'Anglo-Indians are Adaptable'

A few representatives of the community speak about its legacy, its current challenges and the reasons why it stays loyal to the past while embracing the future

Published: 04th August 2015 07:48 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th August 2015 07:48 AM   |  A+A-


QUEEN’S ROAD: The All India Anglo-Indian Association in Bengaluru was established in 1974 to serve the large number of railway employees and other Anglo-Indian residents of the city. The Anglo-Indian sensibilities have impacted the way Bengaluru enjoys food, celebrates Christmas and listens to music.

August 2 was celebrated as World Anglo Indian Day but a spokesperson of the association says,  they have postponed the celebrations and will combine them with the events that have been planned for August 15. 

Michael Shane Calvert, a parliamentarian who chronicles the history of the community, says, “Article 366(2) of the  Indian Constitution defines an Anglo-Indian as ‘a person whose father or other male progenitors is or was of European descent but who is domiciled within the territory of India.’ 

Anglo-Indian.jpgHe says, "Beyond the legalese, three aspects of this definition are important. Firstly, it refers to a community whose normal country of residence is, or was, India. He/she is the product of a particular time and place, the historical circumstance of British India. A second key element of the definition is that it does not require British, merely European ancestry;  many Anglo-Indians are descended from the Portuguese and the French. Thirdly, this European element must normally be on the paternal side."

He observes that there has been a rapid assimilation of the community into the culture and traditions of India even as it clings on to its own unique identity.

Today, says he, there is a new awakening within the community to establish itself from the roots upwards to play a role in the modern, resurgent India.

The shift from basically “a  service based community" to one oriented towards  “trading or business or professional”  is not easy. Says he, “For generations, the community has served the armed forces, education sectors, railways, post and telegraph sector, nursing and related disciplines. However the awakening has come  and in time the young blood will reap the fruits of new lessons and hard work.”

When asked whether the community is losing its identity in the face of globalisation, he says, “Now, there are fewer recognisable Anglo-Indians than before, but this is not due solely to their reduced numbers. It is also  because today’s Anglo-Indians wish to blend with their milieu, to identify with the life of the city which is their home.”

Cedric Jackson, a compere, says, "The community is to which country they have migrated to. They have always upheld  India in high esteem along with their ancestral European heritage. Almost every year, there is a World Anglo-Indian day in one of the Western countries. Melbourne will  host the World Anglo-Indian week sometime in  2016.”

This affinity, he says, is woven together by a shared love for cuisine, music and heritage.

He does lament the lack of interest that the government has displayed towards the concerns of the community. He says, “The governments that succeeded the Nehru administration have had no idea about  what the Anglo-Indians have contributed to India’s infrastructure in education, sports and other fields. They have no clue as to how much the Anglo-Indian community currently contributes to the IT and ITES industry. Almost 60 per cent of the employees in these sectors are Anglo-Indians simply because of their communication capabilities. The government has reservations for all other communities but not for the Anglo-Indian community.”

He does not think though that the community will ever fade way.  

He observes, “An organisation like  Anglos-in-the Wind continues to interact with members of the community through its internationally circulated magazine, published by Harry McClure. The magazine  provides the space where the community can share their history and their current achievements in India and internationally. A  typical example of the community  retaining its identity can be found in Melbourne where nearly 40 per cent of the population is Anglo-Indian and routinely interacts with each other.”

The strength of the community is its willingness to assimilate into the global lifestyle, he believes.


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