Sunday, 10 June 2012

Why would you notice a wall?

The years have stretched before me, I'm at that age now, when physical movements are restricted and the mind is ever busy!

I sit ruminating often, upon my easy-chair, and my mind drifts ever inwards and sends me flashes of the past, clearer still in my mind's eye than what I see before my eyes today.

Sometime in the 1940's, a good 72 years ago now, I was a young man on the hunt for a  job.
By some luck, I landed into a newly organized department of civil defence, the ARP, headed by a senior police officer.

This cockney gentleman, a shell-shocked veteran of WWI, by the name of Charles, was designated as the ARP controller. His character, in a few words, was a mixture of arrogance and self-deceit, and I, had the dubious honor to be his stenographer.

I was allowed to take his notes, run his errands, type his letters and handle his affairs. What I was not allowed, was the luxury to sit in front of him.
I was expected to stand by his side, do what best I could to take notes, dictated in a thick accent and unacceptable English!

One day, we were engaged in business as usual, him dictating and me taking note of it, when suddenly he started showing symptoms of what could very well have been an epileptic fit! His hands wrapped tight around a paper weight, his face flooded, red with blood, teeth clenched and lips trembled!

He burst out then, "You Indian Bastards!!". Startled, I realized that that was certainly not part of the note he was dictating. I followed his gaze glaring out the window and noticed a small group of Congress volunteers parading the streets, shouting slogans, for freedom and swaraj!

It was that which had provoked the gentleman's bitter remark.

I remember wondering then, as I do now, how an English man would have reacted had his country and honor been insulted thus.
This shining example, as he sat in front of me, took no notice that an Indian stood before him, nor that what he had yelled out was an insult.
The consensus then, amongst the British, with few exceptions, was a sense of entitlement, a feeling that they were those who were born to rule, and the common Indian was unworthy of his notice.

As a wall and machine we stood before them, to be utilized, but with no emotions to injure!

Do you know how I reacted to it then? Did my seething feelings flow out?

I did nothing.
I pocketed that insult and stood before him, staring blindly at his face. An outward calm over an inner riot.
The 'British-Raj', threatened though they were under the assault of an awakening India was still a force to be reckoned with.

The officer recovered his senses, resumed his dictation, and I? I continued to do what was then my job.


  1. "I realized that that was certainly not part of the note he was dictating "- That is well said..Afterall there is nothing without a sense of humour!! Well.. I can sense the " boiling moment" at this comment, as even today when some of the movies and serials project a 'spoken English' typical of Tamilians , as if they speak English better than the Englishmen, the "hurt feeling " though not comparable , I can imagine!! A nice post!!

  2. nice..but felt it going to be a running series?

  3. Dear Sir,
    Some posts / stories are good in that they don't say a lot. I like this story for that.

    Again, thanks for taking us through that tough / inspiring time(s).

  4. Also thanks for changing the background. It feels better on the eyes.

  5. sir,

    a great post! i am sure there are many such incidents from your life that you will be blogging here, very eager to read them. i am also looking forward to posts in which you might talk about how the society has adjusted/adapted in the ever-changing landscape of this country, the generational dissent, and the wisdom of course!


  6. Beautiful writing. I love your story telling ability. I hope some publisher notices your blog and you get a book deal. It would leave a wonderful poetic recount of the historical occurrences from your experiential perspective. Keep writing.

  7. Wonderful post, Sir. You know the art of narrating the past in a captivating manner. Loved reading this and await lots more.

  8. Great writing and narrative skills. Sad that many of your generation have gone away before you but those still remaining now are neither cyber honed or lacks computer knowledge.