Friday, November 19, 2010

Talk about transparency

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“I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such caliber, that
Lord Macaulay
I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation”. - Lord McCauley in his speech of Feb 2, 1835, British Parliament.

What I find extraordinary in the passage, and paradoxical, is Macaulay's respect for Indian civilization. His reaction is far from the typical European 19th century paternalism towards other cultures. His response: crush it. Well, nice try, but I don't think you succeeded, mylord.

Below's Animesh Rai's nuanced approach to the subject of English impact in India, as a comment to the passage by Macaulay. From his book "The Legacy of French Rule in India", p.145:

"The current Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in an acceptance speech at his alma mater, Cambridge University, very aptly stated that English in India was seen as just another Indian language.[1] While not entirely condoning the impact of British colonialism, he admitted that one of the beneficial aspects of the British Raj was Indians’ accessibility to English language and literature even though the English spoken in India may not be recognized by the former British colonizers as it is an indigenized version of the language. He also stated that many other countries in the world had also adapted English to their milieu. In an article analyzing Manmohan Singh’s speech, N.S. Jagannathan states that Macaulay is not well perceived among patriotic Indians due to his ill-informed denigration of Indians’ literary and intellectual heritage. However, Jagannathan admits that Macaulay was instrumental in inducting English into the educational apparatus of Indians as much as he was in the codification of civil and criminal law and the law of evidence."

[1] “Carry on Doctor Singh” by N.S. Jagannathan, The New Sunday Express Magazine (The New Indian Express), August 7, 2005, p. II.

Contributed by  - -  Arabella Hutter & Animesh Rai


  1. talk about shamelessness! have you met this fiery rebel queen aka the Rani of Jhansi?

    The British general who defeated her said: "The Rani was remarkable for her bravery, cleverness and perseverance; her generosity to her subordinates was unbounded. These qualities, combined with her rank, rendered her the most dangerous of the rebel leaders."

  2. No, I didn't know Rani of Jhansi, thanks so much for mentioning her here, you know I like these mythical women, excellent role models to turn to... Have been thinking of you, hoping you're good and creative...

  3. i'm happy & safe, somewhat creative, enjoying the oxygen :)