English Bureaucracy in India: in A Passage To India

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      The Epithet "Anglo Indian Community" is used in the sense of "English people staying temporarily in India for Governmental work or work connected with British trade, industry, etc." Its wider use denoting people of mixed nativity, the offsprings of parents of different nationality where one of them is English and the other an Indian, is not made in this or in the other chapters.

      Amalgam of Virtuous Traits and Frailties. No man under the sun cannot be all virtue and no evil or vice-versa, etc. The same thing applies to groups of people of any connecting link, whether it is the race, language, religion or social unit. The Anglo-Indians at the time of the story had innumerable virtues as well as shortcomings both officials and as individuals. It is creditable on the part of Forster to have given us an impartial picture of these people. Their virtues were devotion to their duty as they understood from the official manuals, strict adherence to what they believed to be just, perpetual toil and ardent perseverance in their regular work and stoic acceptance of the necessity of being separated from kinsmen, motherland and wives and children too occasionally. Their frailties were snobbery, exclusiveness, repressiveness, rudeness to the native people, whether domestic servants or official juniors, pride and aloofness. They never hesitated to implement the Government policy of 'Divide and Rule' by using spies. The women never cared for the native people, however high-placed they may be.

      Arrogance: Main Shortcoming. All the Indians of good education and official status suffered, due to the arrogance of these bureaucrats. The novel gives a number of instances where the Indians are unduly harassed. English people coming to India for the first time may have had noble intentions and high ideals but the group instinct is such that within a year or two they too fall in line with the others and become arrogant and actively hostile towards Indians. The wives of Englishmen, the officials, were highly corrupt and accepted bribes by making promises which they never going to keep.

      Suspicious of all Natives. Invariably the Anglo-Indians, both men and women, distrusted every Indian. The ladies kept themselves aloof from the native people. Their superiority complex was highly irritating to the sensitive section of Indians. They behaved like Gods granting boons to the devoted factotum. These evil characteristics were disliked by Mrs. Moore, Miss Quested and Fielding but such people were very few.

      Failure to Develop Hearts. One of the numerous disastrous consequences of colonialism was that it made the officials hard-hearted. These people had finely developed minds but undeveloped hearts causing all sorts of mischief and avoidable rupture with the native people.

      The Togetherness of the English Bureaucrats. The arrest of Aziz as a result of the accusation of Miss Quested resulted in a crisis but all the Anglo-Indians exhibited a sense of solidarity, setting aside their normal characteristics, petty personal prejudices against their compatriots and meaningless jealousies. They rallied together as one man to put up a regular fight against 'the enemy'. Pity for the aggrieved party, wrath against the accused who, they decided, was really guilty, and heroic readiness for revenge — all these good qualities (by themselves) they had but their prejudice was so manifest that they did not care to reflect and probe into the matter thoroughly without obsession. All the members of the Anglo-Indian community were adversely affected by the virus of racial narrow-mindedness.

      The Characteristic Behaviour of the Different Officials and Personages. Forster delineates the characters of the different persons he describes in an admirable manner by pointing out the individual traits. The Collector Mr. Turton with twenty-five years' experience in India was of the view that nothing but disaster would result if the English people and the Indians tried to become intimate socially. He becomes infuriated when Fielding defends Aziz and states that he is not guilty. He even unceremoniously sends the College Principal out of the room and out of the club membership.

      Ronny Heaslop. The City Magistrate was an arrogant official determined to hold the wretched country with force, if necessary, although he was honest and efficient in his day-today-work. Its work is to decide which version of a case was 'less untrue', dispense justice fearlessly and to protect "the weak against the less weak". He accused native people of cringing for the sake of small mercies and boasting when they could gain even a very little. Miss Quested found many disagreeable traits in his character and the incident of the trial terminated all arrangements for their marriage.

      McBryde — the Superintendent of Police is a man of wide reading and high thinking but his unhappy marriage had driven him into an illicit affair with Miss Derek, the chaperon of a Maharani. He too is arrogant and used to say that all born south of 30 degrees latitude were criminals. Probably he did not pause to think that he himself was born in Karachi that falls within that limit.

      Major Callendar the Civil Surgeon is an obnoxious person who used to harass his assistant, Dr. Aziz unduly. Fielding, the College Principal is the only Englishman who feels (and acknowledges it openly) sympathy for the Indians and actively works for the welfare of the people through his students.

      Mrs. Moore the mother of Ronny and Miss Quested his fiancee are recent visitors to India at the time of the story. They are upset by the injustice and haughty insolence of the Anglo-Indian community. They want closer contact with Indians but the snobbery of Ronny prevents it. The events later on are unexpected and Ronny loses his mother, who dies during her voyage to England, and his fiancee who does not care to marry Ronny after the trial interlude.

      Conclusion. Thus we find that the Englishmen and women half century ago were not what they ought to have been. With ironical satire and candid comments Forster paints an impartial picture of the bureaucrats of that period.

University Questions

In what light does Forster present the English Bureaucracy in India?
Critically examine Forster's depiction of the Anglo-Indian community in Chandrapore.
What do you gather about the English men and women in India from Forster's novel A Passage to India?

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