The Brown Man’s Burden

By Sunil Kumar

Reading Shashi Tharoor and Obama the past week; the Brown Man’s Burden surfaced in my consciousness with alarming regularity. Although the only dreams appealing are mine alone; yet the eloquence, deep and probing intellects of these two consummate writers and I daresay actors got me thinking on nationalism and the idea of this gut reaction which very often tends to morph into a frenzy.

Although the soon to be ex-President of the US is also remarkably poignant and descriptive about the evils of race segregation; his African heritage and remarkable life story; Tharoor was more emotionally appealing and persuasive due to his Indian ancestry and well-argued denunciation of the evils of Empire.

English: Shashi Tharoor in the Global Redesign...

Visit English: Shashi Tharoor in the Global Redesign Session. Participants captured during the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit 2009 held in New Delhi, 8-10 November 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In layman terms; the Empire was a succubus; a many tentacled villain that extorted around the world; with India being the epicenter of its global treachery. The systematic impoverishment of India led to the financing of the Industrial Revolution; and the subsequent rise of the West.

Frankly; movie villains may get a complex when it comes to real-life British empire antics. A large number of slummy Englishmen, Scotsmen and Irishmen got richer on Indian money.

Apart from the landed gentry who always lorded over England; a Christian society with class struggle and totally alien values to the Indian subcontinent; which has been defined by its consummate, secular ethos(Indic: Hindu, Buddhist, Jain). Even Islam mellowed down when it entered India; and the Sufi brand was a result of interaction with the spiritual seers of the subcontinent.

Arch-imperialist poet Kipling may not have imagined that a hundred years later; an independent India would have forgiven his countrymen for their lethal loot; and become the single largest investor in the nation. The Brown Man’s Burden is ongoing; and more extensive than the patronizing self-service which the Bombay born Rudyard may have thought of.

Platitudes aside; even Tharoor’s token demand of symbolic reparations or apology has not been considered by the present government(Indian or British). In the great world circus of blah-blah; will this be another addition to the long litany of grievances left systematically unattended to? Looks quite likely. Until then, wishing myself more happy reading!


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