You speak of an instance where a maulana confronted you as if you were to blame for all the evils of the British Raj. Does coming from colonial stock have uncomfortable associations here, in a country you love so much?
Well, yes and no. The funny thing is that, personally, I have never had any opposition to me because I’m British, or, as I’ve openly said, because my great-great grandfather on my mother’s side was an opium agent! (Laughs) He lived in Eastern UP, and he probably was a fun man, I don’t know!
I’ve never faced any opposition, but obviously, there are a lot of people who blame a lot of the problems India faces, and has faced since Independence, on colonial rule. But if you read No Full Stops in particular, I too blame a lot of the problems on India’s having been ruled by colonial powers, including the British.
And I still think, in two respects, there is a colonial hangover – one, in the lack of respect for Indian languages among the elite in this country, the idea that English is the passport to the elite, really; second, although this has changed dramatically since No Full Stops, there is a sense of inferiority, which was given to India by the colonial powers. That, I think, has got far less than it was before, though I daresay after the recent performance of the Indian cricket team, a sense of inferiority has returned again! (Laughs)
In fact, I think this is a tremendously good illustration of what I mean about journey and everything like that – very few things are utterly bad, or utterly good. And there were some good things about the Raj, just as there were a lot of bad things. And there were people in the Raj, whom you may think mistakenly, but were genuinely dedicated to this country, and to what they thought was bringing progress to this country, and you know, I think that should be realised. But basically, the idea that a foreign country could come and rule a country with a culture as old as India’s, is obviously, not the right thing to have happened.
Image: British Vice Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Nicholas Houghton salutes as he pays his respects at The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier at India Gate in New Delhi on October 17, 2011.