Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Anglo-Indian Reunion Calcutta 2013: What Might Have Been by Melvyn Brown

The International Reunion of Anglo-Indians over the years has always been a warm, welcome and invigorating experience for all. It brings back memories ,opens the doors to meet and greet others of the community : to bond with the circles of those who try to dilute the pain and suffering of those others based in austere economical conditions ; who live in broken shelters of home and hearth. Every Reunion has a symposium, the theme always revolves around what can be done and should be done for the upliftment of the tragic few “left behind”.
Sorry, there are no destitutes among Anglo-Indians in Calcutta. Sorry, there are no cases of Anglo-Indians starving and dying of malnutrition in Calcutta. The word ‘destitute’ means , not having a single coin to their name. And ‘starving’ would mean not having anything to eat. Highlighting these aspects would be ridiculous. Yes, the poorest of the poor Anglo-Indians in Calcutta are struggling in our midst.  They are , you could say ‘below-the-poverty line’ : if you wish, the ‘lower-middle-class’.
Tentatively talks at Reunions agree and disagree on taking courses of action which often pleases both sides and leaves the poor poorer . A mother received one kilo of edible oil (in her rations) ;she sold the oil to buy her newborn child milk – and personally, had not much left for her food. The rice (in her rations was collected over the weeks and sold to pay the house rent). Speakers at Reunions elaborate on economic strife. The rupee value per family in the open market is seldom considered. There is a ‘pension’ allotment for the aged tied with a short fuse. How about calling it ‘personal help’ allotment ? All this is incredibly sad, if you see the other side of the picture.
Celebration plans for Reunions have never failed to amaze. Every one of the eight Reunions, so far, have been praised and justified for their prodigious sunshine and energy in plan layout and eventual success. Rightly so. All previous Reunions have had the’ poor Anglo-Indians’ at heart. The poor, especially in Calcutta.
Now, for the first time the Ninth Reunion is being held at Calcutta itself. The host is the Calcutta Anglo-Indian Social Service.  The decision to host the event in Calcutta was a welcome chord. The opportunity to directly be in touch with the poor was a dream come true for the community’s most-in-want. It was a significant first step.
After all the eight Reunions across the globe one might have welcomed a special Day in the program when poor Anglo-Indians could be made to feel welcome without having to buy an event-ticket : to enjoy a sumptuous lunch, have fun and games, and to leave with a special gift which would be engraved in each poor heart for generations to come.
Imagine, all those from abroad who subscribed to every Reunion stepping forward to shake the hand of poor Anglo-Indians. At a Calcutta Reunion there should be no time for a Symposium – only for the poor in the community. Also, the river cruise could have been kept aside. After all, being witness to the smiles and laughter of the poor no amount of money could ever buy.
It is now virtually certain that what might have been may yet be possible somewhere else, when Calcutta’s poor Anglo-Indians can be taken on a tourist flight to shake hands with their better off brethren. Love can work miracles.

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