Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Slice of England on Elliott Road!


NILANJANA BHOWMICK  "It’s on Elliot Road... just enter through Ripon Street and pass by St. Mary’s Church and my house will be 300-400 metres from there." When the taxi deposited me outside my destination, I looked around to see a typical Kolkata bylane, congested with traffic, loud motorcycle horns, people sitting on the ledge of houses chatting, leisurely footsteps making way for small items of groceries from the neighbourhood stores. There was a subtle sense of decay, which hung over the street despite the busy hubbub of daily life. Suddenly I saw the name ‘Brown’ in big bold letters on the grill gate. Brown —Melvyn Brown — who calls himself ‘chronicler of the Anglo-Indian community’ is the author of several books on Anglo-Indian history and culture, a vociferous community worker and the founder-editor of The Anglo-Indian Newsletter and The All Parish Newspaper. When the door opened, I was greeted by a warm face and ushered into the living room. As I sat myself down, I took a moment to look around. From where I was sitting, the left side of the room was occupied with an altar with images of Jesus Christ and Mother Mary, the same images adorning the adjoining walls as well. In front of me were four clocks, giving the times of five different corners of the world. As I figured then and Melvyn explained later that the patrons for his newspapers are scattered all over the world. As I sat in the room, I had a distinct sense of deja vu and it was clear to me as soon as Melvyn re-entered the room with a glass of fizzy and some munchies in his hand... I have been here before. The place was different, the people were different, but the spirit was the same — the Anglo-Indian spirit. I remembered my meeting with James Sinclair in Surrey and with the Smith family in Manchester. They were different people but all of them have preserved that same Anglo-Indian spirit. Melvyn’s house exuded a totally different aura from the scene just outside. His was a secluded world, calmer and quieter and somewhat more polished. I was reminded of what one Anglo-Indian woman, Geraldine Charles in England, had pointed out to me, "The Anglo-Indians have never seen themselves as Indians. Their customs and cultures are not Indian." When I interviewed the Anglo-Indians who have migrated to Britain, they seem to have an acute sense of longing for back home in Kolkata. As Nina Jenkins, an ex-researcher in Anglo-Indian family history in the UK, said, "Its rather like a child who says I hate my mum, I hate my mum. But as soon as someone else says something to the child he runs back to take refuge in the warmth of his mother’s lap." Before coming to meet Melvyn I was going through Anglo-Indian Studies edited by Melvyn and in there Phyllis N. Stuart, to my surprise that, says, "Having read several news terms on the plight of Anglo-Indians in Kolkata particularly made me think that those who had emigrated to England had made the better choice. They have been accepted here without any prejudice or alienation which still exists in India." A stark contrast is Curt Amos, 26 years old, born and brought up in Kolkata. His looks are very European, making him stand out. However, I found him comfortable with his identity unlike his British counterparts who are grappling with a losing sense of their identity and a hazy sense of acceptance. I am left wondering is it the spirit of Kolkata, which makes this possible — a city, which actually has the modesty to live and let live? The author has worked for the BBC in London (This is part of a series that explores the numerous sub cultures and communities that add sparkle to the Kolkata mosaic). 

Melvyn Brown Meets Patrick Swayze

Melvyn and Patrick Swayze-Calcutta-1991

In such unpredictable times, the passing of a screen icon amounts to a tragic loss on that side of the scale which keeps cinema pulsating . Clearly, we in India have best known Patrick Swayze for his American doctor role as Max Lowe , in the 1992 movie CITY OF JOY. He was a three-times Golden Globe nominated actor, especially for the smash success of the 1987 film DIRTY DANCING. Patrick was the recognized macho , country-boy and romantic hero around the world.

                            The year was 1991. The place, Calcutta . I happened to be walking down Chowringhee under the Grand Hotel Arcade when I saw him.. It was Patrick Swayze in person. In those years I was a freelance journalist , with a steady job as librarian in St.Xaviers College , and doing a regular weekly stint as ‘Peter Pan’ for The Herald . Here was the excuse. A good enough reason to start a conversation. My mother would always say : Never venture , never win.

                            Patrick Swayze was a ‘ big person ‘ ( physically ) in front of me. After having introduced myself , the tide took a wonderful course. His warm and welcome smile is always worth recalling. He was polite and listened to me closely . After a few minutes he put his hand on my shoulder and took me for coffee in the Grand hotel. We ended up having two cups and four pastries.

                            Suddenly, we were sharing nuggets of our lives as if we were long-lost friends. The actor , dancer, singer-songwriter was weaving a bond between us which would last for many years to come. He was born on the 18th August, and was raised a Catholic. His mind was open to all other beliefs and respected their followers. He was interested in the Bahai Faith, Buddhism and Scientology.

                             He turned to me and said : “ You are doing good work. I admire you. Send me your newsletters when I return home … “

                             After I watched his movie “Julie Newmar”(1995) ,I wrote and congratulated him. He replied and congratulated me for the books I had written and for being founder of the Ambassadors For Jesus movement. It’s been twenty years since we met. His memory lives on and will be ever present for generations to come. Patrick Swayze passed away on the 14th of September 2009. My prayers and sympathy go out to Patrick's wife, family and friends and to everyone around the world who has felt the loss of this wonderful performer.

                                                Melvyn Brown

Anglo-Indian Race Preservation

Melvyn Brown Says…….
"The advantages are clear. Preservation is invaluable, especially when it comes to heritage and culture. I have a few good visions with potential rather than commercial correctness. One could diversify the risk in projects to preserve and protect the Anglo-Indian community’s inevitable fate. This book of Anglo-Indian perspectives from the writings of journalists and researchers looking in from the outside reveals a kaleidoscope of community wealth and sorrow documented, published in newspapers having a life-span of only one day, or in magazines which live for a month- and vanish into white-paper morgues. I have kept clippings of the best articles, letters, quotes, events and other items of interest to the history of the Anglo-Indian race, from its birth, growth and betrayal. All this painstakingly preserved for posterity, for those dedicated souls who will rise from the ashes-and for those who will reconstruct the past, and build a better tomorrow.
This book is only an introduction to my personal Archives, scratching the surface of the insurmountable information, notes and documents. I am a Social Anthropologist and Chronicler of the Anglo-Indian community, open to scholars, friends and researchers. If you enjoy reading this book for whatever reasons, and if you are empowered by its story to make a difference-I invite you to take my visions a step forward.
-Melvyn Brown
(The above message has been taken from the "Foreword" of the book, "The Anglo-Indian Archives" by Melvyn Brown. Published by Melvyn Brown. Calcutta. 2001. )

Anglo-Indian- The Newsletter

'Anglo-Indian The Newsletter' is an individual non-profit venture of Mr. Melvyn Brown, who does not receive any funds from individuals or organizations in India or abroad.The work done for the community is a personal non-commercial venture of Mr. Melvyn Brown, who has a deep personal interest in the Anglo-Indian community as well as in the Catholic Church.

The Anglo-Indian Newsletter and the All-Parish Paper are both published monthly by Melvyn Brown.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Melvyn Brown- The Anglo-Indian Writer, Publisher and Chronicler

Melvyn Brown is a writer and a Chronicler of the history,heritage and culture of the Anglo-Indian community in India and around the world.