Anglo Indian Fraternity


 Anglo-Indian Fraternity

November 12 2013
We thank Robin Humphries for sending this most interesting piece of history

McCluskieganj, Jharkhand | Remains of a promised land

Dreams of an Anglo-Indian Utopia that took birth in the 1930s, of which only bungalows, legends and a handful of families survive
First Published: Sat, Sep 28 2013. 12 11 AM IST
The Potter Bungalow is now occupied by Bablu Paswan, a long-serving attendant of the Anglo-Indian family who lived there. Photo: Photographs: Shamik Bag
The Potter Bungalow is now occupied by Bablu Paswan, a long-serving attendant of the Anglo-Indian family who lived there. Photo: Photographs: Shamik Bag
After four days in McCluskieganj, the fountain I wanted to see had remained elusive. No one I’d met had a clue. This fountain, from what I’d heard, had an inscription marking the founding of the town of McCluskieganj. Somehow, leaving the town without seeing its symbolic birth certificate felt incomplete.
Giving up, I headed towards the station to take my train back to Kolkata. On the way, I stopped to look at an old bungalow, and asked the people there if they knew anything about the fountain. A hosteller pointed to “an old tap” in one corner of the compound. There it was. Undergrowth fringed a cemented platform of this “old tap”. A bowl in its centre held dead leaves and bird droppings. Its sprinkler was dry. No water had sprung from it in decades.
63-year-old Judy Mendonca came to McCluskieganj when she was 4 and now runs a hostel
Near the platform’s base, an old marble plaque told me what I needed to see. The fading inscription announced that the fountain commemorated the founding of the settlement by Ernest Timothy McCluskie in 1934. Today, with only about 20 Anglo-Indian families remaining of the 350-odd that once lived here, the fountain’s decrepitude mirrors the fate of a faded dream.
McCluskieganj lies 70km from Ranchi in Jharkhand. Here, when the eyes travel away from hilltops swarming with clouds, from rivulets born again with the rain, and from wet-green leaves luminescent under soft sunbeams, and when the eyes droop shut to the lullaby of the night train’s soft rumbling, the mind inevitably gravitates toward the brooding remains of Ernest Timothy McCluskie’s ambitions and hopes.
McCluskie was a Calcutta-based real estate and insurance agent in the early 20th century. He belonged to the Anglo-Indian community, a class which because of its mixed Indo-British and European parentage wanted to, but couldn’t quite fit into either Indian or British society.
To India’s British rulers, the Anglo-Indians “represented no more than the shaming evidence of sexual transgression by the lower ranks”, writes author Ian Jack in his book, Mofussil Junction. Being no less conscious of caste and class than the British, Indians found Anglo-Indians’ habits and ancestry deeply impure, Jack continues.
The plaque and fountain that were erected in 1934 to honour the founder of McCluskieganj
McCluskie founded the Colonization Society of India Ltd in 1933 in Calcutta (now Kolkata) as a club with the implicit charter of establishing an Anglo-Indian refuge, where their racial insecurities would finally be allayed and their pride restored.
That refuge was McCluskieganj. Soon, Anglo-Indians from all over India bought land and settled here, lured by the prospects of ample fertile agricultural land, animal husbandry, rail and road connections and, of course, the dream that this would be their promised land.
For over three decades, McCluskieganj was a beacon of Anglo-Indian culture in the heart of the Chota-Nagpur plateau’s tribal belt. But McCluskieganj still stood in the middle of nowhere. Soon its lack of education infrastructure, job potential, internal bickering within the community, and dislocation from the urban highlife began to sour the residents’ dreams. Most families began to depart for a livelier future in Indian cities or abroad from the 1940s onwards. By the late 1970s, less than 30 families remained. The once ubiquitous sounds of pianos and boar-hunting rifles gradually fell silent.
The era of the British log (folk), as Anglo-Indians are often referred to, is a conversation starter at local eateries. The parties, music, ballroom dances, hunting, mahogany furniture, fear of the white sahibs, uppity airs and rumours of illicit affairs from the days when the town was called “chhota London”, are smattered across conversations. Many of these tales often seem like the result of a game of Chinese whispers running across decades.
There is also no escaping the sheer physicality of the past, embodied by the 100-odd sprawling bungalows that have survived from their Anglo-Indian high noon. Along the town’s tree-lined main road, some bungalows are rickety skeletons, with only crumbling outlines remaining. Some others are dolled-up in new paint and often turned into students’ hostels.
McCluskieganj has been renewing itself since the Don Bosco Academy school opened here in 1997, prompting the opening of other English-medium schools. Many Anglo Indians have found jobs as teaching or administrative staff in the schools. Some have opened their own schools and student hostels. 
I stayed at one such bungalow, a forested property atop a mountain ridge. There I awoke every morning to bird calls and sights of rain-drenched lushness. Twice owned by Anglo-Indians, this bungalow was willed to a long-term servant, who sold it to a Bengali who then sold it to a Jharkhandi, its current owner. Absentee local owners use some bungalows as storehouses for mangoes from nearby groves.
Many bungalows have stories attached. A deserted bungalow near the Damodar river was taken over by Adivasis, before the London-based grandson of the Anglo-Indian owner saw a documentary film and returned to occupy the bungalow. It is said that repeated extortion demands from Maoist insurgents and hostile villagers forced him out soon.
Pigeons greeted me at another bungalow, now a fertilizer storage facility. Another bungalow carries the inevitable narrative of a gown-wearing, fair-skinned apparition, ostensibly after a murder beside the family well.
After a 2-hour trek through a dense forest, I reached the site of what is known as the Minaz bungalow. This deserted bungalow was captured by Maoist insurgents some years back and handed over to local villagers, who stripped every brick off it. I looked on at what was the barest hint of a home.
Like Ian Jack in Mofussil Junction, I then succumbed to the temptation of meeting Kitty Texeira, the memwho had broken a rigid if unspoken Anglo-Indian commandment by marrying a tribal man. She now sells oranges at the railway station and brews the intoxicant mahua, and speaks the local language as eloquently as she speaks English. The 63-year-old appeared at the door of her derelict bungalow to meet me. Tall and shrunken, her carelessly-wrapped sari and loosely-worn blouse wasn’t enough to hide her shoulder bones that stuck out. Didn’t she want to leave McCluskieganj? “There is no money, and why should I? I was born here, my family is buried here too,” she said with a throw of her arm, which encompassed within its span the woods, the hills, the river and the grounds in front of her bungalow.

Thanks to Alan Lane who pointed out that the above story was part of a book by Paul Harris which Alan had just purchased -called  Dreams of a Homeland and is for sale by going to
Alan was very complimentary and scanned the Book Cover for me to show below
In the meantime the Editor will be in touch with Paul to see what help we can be

 Below is the Cover of the Book



November 25 2011
Thanks to Jeff Tikari and Jasbir Randhawa we have this very interesting
article    If any  one has any thing to add to this page  the Editor will be
happy to post the offering



 Anglo-Indian Fraternity

This was a speech given by
Bev Pearson at a dinner dance in Sydney - 2007..

Good Evening Ladies & Gentleman. Welcome to this special evening.
I'm attempting to condense over 300 years of Anglo-Indian history in to 10 minutes.

The British Empire once held absolute power in over 52 countries. About two-fifths of the world. But there was only one jewel in the crown  -  India
The first European settlers in India were the Portuguese in 1498 about 100 years before the British. The Dutch, French and the British followed.

They were all here for the duration. The inevitable happened and a new mixed race community emerged. Even though the British came in peacefully as merchants and traders they soon colonised the sub-continent of India. But the British needed allies to protect the jewel in the crown and so began a deliberate policy encouraging British males to marry Indian women to create the first Anglo-Indians.

The East India Company paid 15 silver rupees for each child born to an Indian mother and a European father, as family allowance. These children were amalgamated into the growing  Anglo-Indian community, forming a defensive structure for the British Raj. This was a deliberate act of self preservation by the English.

This unique hybrid individual was ethnically engineered by the occupying British so much so that the Anglo-Indians were the only micro-minority community ever defined in a Constitution. Article-366 of the Indian Constitution states. An Anglo-Indian means a person whose father or any of whose male ancestors in the male line is or was of European descent but who is domiciled within the territory of India and is or was born within such territory of parents habitually resident there-in and not established there for temporary purposes only.

So you can see we were intended to be a permanent micro-minority. In 1830 British Parliament described the Anglo-Indian as those who have been English educated, are entirely European in their habits and feelings, dress and language. They were more "Anglo" than "Indian".  Their mother-tongue was English, they were Catholic or Anglican and their customs and traditions were English. While most of them married within their own circle, many continued to marry expatriate
Englishmen. Very few married Indians. Without Anglo-Indian support British rule would have collapsed.

We ran the railways, post and telegraph, police and customs, education, export and import, shipping, tea, coffee and tobacco plantations, the coal and gold fields. We became teachers, nurses, priests and doctors. If it had any value the British made sure we ran it. And when it came to secretarial duties
no one could touch our Anglo-Indian girls - the best stenographers in the world and with beauty to match.

Were we favoured? Yes, the English trusted us. After all we were blood related. We worked hard.  We! became indispensable. We lived comfortably and were protected by the British raj. Like the British we had servants to do all our domestic work. The average Anglo-Indian home could afford at least three
full time servants - a cook, a bearer and the indispensable nanny (ayah). Part time servants included a gardener, cleaner and laundry man (dhobi). Of course we learned to speak Hindi to be able to argue, give orders, bargain, accuse and terminate employment and throw in a dozen Hindi expletives.

Imagine our horror when we were later to migrate to England, Canada and Australia and we no longer had servants to do our domestic chores. Who can remember looking at our first toilet brush and asking 'what do we do with this?' We had to learn to cook, clean, garden, do the laundry and take the garbage out
and look after the kids.

The tradition of making your own Christmas cake was a sacred Anglo-Indian custom. Each family had a secret cake recipe, handed down from our grandparents. About a week before Christmas the local baker was contacted. He would turn up to your home with two very large terracotta bowls that looked more like satellite dishes. One for the egg whites and one for mixing. Mum would dish out the ingredients. This was all mixed together under her watchful eye and distributed in to about dozen or so cake tins and labelled with your name on it. This labelling was all important. We did not want him to return that evening with
someone else's cake recipe. Heaven forbid.

Music, movies and socialising were high on the agenda. We loved a dance. Afternoon dance jam sessions were a magnet for the teenagers where we jived, jitterbugged, tango'd or just fox trotted.
Many a lasting liaison was forged on the dance floor and today many of us are celebrating 40-year plus marriages.
Our mums sat around gossiping and seldom took their eyes off their darling daughters. I know I speak from experience. I met my wife at one such event and now 44 years later I still fancy her.

The Anglo-Indian railway and cantonment towns that sprung up around the major cities cultivated a unique social and industrial blend with a heartbeat. Their dances were legendary. At the drop of a hat the city cousins would jump
on a train and travel for anything up to six hours to get to that up-country dance.

Many of our lives revolved around the biggest and best railway system in the world. And the trains ran on time!   Today the Indian Railways transports over 5 billion passengers each year employing more than 1.6 million personnel.
Between 1853 and 1947 we built and managed 42 rail systems. This was a legacy we can be proud of.

During World War 1 about 8000 Anglo-Indians fought in Mesopotamia, East Africa, and in the European theatre - Eleven Anglo-Indians were awarded Victoria Crosses.
In World War II they fought at Dunkirk and flew in the battle of Britain - Guy Gibson of the Dam Busters was one such Anglo-Indian, and we were in North Africa, Malaya and the fall of Singapore.
Merle Oberon and Juliet Prowse, Tony Brent, Engelbert Humperdinck, Cliff Richards are all Anglo-Indians

The Anglo-Indians took India to Olympic hockey glory. From 1928 India won five consecutive Olympic hockey gold medals. In fact, when India faced Australia in the semi-finals of the 1960 Olympics in Rome, it was a unique occasion.
The captains who came face to face were both Anglo-Indians, Leslie Claudius and Kevin Carton.

English education played a major role amongst the Anglo-Indians. Anglo-Indian schools numbered close to  300 and were prized. They stretched from Bangalore in the south to the cooler northern hill stations of Darjeeling in the foothills of the Himalayas. Each was modelled on the posh English Public school system. We ran them as teachers and  principals and to this day these schools are coveted across the sub-continent.

The Anglo-Indian has always faced an identity dilemma because of our mixed origins. Europeans said they were Indians with some European blood; Indians said they were Europeans with some Indian blood.
The world of Anglo-India vanished on August 15th 1947, when India became the largest independent democracy in the world.

The British packed and went home.

Over 300,000 Anglo-Indians remained. We felt apprehensive and abandoned. So we too packed our bags and began to migrate to Australia, Britain, Canada, the U.S.A. and New Zealand. ! Many of you will remember the dreaded Income Tax Clearance document you need to leave the country and further faced the strict Indian foreign exchange regulations that allowed you only 10 pounds each. Imagine starting life in a new country with 10 quid in your pocket.
Some had to leave behind their savings; others simply resorted to the risky black market loosing a 30% of your savings.

The Anglo-Indian identity is disappearing. We have found new lives and merged into the mainstream. Our generation, sitting here tonight, who were born in India, growing up in the 40s thru to 60s, are possibly the last true Anglo-Indians.
Look around you. Where is the next generation? Most of our children were born abroad and their connection to Anglo-India is very fragile. They have married Aussies, English, Canadian or other Anglo-Indians born outside India. They prefer to be regarded as English, Australian or Canadian. Our grandchildren will assimilate and forge a new identity based on their country of birth.

Putting aside history I believe we could regard ourselves as an exotic cocktail that had its origins over 300 years ago.  -`We have matured and become a unique aromatic spirit, generously flavoured and very stimulating.

We were a force to be reckoned with.  
We were the shakers and the stirrers. Please pick up your glasses and toast your State of Origin and New Horizons.