Today, Anglo-Indians are struggling in parliament to uphold their Constitutional rights allotting the community two seats in the Lok Sabha. One year has passed since the new government came in – and yet, the decision to give the Anglo-Indian what is rightly his has been kept hanging in midair, and is downright annoying. We need a high-powered delegation to directly tackle our claim and decisively solve the representation issue. Representation is our right.
I grew up in Calcutta when Anglo-Indians were basically happy, carefree and could appreciate the need for simple contrition. The risks of shutting out dissent in family and among friends was always a policy to argue and adjust. Life was truly an admirable issue among us.
Flurys, Magnolias, Blue Fox, Waldorf, Sky Room and the much talked about Trinca’s brings tears when one thinks about the music, the instinctual cabarets and the “grossly dynamic” addiction everyone had towards caring, sharing and enjoying the silken freedom of walking home with friends after two in the morning.
Daybreak after a Saturday-night party was always fun and full of memories. One of the finest Anglo-Indian bands played at Golden Slippers, a block away from Nizams’ scented tea and kati-rolls. The Grand Hotel was one of the most popular places for dance and dinner. But, Anglo-Indians would splurge in the Rangers Club and the Grail.
Everything was dust cheap. From a loaf of bread to a basket of fruits. From movie hall tickets to wine, cigarettes and newspapers. Anglo-Indians were aplenty down most of the street corners and on weekends you would hear music floating out of open windows. Those were the hay-days for tailors and their memsahibs. Unforgettable years, when skirts, blouses, dresses with frills were the correct and proper wear for Anglo-Indian ladies.
There is much more to be said if you would want me to talk about the “good old days”…..
YESTERDAY NO MORE – 2 By Melvyn BrownSir Stuart Hogg Market, better known as the New Market was not only a landmark but the heart of a vibrant city – the very nerve centre of the Anglo-Indian people, and they visited the market in a dedicated ritual as you would in going to church on Sunday. Balwin’s the pork shop, Nahoums, D’Gama, Wyse were the regular bread and cake shops. Unique and of a metaphorical kind were the little cubicles selling American ice-cream and cold drinks; everyone’s mama from Chinatown to Bow Barracks took their children for dollups of ice-cream and cold drinks. The establishments were still there in the 50’s and early 60’s. The New Market rode on the crest of laughter and sunshine. We kids would be thoroughly rattled to race in and out of the” cheap-jack” sweet and patties shops lined up at the stern of the butter range.
Entally Market has for generations been known for its wonderful spiced sausages and ‘red meat’ pork. Every Anglo-Indian took pride in its special lunch and dinner on holidays with servings brought from the fish and pork range. The rice-women would come in from nearby villages with sacks of the finest quality rice; from basmati to chowalmuni rice, not to forget the ‘gulabsuri’ and the ‘Dehara-Dun’ rice. In those years ‘corruption’ was an unknown word to the common man and you would always get a fistful more after weighing the amount you needed. The network of shops catering to the needs of one and all will never be forgotten.
Across the road was and is still there, the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Teresa of Avila. People from remote corners of the city visit the church where at some time they were either baptized, married or had a relative’s funeral service held. They called it the church at ‘Moulali’. The church where Louis Vivian Derozio was a parishioner.
I will continue this part of our Anglo-Indian
Heritage in a last instalment next.
YESTERDAY NO MORE – 3 By Melvyn Brown“Yesterday, all our troubles seemed so far away…..” Lyrics of a song which haunts the soul of Anglo-Indians in all corners of the world. Nostalgic, no doubt. Indeed. In those days of wine and roses’ our people were an altogether lovable race. Epicurean, but loyal, trustworthy and dependable (that was before Independence, much before drugs, sex and bad politics messed up the order of the day). I remember the summers of hope and the winter holidays as they moved into a colorful tapestry of spring, new life and new avenues for the average Anglo-Indian to rejoice in. Suddenly, because of bad rumours that the community would not be tolerated once the English left the country, many Anglo-Indians decided to immigrate across the globe. The damage had been done. It was a mass exodus happening in a silent wave of sighs and tears. To cover their embarrassment, the people said they were going abroad to have a ‘better life’, and they did have more than they could afford in India at that troublesome time. They had their own home, a car, bank accounts and a clean disciplined life. With all that they would still return for brief spells of holidays and solace. The Indians, on the other hand respected and loved all those who stayed back, even to this day.
Calcutta was my base. My root. It still is, though I would very much like to be with my son at this point in my life. Now I can only flashback to scenes of the past which have lightened my burdens of today, sometimes. From the roller-coaster years of Rock music, ballroom dancing to Rock Hudson and Doris Day and the cowboy movies, never forgetting ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ and the ‘Glass Bottom Boat’, ‘Gone With the Wind’ and ‘Dracula’.
The yesteryears in Calcutta were well documented by Bourne and Shepherd in photographs till it was destroyed in a fire. The Statesman, have a great collection in their newspaper morgue – but, for how long? They are going through hard times it seems. The Globe cinema was closed, the Minerva is no more, the Lighthouse has become a type of mall and the Tiger cinema has vanished. The other halls, Roxy, Metro, New Empire, Regal and the Elite show only Hindi movies.
Jesus said, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (JOHN. 14:2 ).
Yesterday, after all, may still be there waiting for us who miss those truly golden years. Till we meet again.