West India company…

Heathrow swarms with people from the sub continent. Indians, Pakistani’s, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans look the same as two brown faces merge with one white face in the ever-moving crowd. The car driver is an Indian and explains painstakingly the changes Britain has experienced after the London bombings. He appears miffed by the presence of cops everywhere who perform random checks on “suspicious” people as they go about conducting their daily affairs. ” Loss of privacy” he proclaims. ” We are all treated as suspects Madam”. I felt like I was being driven by the brand ambassador for ” My name is Khan”. Maybe Johar had a new way of advertising the movie, he has made the chauffeurs for Cathay Pacific walking, talking and driving MNIK billboards. I quite expected to see a trailer for MNIK on the TV screen at the back of the car. Thankfully not. The well-informed driver also explains how Indians have bifurcated London further into little colonies. Indians colonizing great Britain sounded refreshing.

But, one can’t help but feel proud about the influence that we Indians have had all over the world. From our Indian curries & pickles, Bollywood tamasha, IT and call center revolutions we have pinned our presence on the world stage. Financial hubs like London and New York have Indians holding the reins of major players like Citi and Pepsi. The elder of the Ambanis is rumored to take control of Liverpool FC, Mallya is already racing in a previously white dominated F1 scene and Rahman has seized the Oscars, Golden Globes and the Grammy’s from the clutches of the white man. And sweetly, the BCCI is richer than the board that introduced cricket to us. It must all be a bit overwhelming for the white man who has in the past preferred riding on a horse and shooting down the natives of far off lands he sailed to . And as if he did not have to just deal with brown, he has got snipped off by the yellow too.

The older generation still sip their English tea and enjoy their buttered scones in the nippy afternoons. They move from one museum to another, admiring the Claud Monet and the Rembrandt that hang on the majestic walls of the imperial palaces, now converted to galleries. There are not many Indians in these galleries, they are busy churning money on the banks of the Thames or influencing policies in the city of Westminster. But, the patrons of the noted galleries in the Victoria and Albert museums are Indians. From the Hindujas, to the Hari Lela’s to even Ajitabh Bachchan. Under the patronage of prominent Indians, the Nehru Gallery was opened in the V & A museum, which houses exquisite antiques from the Chola, Pallava and the Moghul dynasties. Emerald, ruby and diamond studded crown jewels of Shah Jahan is housed here.The change of guards is a lot of bollocks, pardon my language, but it really is. It is one of the last few remaining daily activities in spring or every other day activity in winter that reminds us of her Majesty. I think her Majesty too prefers Sandringham to Buckingham.

The pride of India’s past is set on the crown of the late Queen Elizabeth, Queen mother to Elizabeth the second.The Kohinoor sits in the Tower of London in her Majesty’s jewel house, well protected in the vaults and exhibited to the public. The Kohinoor has a rich history attached to it and she has witnessed many bloody battles over the centuries and changed several hands in several dynasties. In 1877 the East India Company acquired it under Queen Victoria’s rule and it became a part of the British Crown jewels. There has been a lot of debate about the ownership of this precious gem and the British have always politely turned down India’s claim to it. Trust the British to be polite when it comes to not being in the affirmative. This is one jewel that they would never part with. Maybe the patriotic Mallya ( love him for calling the F1 team Force India) should bring this one back home,like he did with the sword of Tipu Sultan and Gandhi’s personal artifacts.

The odd blue collared Indian is still cleaning the toilets at Kings Cross and Heathrow, but most of them are astute professionals who are bettering the economy of UK. The Doctors of Indian origin are amongst the best in this country and Mittal remains the richest man in UK. The white man has Pathak’s pickle while he washes down a glass of ale. The Lords of this country who worked for the East India company lie in marble graves of the Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s cathedral. WIth folded hands pointing towards the skies they rest peacefully. Never would they have imagined the brown man colonizing their land bit by bit. Their souls must be restless and they must be whispering to each other in the nightly hours at the abbey. They are probably dressed in their Highland tartans and Scottish skirts and meet and discuss, with their brown charts and compasses, the fate of their reduced dominions no longer from Cape to Cairo to India. Lord Byron who rests well quietly murmurs in the darkness –

The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirr’d within their silent depths;
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp’d
They slept on the abyss without a surge–
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
The moon, their mistress, had expir’d before;
The winds were wither’d in the stagnant air,
And the clouds perish’d; Darkness had no need
Of aid from them–She was the Universe.

8 Responses to “West India company…”

  1. Sharmila,

    You touch some raw wounds in the way you spot things! So I hope you will not blame me for this response. πŸ™‚

    Here is a masterpiece that the remains of the empire always remind me of…

    From Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s “Gitanjali”:

    When the warriors came out first from their master’s hall, where had they hid their power? Where were their armour and their arms?

    They looked poor and helpless, and the arrows were showered upon them on the day they came out from the master’s hall.

    When the warriors marched back again to their master’s hall where did they hide their power?

    They had dropped the sword and dropped the bow and the arrow; peace was on their foreheads, and they had left the fruits of their life behind them on the day they marched again to their master’s hall.

    Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore


    In my opinion, the world has never seen and is unlikely to witness such a deep impact of ‘non-violence’ again. It took an entire culture in the west by surprise.

    Every jewel of India that lies in treasuries abroad shall remind them of that inscrutable phenomenon called Peaceful, Non-violent, Non-cooperation. An idea that set the sun on an empire…


    • Sudhir – Loved the verses from the Gitanjali. Thank you. I think non violence is a relic. We are extremely blessed to be born in a country that was freed by the upholder of non violence. The sun did set on the empire but why should they still hang on to treasures that do not belong to them.

  2. We may soon have Lord Ambani, Lord Mallya, Lord Lalit Modi, Lord SRK establishing the ‘West India Company’ there.

  3. Salman Shahid Alvi Says:

    So right Sharmila….Indians are dominating world over.Reading the tittle I started to ponder over history to recollect about EIC……great caption indeed……..

  4. Enjoyed this write-up Sharmila. I will be reading it many times! I too think the Kohinoor should be returned to India where it belongs. I’m also glad to see that the East India Company is now owned by an Indian.

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