TIMES NEWS NETWORK [ SATURDAY, DECEMBER 07, 2002 10:19:13 PM ]
NILANJANA BHOWMICK "It’s on Elliot
Road... just enter through Ripon Street and pass by St. Mary’s Church and my house will be 300-400 metres from there."
When the taxi deposited me outside my destination, I looked around to see a typical Kolkata bylane, congested with traffic,
loud motorcycle horns, people sitting on the ledge of houses chatting, leisurely footsteps making way for small items of groceries
from the neighbourhood stores. There was a subtle sense of decay, which hung over the street despite the busy hubbub of daily
life. Suddenly I saw the name ‘Brown’ in big bold letters on the grill gate. Brown —Melvyn Brown —
who calls himself ‘chronicler of the Anglo-Indian community’ is the author of several books on Anglo-Indian history
and culture, a vociferous community worker and the founder-editor of The Anglo-Indian Newsletter and The All Parish Newspaper.
When the door opened, I was greeted by a warm face and ushered into the living room. As I sat myself down, I took a moment
to look around. From where I was sitting, the left side of the room was occupied with an altar with images of Jesus Christ
and Mother Mary, the same images adorning the adjoining walls as well. In front of me were four clocks, giving the times of
five different corners of the world. As I figured then and Melvyn explained later that the patrons for his newspapers are
scattered all over the world. As I sat in the room, I had a distinct sense of deja vu and it was clear to me as soon as Melvyn
re-entered the room with a glass of fizzy and some munchies in his hand... I have been here before. The place was different,
the people were different, but the spirit was the same — the Anglo-Indian spirit. I remembered my meeting with James
Sinclair in Surrey and with the Smith family in Manchester. They were different people but all of them have preserved that
same Anglo-Indian spirit. Melvyn’s house exuded a totally different aura from the scene just outside. His was a secluded
world, calmer and quieter and somewhat more polished. I was reminded of what one Anglo-Indian woman, Geraldine Charles in
England, had pointed out to me, "The Anglo-Indians have never seen themselves as Indians. Their customs and cultures are not
Indian." When I interviewed the Anglo-Indians who have migrated to Britain, they seem to have an acute sense of longing for
back home in Kolkata. As Nina Jenkins, an ex-researcher in Anglo-Indian family history in the UK, said, "Its rather like a
child who says I hate my mum, I hate my mum. But as soon as someone else says something to the child he runs back to take
refuge in the warmth of his mother’s lap." Before coming to meet Melvyn I was going through Anglo-Indian Studies edited
by Melvyn and in there Phyllis N. Stuart, to my surprise that, says, "Having read several news terms on the plight of Anglo-Indians
in Kolkata particularly made me think that those who had emigrated to England had made the better choice. They have been accepted
here without any prejudice or alienation which still exists in India." A stark contrast is Curt Amos, 26 years old, born and
brought up in Kolkata. His looks are very European, making him stand out. However, I found him comfortable with his identity
unlike his British counterparts who are grappling with a losing sense of their identity and a hazy sense of acceptance. I
am left wondering is it the spirit of Kolkata, which makes this possible — a city, which actually has the modesty to
live and let live? The author has worked for the BBC in London (This is part of a series that explores the numerous sub cultures
and communities that add sparkle to the Kolkata mosaic).
|Anglo-Indian Day Celebrated!
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