Weekend Reading

Recollections of books carried back and forth on the elevated train -- in a long-term, though belated, attempt to learn something about the world.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Chauduri : Autobiography of an Unknown Indian

One of the most annoying books I've ever read, the author's claim to fame, other than this book, is that he was Winston Churchill's favorite Indian -- i.e. he was something of a turncoat who abandoned his own people,  upper-caste, intellectual Bengalis, and moved to England.

Though not without good reason.  The partition of the British  Raj effectively destroyed the brilliant, creative, forward-thinking, elite community from which he came.  This book is more of a tribute to that world than any kind of personal narrative.

Nikad was high caste - but not  Brahman.  Rather than priests, the men of his family served as bureaucrats for a succession of rulers -- from Mughal to British.  So they were quite scholarly - but not especially pious.  And if Nikad and father were exemplary of caste behavior - they were independent minded.

It seems incredible to me that the wall of the family living room was posted with a picture of a British hero of the Boer war - but obviously their jobs depended on somebody having military power.

He traces the sad decline of communal cooperation as sectarious violence accompanies the march to independence.


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