India was in my blood…

“India was in my blood and there was much in her that instinctively thrilled me. And yet I approached her almost as an alien critic, full of dislike for the present as well as for many of the relics of the past that I saw. To some extent I came to her via the West, and looked at her as a friendly westerner might have done. I was eager and anxious to change her outlook and appearance and give her the garb of modernity….”. So wrote Jawaharlal Nehru during his imprisonment from 1942 to 1946 as a result of his participation in the Quit India movement.

I’ve written before that the act of looking through old family photographs of India throws up fragmentary, butterfly moments that some 80 to 90 years later can literally only offer a snapshot of a world for which has different narratives depending on  whether the perspective is that of coloniser or colonised.  And yet… there has to be much more than such an absolutist position. There is a need to “replace the short bursts of polemical, thought-stopping fury that so imprison us in labels and antagonistic debate whose goal is a belligerent collective identity rather than understanding and intellectual exchange….” [Edward W. Said from the 2003 preface to “Orientalism” ]

The writing on the back reads "Off to a picnic..... Wellington in the Nilgiris (June 1926)...we were grass widows at the time"

Grass Widows. 1926

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4 responses to “India was in my blood…

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