Comrades at Odds: The United States and India, 1947-1964

By Andrew J. Rotter | Go to book overview

5
Gender: The Upright and the Passive

Their [Hindus] want of courage almost amounts to deliberate
cowardice. Neither have they that strength of character which
resists temptation and leaves men unshaken by threats or se-
ductive promises, content to pursue the course that reason dic-
tates. Flatter them adroitly and take them on their weak side,
and there is nothing you cannot get out of them.

—Abbé J. A. Dubois, Hindu Manners, Customs, and Ceremonies

[We resent the] implication in so much said or read that U.S.
was a kind of loathsome Uncle Sam, seeking to seduce the
lovely virgin India.

—Chester Bowles to Indira Gandhi, 1963

One of the hits of the 1824 New York theater season was The Cataract of the Ganges, by William T. Moncrieff. Subtitled “A Grand Romantic Melodrama,” the play was set in India some time in the vague past. The action opens in the aftermath of a battle between Muslims and Hindus. The former are led by the Emperor Akbar; the latter by an honorable rajah (king) named Jam Saheb, who is advised by the courageous British officer Mordaunt. During the battle the rajah has placed his son, Prince Zamine, under the protection of another Englishman, Jack Robinson, a roguish but loyal adventurer who emulates Robinson Crusoe.

The Hindus are successful in battle, and Jam Saheb pursues his retreating foe. While he is away on this campaign he leaves the affairs of state in the hands of a Brahmin—a member of the highest Hindu caste, and in this case a priest—named Mokarra. This, it turns out, is a bad choice. Seizing the opportunity provided by Jam Saheb’s absence, Mokarra secretly agrees to hand the province over to Akbar, on two conditions: first, Za

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