Author: Rochelle Almeida
Publisher: Lexington Books, New York (www.rowman.com)
(Pp 227, ISBN 978-1-4985-4588-4, US$ 100)
During the British Raj in India, a new community was spawned by the union of white settler men and Indian women. Called Anglo-Indians, they aligned themselves to the British, and when freedom-hungry Indians mounted their frenzied “Quit India” campaign, the Anglo-Indians assumed they too had to leave and go “home” to Britain, a home they had never seen. From India’s Independence in 1947 until the 1960s, some 50,000 Anglo-Indians migrated to England, confident they would be welcomed in their faraway paradise.
What transpired after they reached those chilly shores in the subject of Britain’s Anglo-Indians, an absorbing book by Rochelle Almeida, a clinical professor of global cultures in the Liberal Studies Program at New York University, who charts the plight of this community from its earliest beginnings, evidenced by many pages of bibliography. Making several visits to Britain from her Connecticut home, the author interviewed hundreds of Anglo-Indians who, under the cloak of anonymity, felt free to speak their minds on the prejudices and injustices they experienced in their early days, facing such insults as: “Why don’t you go back to where you came from?” and landlords and employers freely practising racial discrimination by denying them rented accommodation and jobs, respectively.
However, after several teeth-gritting years, all worked out well, even better than expected, on every front. As one firstgeneration Anglo-Indian migrant journalist commented: “Life is so very different and wonderful from what it was when we first arrived here…with our bizarre misconceptions, culture clashes, sensitivities and chips on our shoulders the size of the Taj Mahal. We are now more mature and happier than we have ever been.”
The irony is that neither the authorities of Independent India, nor the departing British, had wanted them to leave India, as Almeida discovered. This is an informative and highly readable book, meticulously researched by the author who is also an international journalist.
– Rudy Otter