What India owes to England

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
It would be unfair and unjust if India does not acknowledge the contribution Britain, and the West in general, made to its well being and prosperity.

Submitted: January 01, 2007

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Submitted: January 01, 2007



It would be unfair and unjust if India does not acknowledge the contribution Britain, and the West in general, made to its well being and prosperity. Whatever India is today, most of its social, political, economic institutions, is because of the English rule from the 19th to the middle of 20th century. Written from the writer's personal understanding, the following is a case for acknowledging this huge debt.

Whether it is India's democracy and parliament, laws and courts, science and technology, education, market economy, press and media, or cultural aspects of life — how Indians dress, eat, socialise, and entertain, it is today what it is in large part due to the West. More so today than just a decade ago, with a large portion of our very jobs, related to outsourcing, are due to the West which now reaps the rewards of sowing the seeds of English education on India's fertile soil. (It was, of course, India's Tata group, led by a Parsee that founded its first steel factory, textile mill, scientific research institute, aviation company, a five-star hotel, etc. But its founder Jamsetji Tata learnt it all from his visits to England and Europe, especially Manchester.) In short, it is European knowledge and enterprise that lay the foundation of modern India.

In an article titled 'The duty and destiny of England in India', a former principal of Deccan College and a former knight commander of the British army, describes how it was no part of their intention to occupy India, or even a small part of it. It was partly to defend their trading interests, and a competition with the French, that ultimately led to occupation. As the title says, it was perhaps their destiny.

The widespread sentiment against the British rule is normally backed up by tales of atrocities and humiliation suffered by its public at the hands of the 'gora sahib'. Today, every Indian of some status is modelled in the very image of these authoritarian officers ruling over their subordinates, though education has somewhat obliterated the differences, and the concept of a global manager with a global image is doing the rounds in big companies.

The most unfortunate aspect of the British rule was that they left behind a status-oriented society. Perhaps so impressive was the show of status and authority, derived in large part from their being the master race, that every Indian now wants to acquire some status, and is defined by it. Even Gandhi was hurt when he was unceremoniously shown the doors at a newspaper office by an Indian editor, where he had gone seeking support, commenting in his autobiography that the fellow's authority did not cross his office door!

What we did not learn was how to be civilised, learn good manners, cultivate good tastes, and live as an individual, leaving joint families behind, rather than as a part of some group. The rights of the individual, the dignity of being one self, that forms the essence of democracy, missed India lost in its quest to compete with the West in their own fields.

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