Mr Chandrasekhar’s top of the range Mahindra scattered the stones in the car park. I guided the roller in his direction and called out a greeting, touching my cap respectfully as always, “नमस्कार महोदय, आप कैसे हैं ?”
He grinned and winked, replying – “नमस्ते गिली, हार्ड काम करते हो ? … and I must say your Hindi accent is improving; well done!”
We strolled together to the clubhouse, reviewing the arrangements for the match against the touring team on Saturday. He lowered himself into a deck-chair on the veranda and sighed. “I may have to miss the match. I shall probably have to fly back home tomorrow; the riots are getting worse and I need to arrange protection for my family. Why do all you Christians cause so much trouble all the time?”
“It’s not all of us, squire,” I demurred. “Your average Christian is quiet and peaceful, just like me. It’s only the radicals who cause trouble, and they’re not following the teachings of Christ anyway.”
“Oh, you’re a nice enough chap, Gilly, but can you think of a terrorist who isn’t Christian? The Delhi bombings, the Kolkata mass-transit massacre, dozens of Air India hijackings … they were all carried out by Christian extremists, weren’t they?” He sighed. “You know, after the third partition accord in the 50s, when we declared Islam illegal and repatriated millions to what is now the People’s Caliphate, we thought we had it sussed – India had a bright future. When England applied to join the Indian Federation in the 70s, we were pleased to take you under our wing and protect you from the corrupt commissars of the EUSSR, even though your economy was already in a pretty parlous state; your Chancellor of the Exchequer of the time was tearing his hair out. It cost the Indian State a fortune to keep Heath in detention all those years, but the integration of the monarchy did pay for a fair proportion of that, I admit. But when you started flooding us with economic refugees in the 90s, things really started to go downhill.”
I spluttered defensively. “We’re all Indian citizens with Indian passports, remember. And you invited us to come to work in your growing manufacturing industries, because you didn’t have enough trained staff to keep the expansion going.”
He looked a bit old-fashioned at me and sat forward intently. “I don’t buy that – you weren’t invited. Most of you came because you fancied a better lifestyle on Indian dole money. We didn’t mind too much at first because we knew how bad life was in England, but when you started to demand that your Christian laws should take precedence, to build churches everywhere, and to wear those ridiculous cloth-caps, we weren’t too pleased, I can tell you. Practically none of you are Morris Dancers here in your own country, you only do it in India to make a political statement. According to our historians, Morris Dancers didn’t even wear flat caps.”
It was way beyond time to change the subject, so I tried to draw Mr Chandrasekhar’s attention to the renovated deck under the veranda. He wasn’t having any. He warmed to his anti-Christian diatribe. “Why can’t Christians be more like Buddhists? When China withdrew and allowed Tibet to join the Indian Federation, the Dalai Lama – what a nice bloke – made it clear that all Buddhists should remain true to their pacifist beliefs and cause no more trouble for the Indian authorities than they had for the Chinese. You don’t hear about Buddhist terrorists, do you? Buddhists dress roughly like us, and they smile a lot – not like the scowling, angry mobs of fundamentalist Christians who prowl the streets of Mumbai screaming ‘Hail Marys’ at terrified indigenous Hindus. We ought to send the lot of you back here. Thank goodness we have at least toughened the immigration laws.”
I let him have his rant, and who could blame him? Somehow, emigrating to India brings out the worst in our lower classes and doesn’t exactly improve the middle classes or the knobs. The ex-gentry do learn Hindi, dress appropriately and speak softly at business meetings or social functions, but underneath it all they remember the days of the Raj and sneer privately at their Indian masters. They don’t join the mobs in the streets, but they contribute privately to the funding of Churches and openly plead for cultural tolerance to be shown to Morris Dancers and flat-cap wearers.
I can’t see the point myself. If it wasn’t for Mr Chandrasekhar and others like him, there would be virtually no employment in England and nobody would have a spare rupee for Cricket Clubs. We would revert to a hard and miserable life in a village farming economy without the benefit of electricity or telecommunications. We would become – what do they call it in posh talk? … agrarian peasants. Without Indian investment and Indian entrepreneurs, England would be down the gurgler and, no doubt, rapidly gobbled up by the fascists across the Channel before you could say Gandhi.
Realising that it had gone quiet, I looked up to see Mr Chandrasekhar examining the now pristine deck. He’d regained his usual good humour and reached over to pat me on the shoulder. “That’s a nice job, Gilly. How did you do it?”
“It was easier than I thought. I gave it a going over with a Gerni, then revarnished it. Only took a couple of hours to clean, and another couple yesterday when it was dry.”
He looked a bit puzzled, “What’s a ‘Gerni’?” he asked.
“A high pressure water jet thingy. Takes all the dirt off without harming the wood. It’s rather like the sandblasting you had done to the Manor gates, but using water instead of sand.”
“Hmm, clever. Anyway, it’s a great job; makes the clubhouse look special for the visitors. Thanks, Gilly.” He jumped to his feet and strode off towards his car. Halfway there, he stopped and turned, taking a package from his inside jacket pocket. “I almost forgot. This is why I came down. This came in the post this morning from Imran who’s finally got his feet under the desk at his new job; I thought you ought to have it straight away.” He tossed me the packet and climbed into his car. The stones scattered from the car park as I caught the padded envelope. Opening it with rising excitement, I pulled out my passport. Turning to the third page, I found the magic words in bold red letters – आप्रवास अनुमोदित.