This is a thought I had and I’m putting it out there. The Anglo-Indian community has been for the most part absent in mainstream Indian Literature in English, especially literature set in the post-independence era. Anglo-Indian characters have little space in books that have pages breathe with Nehruvian Socialism, or stoically bear the pain of partition. When she does come to the surface, she’s spared a few telling lines – In A suitable boy, we learn that Arun Mehra’s secretary resented working for a brown sahib and Laila’s college classmate in Attia Hossain’s Sunlight on a broken column, calls England “home.” Having established these truths, the novel goes on to bigger and brighter things and the character is not heard from again, ironically, much like it was with the real community – a small section of people sidelined by history and ignored by art.
Of course, not entirely. I’m speaking of John Masters’ Bhowani Junction, a dense but simply laid out novel that revolves around three characters and their struggle with identity. The novel relies heavily on plot and while it’s not particularly gripping stuff, it’s definitely insightful in that it makes a strong case for the very human decision of what now? I can’t even imagine what it’s like to live in a country that’s brand new; still finding its feet. To be alive and having the choice of clinging to what you are or striving for what you want to be. There’s something to be said for a novel that satisfyingly explores that kind of uncertainty and fear. Jaysinh Birjepatil’s Chinnery’s Hotel also delves into loss and displacement among a few characters of Eurasian lineage, but this fiction is a little more subtle thematically. Maybe I should give it another chance
Clearly I’m not the only one thinking of this. And though non-fiction is informative, I want me some of those stories.
I’ve always liked novels that have the story of a people, of a community behind it. Think Alex Haley’s Roots or Toni Morrison for that matter. Or Meave Binchy, Rohintan Mistry and Amitav Ghosh. I wish I knew about more books which told the Anglo-Indian story from within. If you know of any, let me know.