle.

Nichols (who once lost his cat in my mother’s garden) spent a year in India, from 1943 to ’44. “I came to India, originally, as a correspondent of Allied Newspapers; a long and serious illness interrupted this connection; I stayed on as an independent observer; and when I felt that I had observed enough, I wrote this book.”

It is, on the whole, not bombastic about Britain. Its main angle is acute distrust of the Hindus and of the Congress Party, where he finds not only fascist sympathisers but fascists; and sympathy with the idea of Pakistan. Some of the criticism of Hindu culture is crude polemic. Descriptions of Hindu politics prefigure the coming third world. He interviews Jinnah.

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One Response to “Parting sentiments”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    Quartet:

    JR Ackerley, Hindoo Holiday (1932)

    Beverley Nichols, Verdict on India (1944)

    EM Forster, The Hill of Devi (1953)

    Pier Paolo Pasolini, The Scent of India (1962 as L’odore dell’India).


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