The BBC’s article on a recently-released book about the remnants of India’s Anglo-Indian population made me think of one of the most under-considered aspects of colonial experiences: the human product. From the 17th to early 19th centuries it was hardly considered inappropriate for British men on the employ of the East India Company to take native wives. In fact, it was encouraged. Generations of these mixed-race and bicultural children helped to facilitate smooth business relations between the two civilisations, something that was only undermined by that most ghastly of G-d’s creations: the virtuous Victorian woman. This didn’t entirely stop the process of human synthesis, however. Never truly accepted by either culture, they never-the-less represented the best and worst of the Raj. Not truly entirely British my parentage and culture, they suffered colonial snobbery and Hindu bigotry. After all, most were the children of British fathers and out of necessity very low caste Hindu mothers. As those Britons were clearly not of Hindu birth, they were deemed untouchables and no high-caste Hindu would suffer drinking from the same cup, much less bearing their children, gladly.
Despite this, they were the embodiment of the very thing that created them: they were the British Raj in its human form. In some ways Indian, in some ways British – they, whatever the protestations to the contrary, were the pace makers for India’s cultural and political elite: Anglophone, Anglicised and the products of their own ancient civilisation. The photographs of Goa reflect yet another facet of colonial reality. After well over 400 years, Portuguese India became more Portuguese than Indian. Yet, to India it returned and until recently Portuguese was still the dominant language spoken by true Goans. Much like Macau, it was miniscule but it represented the centuries-long fusion of mentalities, blood and currency that built the modern world. And, like Macau, this world is slowly disappearing as Goa slowly loses more and more of its Portuguese legacy and all that is left is whatever self-serving narratives the powers that be choose to write.