Fadeout for a Culture That’s Neither Indian Nor British

Fadeout for a Culture That’s Neither Indian Nor British

The New York Times

Mian Ridge

CALCUTTA — Entering the crumbling mansion of the Lawrence D’Souza Old Age Home here is a visit to a vanishing world.

Breakfast tea from a cup and saucer, Agatha Christie murder mysteries and Mills & Boon romances, a weekly visit from the hairdresser, who sets a dowager’s delicate hair in a 1940s-style wave. Sometimes, a tailor comes to make the old-style garments beloved by Anglo-Indian women of a certain age. Floral tea dresses, for example.

“On Sundays, we listen to jive, although we don’t dance much anymore,” Sybil Martyr, a 96-year-old retired schoolteacher, said with a crisp English accent.

“We’re museum pieces,” she said.

The definition has varied over time, but under the Indian Constitution the term Anglo-Indian means an Indian citizen whose paternal line can be traced to Europe. Both of Mrs. Martyr’s grandfathers were Scots…

…Before 1947, when the British left India, Anglo-Indians — also known at the time as half-castes, blacky-whites and eight annas (there were 16 annas in a rupee, the official currency of India) — formed a distinct community of 300,000 to 500,000 people. Most were employed in the railroads and other government services, and many lived in railroad towns built for them by the British, where their distinctive culture, neither Indian nor British, flourished…

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