As I have mentioned here earlier, I lived on a tea estate in Assam from July 1989 continuously for about a year and then intermittently until 1992.
Four-five labourers were assigned to our modest bungalow as helpers - mali, bearer, aaya, chowkidar. We did not know how to use bearer and aaya. So they liked to be posted to our place! As ordained, neither we went to their homes nor got to know them properly. It was as if they were Neanderthal while we were Homo sapiens! When we were away on vacation in Maharashtra, our chowkidar was murdered while returning home from the night duty.
I would have liked to invite those friendly clerks home for a meal. But I never did.
"Darwin makes a good point in 'The Empire Project' that some people do suggest that the Empire is a story of scandal and exploitation that we should feel guilty about. Other historians of a more right-wing persuasion think the British Empire is a great story that we should be proud of. Darwin says it is not really very helpful to keep fighting about whether it was good or bad because there will never be agreement. Instead the way to move forward is to try to understand how it worked and why it fell apart. "
I have known what it was to be a Gora Sahib in India. And I did not enjoy it at all.
Photograph courtesy: Hulton Archive/Getty Images and Guardian, December 28 2012