Growing Up in British India: Indian Autobiographers on Childhood and Education under the Raj

Growing Up in British India: Indian Autobiographers on Childhood and Education under the Raj

Growing Up in British India: Indian Autobiographers on Childhood and Education under the Raj

Growing Up in British India: Indian Autobiographers on Childhood and Education under the Raj

Excerpt

In Madras, an elderly lady took out her family album. Among the faded photographs was a picture of her grandfather. The patriarch, founder of the family's fortunes and architect of its cultural style, had been an early convert to Christianity from his South Indian Hindu community. He had studied religion, the English language, and British law in both missionary and government schools and had become, by his old age, a prosperous jurist, property holder, and acknowledged leader in his religious community. To his grandchildren he had been an awe-inspiring figure. Family legend held that when his eldest son, an athletic boy not much given to studies, failed a course in college, the old gentleman took from him the use of the family name. He did not lightly overlook failings or excuse intrusions on his time and comfort.

Yet he was a great lover of beauty. The pattern of his days bound together the contradictions of his temperament as closely as it held the mixed cultural traditions that had shaped his life. Every morning, his granddaughter remembered, he had had a drive, in a sort of carriage drawn by bullocks. "He had a cushion that was specially made for him," she recalled in her soft voice, "and he'd take a seat there and a servant had to pluck a rose from the garden and give it to him and he would smell it while he was taken for a drive right round the race course."

A gentleman in his seventies, retired from the Department of Public Instruction in the old Bombay Presidency, now stays with his wife and granddaughter in a comfortable home in a modern suburb of Bangalore. There, one day early in the hot season, he pointed out that his present house was only a day's journey away from the small village where he had lived as a child. His family were Lingayats. In his childhood they had been proud of a tradition of literacy, but no longer prosperous. His father had worked his own lands as a farmer and he himself had made his way through school and college on scholarships and grants. When he was . . .

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