Reminisces : Material harvested from files of  an ex- tea planter of Assam

On the way east, the P & O SS Corfu left Steamer Point, Aden, on the evening tide. The Union Jack hung at the flagpole, the ship was full of ex – pats, military types, civil servants, admin wallahs, planters, engineers.  Including no doubt a few remittance men ( chaps receiving a monthly allowance to keep out of England – family black sheep ). Destination – East of Suez.

Over the tannoy came ‘ land of hope & glory ‘. But it was all over by then.

This was the fag end of Empire – referred to nowadays in the Indian context as “The Raj”, with  just a few British officials being kept on in the outlying districts until pensioned off.

Full Independence happened in 1947 of course but the locals in  Assam lived in a backward area & in the late 1950s hardly noticed the difference.

Tea estates were mostly managed by  British & thousands of locals & those from far distant states were employed.

We lot, lived in a time warp and was  always on parade. When things went adrift, you were expected to sort out the problem.  The people had faith, we would come up with the right answer. In fact we learnt on the job. Trial & error mostly. Hearing the cases every morning, brought an experience which must be impossible to obtain now. It all fitted into an established pattern.  Ki kerriga sahib ?

This helps to explain how for 2 centuries, 350 million people came to be ruled by 1,100 Indian Civil Servants, Oxford & Cambridge men who had passed the Indian Civil Exams. Known as the heaven born.

A vast plethora of departments ( 99% Indianised ) to run a sub continent –

The Posts & Telegraphs, Survey of India, The Public Works Dept, The Secretariat, The Forestry Dept, The Indian Medical Service, Police, Railways, Docks & Harbours, the Indian Army (regiments of them – the Tochi Scouts Frontier Force, the Guides, Punjabis, The Dogras, The Sikhs, The Baluchis, Madras Sappers & Miners, Assam Rifles, the Gurkhas, etc)

The list went on.

Now we know it’s quite wrong to impose external rule on others, but it only worked by general agreement. Whether the experience was beneficial to anyone, I leave others to judge.

 

M.D.Geary.

 

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