Chronicling the history of Anglo-Indians
By Janani Sampath | ENS | Published: 31st August 2013 10:21 AM |
‘The Anglo-Indians, A 500-Year History’ by renowned historian S Muthiah and Harry MacLure is a comprehensive history of the community.
In the late 1400s, Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama landed in Calicut, introducing the Portuguese to this part of the world. At a time, when it was hard for women to travel to the far end of the world, several Portuguese men ended up marrying Indian women. Thus was born the community called Lusitanians, who are today more specifically known as Anglo-Indians.
Chronicling the history of the community that is 500 years old, historian S Muthiah and Harry MacLure, editor-publisher of Chennai-based magazine ‘Anglos In The Wind’, summarise the varied aspects of the community.
However, for Muthiah, it is also an in-depth work on a community that he has been associated with for the last eighty years. “I had an Anglo-Indian nanny when I was three,” recounted the 83-year-old historian during the launch of the book early this week.
Talking to City Express on the work, Muthiah adds that he wanted to look at the book from several angles. “There is lot of history in it. But, it also gives an insight into the role and contribution of the community,” he says.
Published by Niyogi books, the book essentially debunks the myth that Anglo-Indian is a term to define those of British descent. He says, “The Indian Constitution defines an Anglo-Indian as a person whose male parent is of European lineage and residing in India. The key words are European lineage and residing in India as against the common notion that they are of only British descent. That includes Portuguese, French, Irish and British. The community was among the six minorities listed under the Indian Constitution.”
The Anglo-Indians played a major role in several fields and the history of India is dotted with their contribution — railways, education, government services to name a few.
“They were an isolated community and post-Independence, they found it hard to cope with the demand for higher qualifications for jobs. Consequently, they migrated in large numbers to other countries,” he adds.
The loss, as result of large-scale migration was felt in India too, says the historian. “Especially, in the area of sports, the Anglo-Indians went on to make the Australian Hockey Team stronger, while India lost its strength in the sport.”
Today, the Anglo-Indians who are in India have equipped themselves with higher education and even if they want to migrate, it is for the same reason why other communities want to. “It is no longer because they are Anglo-Indians,” he says.
MacLure says that the book is an information treasure for many. “For Anglo-Indians, who want to know about their community and people who are married to Anglo-Indians, there are details that would be an eye opener for all of them,” he says.
MacLure adds that Muthiah’s extensive research and attention to details coupled with an interesting narration of all, makes the book a first of its kind. “It is indeed an honour to have someone like Muthiah write about our community. There have been other books on the community and its history. However, this book, divided into sections and with a lot of pictures illustrating the aspects, is a summative piece on the 500-year-old history,” he adds.
With two-and-a half years of research and collating information from sources across the globe, MacLure says that it is a labour of love for both Muthiah and him.
So, is the 1,50,00-strong-community in India, close to extinction as predicted by many? Muthiah says with a laugh, “Not at all. In India I see that an Anglo-Indian is still marrying another Anglo-Indian. While for the rest settled abroad, that is around 2,50,000 people, they are marrying the locals and have assimilated into other cultures. But, that is not just the case with Anglo-Indians.”