JD, a reader and frequent tipster, sent an email with some further thoughts about my post on India’s 60th anniversary:
I would like to add two more points in addition to your point about the British created Republican form of government in India:
One, the English language helped to unite the different language speaking communities of India.
Two, the British railway system helped to unite the country geographically.
To illustrate the importance of a unifying language I recall reading
somewhere that Churchill (at least, I think it was Churchill), upon
hearing of India’s independence, said something like “We should never have taught them English.”
Here’s another quote by Churchill about India:
“India is a geographical term. It is no more a united nation than the Equator.”
By pointing these quotes out, please do not think I am anti-Churchill. I think he did great things for Britain. These quotes do, however, give insight into Churchill’s mindset towards the independence of India.
JD is right: these quotations not only give us insight into Churchill, but they illuminate that now long-vanished world view regarding England’s dominion over her dark-skinned subjects. You have only to read WSC’s autobiography of his young life to realize that he lived in a time we can recall but never resurrect. The vanishment leaves us with an emptiness for what was and never will be again: a world where Churchill strode. It was a flawed, often ugly world, but what are we to make of our own in comparison?
There is no simple way to contemplate the existential problems that colonizing caused the home countries in Europe. Our world reverberates with the echoes of that past, and some of the echoes are violent and disturbing.
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On the other hand, it is difficult to consider what our globe would be like without those very same explorations and colonizations. I daresay there would have been even more internal violence, enough to go around for everyone.
And don’t forget the particularly rich form English took on when India adapted it for its own uses. If you haven’t perused that slim volume “A Bleat Plaintive” by Raja Choudary Sajja (written for the 50th anniversary of independence) I recommend wandering through his Indian English; it is plaintive indeed, but lilting, and tilting and funny, too.
At one point he asks, rhetorically:
Is is wrong to conquer a country?
What Aryans did in India way back beyond centuries…
The fact that this question can’t be answered is moot. It will continue to resound through the eons, right up until the point when the sun finally gutters out. In those last moments, in that cold darkness, two voices will still be raised in ancient arguments about territory.
We are such spatial beings.