Wednesday, August 20, 2008

White Men Bearing Gifts!

Reading Amitav Ghosh’s “Sea of Poppies” after reading Dalrymple’s “The Last Mughal” and Rushdie’s “The Enchantress of Florence” has had my mind stuck in the Mughal-colonial mode for far too long. Or, so I think. Oh, how many of the events seem so congruent and parallel in my imaginings. I reflect these days too much on what India could have been (Drawing a tentative parallel with what I could have been), and suchlike nauseating stuff, so on and so forth.

In Ghosh’s book here’s what Burnham the rogue merchant of opium has to say:

“Look at what the Celestials did to Lord Amherst. There he was, on the very threshold of Pekin (Peking), with a shipload of presents – and the Emperor wouldn’t so much as receive him.”

I guess the Chinese Emperor did the right thing. The Chinese have a far greater reservation against aliens who come bearing gifts. The Indian Emperor on the contrary received the gift-bearing white men willingly, gave them trading rights and paid a heavy price for their bleeding heart. Look how Burnham justifies opium trade indulged by the East India Company to the American Zachary:

“British rule in India could not be sustained without opium – that is all there is to it, and let us not pretend otherwise. You are no doubt aware that in some years, the Company’s annual gains from opium are almost equal to the entire revenue of your own country, the United States…? And if we reflect on the benefits that British rule has conferred upon India, does it not follow that opium is the land’s greatest blessing? Does it not follow that it is our God-given duty to confer these benefits upon others?”

Baloney! Specious lies told without scruples of any kind, with a stiff upper lip and the lying flair of a hypocrite. What if the Mughals hadn’t given the Brits trading rights, and what if we had succeeded in keeping the Brits off our shores? Would India have been an authoritarian state as China now is, could India have hosted an Olympics, and could India have mustered not one but several Olympic golds?

There I go again, so very typical of me. So very droll.

1 comment:

Obaid. said...

Yes... so many questions... so many possibilities.. maybe someday soon we will realise the significance of our past. India is on its way to become a major superpower soon.