Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sridala's Refutation of My Following Post "The 'Gora' Mughal"

Sridala, (my reply appears within double asterisks)

**Sridala, Let me begin by saying I hold no brief for anyone, no, not even missionaries (when my dad took me for an admission in the venerable OLPS in Chembur, Bombay, I was rejected by the fathers there.) If this reads like a bitter tirade because of that fact, then it is a bitter tirade.**

I find it astonishing that you have so much to say about two books you haven't even read.

**Sridala, I was basing my observation on the articles written by William Dalrymple and not his books. And I mentioned this clearly at the beginning of the article. **
I'd like to take you up on a few things you've mentioned in your post; perhaps you could clarify.

You say, "I confess I haven't read any of them, but what caught my attention was several articles in today's newspapers (November 5, 2006) about his second book."

First of all, *The Last Mughal* is not his second book. He wrote *In Xanadu* when he was 18; among his several travel books are, *City Of Djinns*, also about Delhi; *From The Holy Mountain*; *At The Court Of The Fish-Eyed Goddess*; *The Age OF Kali*, in no particlular order. Of his 'popular history' books, *The White Mughals* is certainly the first. If this is what you meant, it is not clear from the sentence I've quoted above.

**Sridala, Yeah I was referring to the two books in the Mughal series that why I wrote “gora” Mughals in the title of my post. **

Next, you say, "Now Dalrymple bases these premises on a few freakish personalities of history".

May I ask how you would know, not having read either of the two books in question, who else he may have cited as examples of integration? Just because the interviewers of newspapers and magazines pick up a few names, it does not mean that Dalrymple himself confines himself to, to quote you, 'a few freakish personalities'.

**Sridala, this is not an interview I am referring to, but an article written by Dalrymple himself. And Sir Ochterlony has been portrayed as a freakish personality by Dalrymple himself. You who have read the book should know. **
Finally, you seem to have understood that Dalrymple's sole premise is that these early Company people turned up with the sole intention of making full use of, again to quote you, 'a sexual cornucopia of a lifetime'. I'm not very clear exactly what this phrase means; perhaps you will explain.

**Sridala, I will refer to my experience in the Persian Gulf, working for a British multinational. Trust me I have worked with them and have intimate knowledge, and I am not basing this on just guess work. The British managers and supervisors were mercenaries when it came to making money in the Persian Gulf projects and even their lifestyles (a close resemblance of theirs in colonial India) was decadent.

When I say this I have seen it with my own eyes and this is not just verbal flaff. They underpaid the Indian laborers and consigned them to labor camps where life was horrid, while they lived in huge bungalows. And they were arrogant towards Indians in general, even their staff and managers. And as I mentioned they needed Indian and Philippino women to keep houses for them while they had left their own women in England. And to their lavish parties they would invite Indian/Philippino/Srilankan nurses but not their senior managers. So where’s the integration that you are talking about? Is an eye witness’ account less true than the research of an historian who can only theorize in his mind?**

But I should mention, having read *White Mughals* and having started *The LAst Mughal*, (and having read his wonderful Introduction to *The Journal Of Fanny Parkes* which is entirely in the words of a travelling 18th century woman -- a useful departure from the standard notion that the history of the Raj is the history of its men) I can assure you that his contention is a lot more than that people came here and became white mughals because it supported a lifestyle they could not afford 'back home'.

**Could they afford the harem that Dalrymple talks about at home? Hardly. So they enjoyed (both money and sex) when they were in India (they still do enjoy [money and sex] in the Persian Gulf) as mentioned above. And believe me, the writer of this, I have been there, and seen it. If you wish to read more on these read a writer named Russel Baker who has written such books as "Monginis" and "Ice Factory"**
Integration -- a more pleasant word, isn't it? -- happened not only in the home, it also happened with translations, writing, and in the arts. It is this broader willingness to understand another culture that Dalrymple was hoping to emphasise. If there is a better climate where examples of tolerance over rabid imperialism needs to be highlighted, I'd like to know of it.

**Yes, integration is a pleasant word if there is integration. If there isn’t and a people aren’t willing to integrate then why clutch at straws? You write “Dalrymple was hoping to emphasize,” so, well, has the hope of an Englishman turned into manna for gullible Indians to make him the toast of Indian social circuit? Is that what you want to emphasize? So can a hypothesis of convenience be relied on more than historical facts and eye witnessed accounts? Is that right? If you are looking for examples of tolerance over rabid imperialism it can be found in the most unimaginable quarters, the works of missionaries, whom Dalrymple criticizes so much.**
You have cited a British missionary, William Carey, in your post. If you've linked it, the link hasn't appeared. Perhaps you could make a more complete citation? When did he say this? Where does this appear?

**Please read my blogpost at: http://johnpmathew.blogspot.com**

In the same paragraph, you mention that you've read books where you say the British dissuaded the missionaries from practising in India. This is completely true. But a mass petition in Parliament apparently lobbied for the missionaries to operate, and after 1830, they were allowed to do so. This is why dates are important. Things did not proceed in the same uniform way throughout the EIC's time in India. I'd suggest that this is a part of what Dalrymple tries to bring to the foreground.

**As I said earlier, I hold no brief for missionaries, mission schools or hospitals, but it seems missionaries are like dogs that can be kicked around these days. As the saying goes “Call a dog names and hang him.” Dalrymple does that and we go, “Oh, he is so right.” Which is really very unfair. Education, hospitals, healthcare, nursing have been taught and given to India by missionaries. As also printing, grammar, dictionaries, books, translations, etc. And if they had the rider that one should be Christians or converts to benefit from their generosity, then I should surely have been admitted into OLPS school, Chembur. I wasn’t.

Moreover, if the missionaries were so mercenary as everyone claims these days why is it that only two per cent of the Indian population is Christian? Of this one per cent were already Christians even before the British missionaries’ ancestors knew about Christianity (Syrian Christians, of which I am one, were Christians from the first century while the British adopted Christianity much, much later). Certainly there should have been more Christians if the missionaries were such ruthless proselytizers. **

I'd also urge you to read the books. Perhaps you might change your mind.

**Now that we have this interesting dialog going, I will, perhaps, read the books, vastly unread as I am. May be I can pick a few more flaws in the books under discussion.**

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